Wednesday, Apr 1, 2009 It's finally official - Poker is a game of skill
The debate has been going on for a long time and has had a great impact on the status of poker. Is poker primarily a game of skill or chance? All of us playing poker off course already know the answer, but now there's a study backing us up. The Washington D.C. firm Cigital recently released a study of over 100 million Texas holdem hands, with statistics that clearly support the notion that poker primarily is a game of skill.
The Cigital "Statistical Analyzes of Texas Hold'em" study uses data provided by Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited (REEL). The hands come from play on PokerStars in December 2008. Analyzes of the data clearly shows that the outcome of the games is determined by the decisions made by the players.
To determine the relationship between skill and luck in poker the report focused on the relationship between the number of hands that actually went to showdown and that didn't. In the latter case it's clearly not the cards that determine the outcome.
In 75.7 % of the hands the outcome was determined without a showdown, meaning that each player only see his/her own cards and the cards on the board. The winner in these cases was the last remaining player after everyone else has folded. Even more interestingly - in the 24.3 % of the hands that had a showdown only 50.3 % were won by the player who could create the best five card poker hand. So in about half the hands that went to showdown the player that would have had the best hand in the end had already folded. These facts make it very hard to argue against the notion that poker is primarily a game of skill.
The "Statistical Analyzes of Texas Hold'em" study was ordered by the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) that will be using it to continue the fight to get poker acknowledged as a game of skill. With this new study one battle is won, but the struggle continues.
The full Cigital study can be found here.