There is no doubt that poker is one of the favorite pastimes for players from all over the world. People enjoy the game in its many formats and variations: online and live, cash games, tournaments, sit and goes, and whatever else falls somewhere in between.
It is no question whether poker is an enjoyable game as it wouldn't attract so many people if this weren't the case.
The real question is: what it is that makes poker so attractive?
Is poker gambling, is it pure skill, or sheer luck? Or, perhaps, a mix of all this?
This is a debate that’s been going on for a long time now, and I’m not hoping to give any definitive answers in this article – mostly because it’s pretty much impossible to do so.
The thing with poker is, it can be just one, two, or all three of these to varying degrees. It depends on your approach to the game and what you want to achieve by playing it.
You can’t convince someone who spends hours every day studying the game that it’s all just gambling or luck. Similarly, you can’t change the mind of a player who believes even random poker hands can win.
If you’re playing poker just to gamble and try your luck, you can very well do it, even if you’d probably have better chances with some other casino games. But maybe you wouldn’t have as much fun.
If you want to put in the work, study the game, and understand it on a deep level, you can do that as well – at which point the luck factor diminishes significantly.
Is Poker Luck or Skill: How Can You Tell?
Many professional players and those working to improve the game’s image will tell you that poker is a pure game of skill with some luck elements.
These elements, however, become less and less important the more you play.
If you’re a skillful player, you will triumph over bad players in the long run without any doubts.
But what happens if players of the same skill level are playing the game. Is poker luck or skill in that scenario?
If you put together a group of players who have never played before and have just learned poker rules a few hours ago, to them, it will definitely feel like it is all luck. They win some hands, they lose some hands, and the luckiest among them walk away with the most money.
I guess you could apply this analogy to almost every game, even chess, which is clearly a game of skill, but this isn’t quite so.
In chess, there is quite a bit you need to learn to have any chances against even a bad player who’s been playing for a while. Unless you’re a prodigy of some kind, you won’t be able just to learn the moves and win. In poker, this can easily happen.
You can make one bad play after another and still keep winning pots or even ship a major tournament if you are particularly lucky.
Unlike other skill games, where bad moves are usually punished with no delay, some good luck can get you very far in poker even if what you’re doing makes absolutely no sense to those who understand the game.
Sure, they claim what you’re doing is bad, but look who has all the chips!
As someone who’s been playing and studying poker for more than a decade, I know this isn’t how things work, and I’m happy to have players who believe it’s all just luck in my games.
But on some nights, it will all be just luck, and they will walk away with my money.
So, the only answer to the question is poker luck or skill is: it depends on who you ask.
For the people who study the game and spend time learning all the different layers, poker is a skill game. For many of those who play for fun, it is luck with a few sprinkles of skill scattered around.
I understand that this is a bit of an unusual way to look at it, but as I said, there is no “correct” way to approach the subject.
Unlike some other games where the skill element is so pronounced, the line between luck and skill in poker is often hard to see. And that’s probably not the bad thing, either, as it’s one of the main reasons why the game has become so popular in the first place.
But How Much Did You Lose? Is Poker Gambling?
Unlike the previous discussion, the question is poker gambling has a very clear answer in my eyes, and that answer is – yes.
Again, it may be an unpopular view on the matter but think about it.
There is no difference between various other casino games and poker for those who think poker is just luck.
In fact, some players would probably have better chances of playing roulette or blackjack, and you can click here to read all about these games and casinos hosting them.
Have you been to many poker games where money wasn’t involved? I didn’t think so.
Winning and losing money is an essential element of the game, and it’s what gives it its flare. Poker without anything at stake just isn’t the same game. I could spend hours playing chess with someone just for fun, but I don’t think I could do the same with poker.
Stakes don’t always have to be high, but they usually need to be at least meaningful for the game to make any sense.
If they’re too low, people just won’t care, and they’ll play any two cards. And the fact you can play any two cards and still win money adds another gambling layer.
Is poker gambling for hardcore professionals who made it into a career and earned a lot of money from it?
Not so much, but even some of them have gone bust due to bad variance and some unhealthy bankroll decisions.
I suppose the real answer is that poker isn’t the same kind of a gamble for everyone, but it’s gambling nonetheless.
You stake money to win money, which is the very definition of gambling. If you look at it long term, it is also like investing to some degree, but this only applies to serious players who put in the hours required to beat the variance and come out on top.
Unlike other gambling forms, this one gives you the chance to have a big say in your own destiny.
There are no profitable roulette tables, but there are many profitable Texas Holdem games, so you decide how much you want to risk and want it to be more or less of a gamble.
Is Poker a Game of Skill Then?
Absolutely! There is so much you can learn about poker, and this knowledge will help you win more and more often. The skill element in poker is really big, and that’s exactly why some people have managed to make a good living playing the game.
But how can it be all three, you ask.
It simply can. It wasn’t by sheer accident that poker has become such a global phenomenon.
It is such a unique game as it attracts a wide array of people who play it for completely different reasons: for fun, profit, or the adrenaline – and sometimes all three.
It wasn’t for the lack of media coverage that chess never reached such widespread popularity. It is just a game of skill and knowledge that doesn’t work for many people who just want to relax and have fun while still actually having a chance to win.
So, is poker game of skill?
Once you start learning about poker and understanding all the different layers, you’ll understand just what a big role skill plays. But these skills need to be honed and nurtured and require many hours of study to be acquired.
If you don’t put in the work, study on your own, or join a poker training site, poker will never become a game of skill.
Someone who’s never really studied poker will likely refuse to see poker as a skill game, and they’ll continue to believe it is all luck and gambling – and they’re not wrong from their perspective.
Of course, when these two perspectives collide, and the fish meets the shark, results usually speak for themselves. So you can’t always chuck it to bad luck!
What’s the Verdict: Is Poker Gambling, Skill, or Luck?
Like I said in the introduction, I won’t be trying to give any definitive answers to the question from the title. I have my opinion about the game, but I can understand why someone would see it differently – and that’s perfectly fine.
If poker were luck or gambling alone, it wouldn’t inspire young, intelligent people from all over the world.
There aren’t many professional slots or roulette players out there and for a good reason.
If it were just a game of skill, it would be boring to most people who seek entertainment and adrenaline.
In fact, one of the big reasons why online poker has lost a lot in terms of popularity is the fact the game has shifted a lot towards the skill element with all of the poker software available for serious players. That kind of poker just doesn’t work for “ordinary” people looking for a fun night out.
So, why is it necessary to limit this great game to a single box, whichever it might be?
Poker is everything at once. This game has elements of luck, skill, and gambling, and it is really fun to play. That’s what matters the most.
You have all the freedom to play the game in any way you like.
Many professional players prove that skill plays a huge role, but if someone wants to play just for fun and have their destiny determined by poker gods alone, why insist on taking it away from them?