Is Poker a Game of Skill or Chance? A Quasi-Experimental Study
- First Online:
Due to intensive marketing and the rapid growth of online gambling, poker currently enjoys great popularity among large sections of the population. Although poker is legally a game of chance in most countries, some (particularly operators of private poker web sites) argue that it should be regarded as a game of skill or sport because the outcome of the game primarily depends on individual aptitude and skill. The available findings indicate that skill plays a meaningful role; however, serious methodological weaknesses and the absence of reliable information regarding the relative importance of chance and skill considerably limit the validity of extant research. Adopting a quasi-experimental approach, the present study examined the extent to which the influence of poker playing skill was more important than card distribution. Three average players and three experts sat down at a six-player table and played 60 computer-based hands of the poker variant “Texas Hold’em” for money. In each hand, one of the average players and one expert received (a) better-than-average cards (winner’s box), (b) average cards (neutral box) and (c) worse-than-average cards (loser’s box). The standardized manipulation of the card distribution controlled the factor of chance to determine differences in performance between the average and expert groups. Overall, 150 individuals participated in a “fixed-limit” game variant, and 150 individuals participated in a “no-limit” game variant. ANOVA results showed that experts did not outperform average players in terms of final cash balance. Rather, card distribution was the decisive factor for successful poker playing. However, expert players were better able to minimize losses when confronted with disadvantageous conditions (i.e., worse-than-average cards). No significant differences were observed between the game variants. Furthermore, supplementary analyses confirm differential game-related actions dependent on the card distribution, player status, and game variant. In conclusion, the study findings indicate that poker should be regarded as a game of chance, at least under certain basic conditions, and suggest new directions for further research.
KeywordsGambling Game of chance Poker Quasi-experiment Regulation
- Cabot, A., & Hannum, R. (2005). Poker: Public policy, law, mathematics, and the future of an American tradition. Thomas M. Cooley Law Review, 22, 443–513.Google Scholar
- Cabot, A. N., Light, G. J., & Rutledge, K. F. (2009). Alex Rodriguez, a monkey, and the game of scrabble: The hazard of using illogic to define the legality of games of mixed skill and chance. Drake Law Review, 57, 383–412.Google Scholar
- Fiedler, I., & Wilcke, A.-C. (2011). Der Markt für Onlinepoker: Spielerherkunft und Spielerverhalten [The online poker market: Players‘nationality and players‘gambling habits]. Norderstedt: BoD Verlag.Google Scholar
- Hambach, W., Hettich, M., & Kruis, T. (2009). Verabschiedet sich Poker aus dem Glücksspielrecht? [Does poker say goodbye to the gambling law?]. Medien und Recht International, 6(2), 41–50.Google Scholar
- Hannum, R. C., & Cabot, A. N. (2009). Toward legalization of poker: The skill vs. chance debate. UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, 13(1), 1–20.Google Scholar
- Hope, P., & McCulloch, S. (2009). Statistical analysis of Texas Hold’em. Retrieved August 9, 2010 from http://cigital.com/resources/gaming/poker/100M-Hand-AnalysisReport.pdf.
- Jackson, J. W. (2007). Using WinPoker 6.0 to study gambling behavior. Analysis of Gambling Behavior, 1, 59–75.Google Scholar
- Levitt, S. D., & Miles, T. J. (2011). The role of skill versus luck in poker: Evidence from the World Series of Poker. NBER Working Paper no. 17023.Google Scholar
- McMullan, J. L., & Kervin, M. (2011). Selling Internet gambling: Advertising, new media and the content of poker promotion. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. doi:10.1007/s11469-011-9336-3.
- Meyer, G., & Hayer, T. (2008). Poker—Glücksspiel mit Geschicklichkeitsanteil und Suchtpotential [Poker—Gambling with skill elements and addictive potential]. Zeitschrift für Wett- und Glücksspielrecht, 3, 153–160.Google Scholar
- Palomäki, J., Laakasuo, M., & Salmela, M. (2012). “Don’t Worry, It’s Just Poker!”–Experience, self-rumination and self-reflection as determinants of decision-making in on-line poker. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi:10.1007/s10899-012-9311-3.
- Rasch, B., Hofmann, W., Friese, M., & Naumann, E. (2010). Quantitative Methoden Band1: Einführung in die Statistik für Psychologen und Sozialwissenschaftler [Quantitative methods Volume1: Introduction in statistics for psychologists and social researchers]. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
- Tryggvesson, K. (2009). Internet poker—Prevalence and problems in Sweden 2006. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 26, 503–519.Google Scholar