When Does Poker Become a Game of Skill?

When Does Poker Become a Game of Skill?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

When does poker go from a game of luck to a game of skill? According to a new study it takes around 1,500 hands.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham's Business Department, Erasmus University in Rotterdam and VU University in Amsterdam studied 456 million online hands before reaching their 1,500 hand conclusion.

“If performance is predictable, as we found, then it follows that poker involves an element of skill and can’t be merely a game of pure chance,” said Dr Dennie van Dolder who led the research.

“But that still leaves the crucial question of whether skill dominates chance, which we set out to address by comparing the performance of skilled and unskilled players.

“According to our simulations, skilled players can expect to do better than relatively unskilled players at least three quarters of the time after 1,471 hands have been played.

“To put this into perspective, most online players are likely to play 1,500 hands in 19 to 25 hours – and less than that if they play multiple tables simultaneously.”

According to the study, players who finished in the top-performing 1% in the first half of the year were 12 times more likely than others to repeat the feat in the second half.

“The outcome of one hand of poker is largely chance,” Dr van Dolder added.

“However, skilled players will consistently outperform less skilled players if enough hands – around 1,500, according to our research – are played.

“It’s up to legislators to decide whether the role of chance diminishes fast enough for poker to be considered a game of skill. If so then our findings represent both good and bad news for players.

“The good news is they’ll have the satisfaction of knowing the game they love is recognised as requiring real skill.

“Also, players in countries with a less permissive stands towards games of chance will benefit if poker is no longer affected by restrictive policies.

“The bad news is that one day they might have to start handing some of their winnings to the taxman if the policymaking community takes notice of findings like ours.”

Tags: Academia, research