According to the RAE dictionary, a game of chance is “a game whose outcome does not depend on the skill or ability of the players, but exclusively on luck”. In general, any game that depends on chance and not on the player’s skills is a game of chance.
On the other hand, all activities that involve risk can be considered as betting or gambling, such as buying goods on the stock exchange or betting on sports. However, the games that we consider to be pure gambling are roulette, blackjack and slots, but with poker many people are not very clear.
Poker is a very different game because it requires special skills for players to win. In this game you do not play against the dealer but against the other players at the table. The casino is not directly involved in the outcome of the game.
The luck of the deal
Those who claimed for centuries that poker is a game of chance relied on the theory of the luck of the deal. This of course is a strong factor in the game because if you have the best hand in the game there is nothing anyone can do about it.
With a royal flush in your hand you simply win. However, professional players realised that success in poker often depends on the skills of the player and not only on the opportunity offered by a good card deal.
The best card combination in poker: the royal flush
Having good poker skills involves knowing several things apart from the rules of the game of course because it is assumed that if you play for real money you already know the rules well. Skills include good psychology and knowing when to raise, when to bluff or when to fold. Because this is exactly what distinguishes the beginners from the pros.
Daniel Negreanu for example, who is already a veteran in professional poker, with a fortune of more than $36 million. His nickname is Kid Poker and he was named as the Global Poker Index’s player of the decade for his incredible performances. Some of his trophies include WSOP bracelets in Las Vegas, Australia and Europe. In February 2014 he won over $1.2 million in a No Limit Hold’Em in Australia and in the same Las Vegas event he accumulated another $8.5 million. Do you really think he was that lucky?
Another example is Erik Seidel, one of the titans of poker, with a fortune of $33.5 million. He won the No Limit Hold’ Em event in April 2015 in Monte Carlo and in May 2016 in Las Vegas. His winning hand can be seen in the film Rounders. Why is No Limit Hold’Em the favourite event for professional poker players? Because they know that in the long run skill beats luck because you can get lucky now, but you can’t beat hundreds of players if you don’t have a deep understanding of the game.
Poker cannot simply be considered just a game of chance because it cannot be played without the skills and knowledge required for it. Just like chess, this game is mental and luck is not the determining factor for an optimal result. It is also a game of strategy where the player must remain calm in order to think clearly and make the right decisions. Of course it is not easy, it requires many hours of practice and dedication and that is why poker professionals consider it a job like any other.
The showdown: luck versus skill
It has been more than a decade since poker became a mental sport like chess, when in 2009 it was recognised by the International Mental Sports Association (IMSA) as a mental game of skill. Since then, opinions in the modern world have split along two lines: some who consider it a game of chance and others who consider it a game of skill.