Is Poker a Game of Skill or Luck?

Online real money poker is currently the center of quite a bit of controversy. Most of this stems from one single debate- is poker a game of skill, or is it a game of luck? This debate is not only a source of pride for players, but it directly impacts the legality of poker in the US. Is poker a game of skill or luck?


If poker is a game of Luck, then it would be subject to different laws under US regulation, much like Bingo and Slot machines. The legislation has already impacted online poker worldwide, and another strike against online poker would likely leave US players completely unable to play online poker.

But what makes people think online poker is luck? If it truly is luck, then all of the strategy guides, hand histories, and other tools are entirely useless. One could even claim they are scams. If poker was 100% luck than new players would have the exact same opportunity to win as the professionals. But poker, whether it's online or live, isn't all about luck.

Luck is the downfall of many professional poker players, and the cause of most players going on Tilt. Players can't deny that luck does play a small part in poker. Luck can drive the good players crazy with a sudden win by a player who shouldn't have won, or even kept betting with a horrible pocket and flop. A skilled player bluffing their way into a huge pot who only gets donked out by the most unlikely hand won't deny how frustrating luck can be. Many poker sites even offer a Bad Beat bonus- a small nod to players who were caught by luck.


Is poker entirely a game of skill? This is difficult to claim, considering how maddening it can be when your opponent lucks into the perfect cards. Any new player will be able to speak to how well a good strategy and knowledge of tells can help boost a player's ability to play real money poker online. It's not very far from the mark to say that when you are playing poker you aren't playing the cards. You're playing the person across from you.

There is a vast amount of information on poker strategy, online and in print. There are books, classes, tutorials, articles, even magazines. With such a huge market dedicated to poker strategy anyone would wonder how it could even be questioned how much skill comes in to play while playing poker.

Players must first know their tells, how to conceal them, and how to find the tells of their opponents. Being able to successfully bluff is another useful tool, and both of these have nothing to do with the quality of the cards you have been dealt.

Professional poker players are even known to rail against luck. Nearly every professional player's main strategy is to diminish their opponent's luck . Considering the amount of time professional players devote to studying strategy, bluffing, and practicing these skills it's no surprise that players such as Phil Hellmuth would claim that he'd win every game if it wasn't for luck. With 11 WSOP bracelets to his name, that's enough to make even the skeptic pause. This man obviously knows the secret to playing good poker.

Luck and Skill Can't Stop You from Losing

No matter if you choose to consider poker a game of luck or a game of skill, you will still lose at times. From the newest, loosest fish to the biggest name in professional poker, you will still lose sometimes- even if you're holding fantastic cards.

Poker is a much more lucrative game than other casino games. Many games, such as Roulette, have a built in house edge for the casino to make money. Poker, however, does not have a house edge. Players are completing against each other- the casino makes money by taking a small percentage of rake. This does not impact the likelihood of any player's ability to win.

Strategy or Luck?

Both the best and the worst poker players have been bested by luck. They can be knocked out of a tournament by the most unlikely card possible, or they could win an enormous pot thanks to bluffing their opponent into folding. Tells are never guaranteed, and correctly reading a player's bluff is not guaranteed. The best strategy built over years will still never be 100% correct- and even the most skilled player makes mistakes.

Regardless of if you prefer to think of poker as a strategy game or a luck game, one thing is clear. When it comes to winning even the best player needs luck now and then.

By: Peter Smith