Study Proves What We All Know … That Poker is a Game of Skill, Not Luck

by Lou on April 4, 2009

Washington D.C. consulting firm Cigital released findings of a recent study of 103 million Texas hold’em hands that provides statistical support for how player decisions determine the outcomes of games, rather than the luck of the draw and the turn of a card.
The study, based on data from play on PokerStars during December 2008, focused on how many times hands went to a showdown—where cards are revealed to determine the winner—compared to the number of hands that were not show down and the cards did not determine the outcome.
More than seventy-five percent of the time the outcome was determined when all players folded to a single remaining player. In the slightly-less-than twenty-five percent of hands that went to a showdown—where cards determined the winner—only half were won by the player who could make the best 5-card hand. The rest of the time showdowns were won by players with inferior hands, because the player with the best hand folded before the showdown.
Paco Hope, technical manager at Cigital and co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal that the relatively few showdowns show poker to be a game of skill, because the winner could have won by making identical bets no matter which cards were drawn. “Most people think, you get your cards, and the best hand wins,” Hope said, adding, “Whether or not you go to a showdown is determined by the decisions you make, which are determined entirely by your skill.”
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) praised the study in a press release that you can read here:
“As a poker player I can tell you that knowing when to hold or fold is not based solely on the cards that are dealt, but a series of decisions based on skill and the actions taken by the other players,” said former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, the Chairman of PPA. “This study provides the raw data to back up the compelling arguments made by poker players around the world that it’s skill, not pure luck, that determines the outcome of this game.”
D’Amato noted that the results of this study are sure to assist members of the poker community with ongoing legal challenges to protect the game from being categorized as gambling.
PPA Executive Director John Pappas added, “In courtrooms across the country, judges and juries are finding that poker is a game of skill—not chance like lotteries or slot machines—and this study confirms that fact.”

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