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Poker is Much More than Just Skill

3 September 2008, By:
When comparing poker to other games and sports, skill vs. chance is not the interesting point.

Sure thing, poker is a skill game. But several OTHER properties are essential for making poker one of the great, classical games.

In poker, part of the skill is about outsmarting the opposition. Another part is about mastering the luck factor. This is where calculation skills and knowledge of probability and game theory come in.

Broad array of skills and proficiencies

But what really sets poker apart are the social and psychological dimensions. Sit down with nine strangers, try to win their money, and you'll feel the challenge with all your senses.

It's very different from games like roulette and Keno that don't challenge you in any way whatsoever.

Golf is a game of skill, but you play it against yourself (basically) and you don't have to negotiate a bunch of shrewd human beings to get the ball in the hole. In tennis, the other guy hits the ball back at you, he might even try to trash talk you, but at least there's just one of him.

Fair game against equal opponents

In roulette there's no social skill, and there's no other kind of skill either. There's also no player interaction. You play a strict chance game against the house and they have the edge no matter what you do.

When you submit a Keno ticket, it doesn't matter what numbers you pick. Also, in order to win you don't have to keep a stone face while your pulse makes your body shake.

In chess, you play against a live opponent who's playing under the same conditions as you are. It's a fair game between equal opponents, just like poker. But in chess, you can read the whole game like an open book.

In backgammon, there's an intricate luck factor that you need to master, but your opponent cannot hide any information from you.

Reality is part of the game

In poker, your money comes into the game not only as a payoff when the game is over, but as a strategic tool allowing for cunning and shrewdness. Poker is a game with a built-in connection to the real world outside the typical game sphere.

Poker is for real in a way that other games and sports cannot match. Add to that the extreme social challenge (and pleasure), the deep psychological struggle and the heavy theoretic overlay, and you can see how much the question of skill vs. chance is beside the point when it comes to poker's status in society.

/Charlie River

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