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Is Poker a Game of Luck or Skill?

Ask a dozen poker players if poker is a game of skill or luck and you will likely get four that say skill, four that say luck, and four that say both, all depending on how they are doing on that day. When they are winning it is because of skill, but when they are losing it is because of bad luck.

Of course, the real answer is both. It takes skill to play your hands well, but sometimes even a perfectly played hand will lose to a lucky river.

A more interesting question is what does it take to win at poker - skill or luck? The answer to that question also varies. When playing a large multi-table tournament, even the most skilled player on the planet is going to need some luck to win. In a large tournament, skill gives you a better chance to win, but luck will determine the eventual winner. No player has ever won a large tournament without more than their fair share of good luck.

If we are talking about winning money over the long term, the answer is that basically only skill matters. On any given day, a novice player can beat a table of expert players and cash out big. In fact, a bad player is more likely to have a single big day than skilled player is. The reason for this is that most novices play far too many hands and stay around in far too many pots. Since they are involved in more hands, they are in a position to make out when they hit a run of luck. Most days they will lose, but when they do win they tend to win big. These big wins fuel the idea that the game is mostly luck in the novice's mind.

For the skilled player, the story is different. Their game is about taking advantage of small edges over and over again, with most days ending in a modest profit. They will, on occasion, win bigger or have a losing day, but for the most part they win will small.

Only a skilled player has a realistic shot of being ahead in a year's time. Sure, an inferior player will occasionally cash out big in one tournament and wipe out all their losses, but for every one player that manages such a feat 1000 others never get their money back. Thus if you want to make money at poker, you better be relying on skill to do it. On the other hands, if you are just looking to have a good time, a nice run of luck should be more than sufficient.

JackRag


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