The debate over whether poker is a game of chance or skill continues to gain momentum toward the skill side. There have been a number of legal opinions released recently that have ruled that poker is indeed a game of skill. Also, this past week a bill was introduced in Texas that had language that stated specifically that the State of Texas recognizes that poker is a game of skill and not chance.
Now, adding to the argument that poker is a game of skill is a study that was released on Friday. The consulting firm that performed the study, Cigital, worked closely with PokerStars.com, which funded the study. They utilized 103 million hands from PokerStars. They only used real money cash games (no heads-up games) with blinds mostly over $1.
Of the hands they examined, slightly over three-quarters of them did not go to showdown. That means that over 75% of the time, the best hand was not shown down. With that in mind, it can be said that skill was utilized instead of pure chance. That includes the skills of betting, being aggressive, and also knowing when to fold.
When there was a showdown, the study found that the best five-card hand actually won the pot only about half the time. The other half of the time, what would have been the winning hand was actually folded prior to showdown. This once again shows the amount of skill involved when players can get other players to fold better hands than them in order to win the pot. All in all, the study showed that the true best hand only won about 12% of the time.
Using that information, they argue that poker is predominantly a game of skill, being approximately 88% skill and 12% chance.
Alfonse D’Amato, Chairman of the Poker Players Alliance applauded the study, stating, “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. 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.”