Study: poker's a skill-based game

Mar 31, 2009 5:10 PM
by GT Staff |

A report outlining a study of 103 million poker hands suggests the games are largely determined by player skill rather than blind luck.

The statistical analysis of Texas Hold’em was conducted by Cigital, Inc. in conjunction with PokerStars, the industry’s largest Internet poker room.

The report was welcomed by poker advocates, who seek legalization of online poker, as well as poker in jurisdictions that ban gambling.

"As a poker player, I can tell you that knowing when to hold or fold is not based solely on the cards that are dealt, but a series of decisions based on skill and the actions taken by the other players," said former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, chairman of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a leading poker advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide. "This study provides the raw data to back up the compelling arguments made by poker players around the world that it’s skill, not pure luck, that determines the outcome of this game."

D’Amato added that the results of the study are sure to assist members of the poker community with ongoing legal challenges to protect the game from being categorized as gambling.

Earlier this year, PPA witnessed a string of legal victories, with judges and juries in Colorado, Pennsylvania and South Carolina all determining that poker is predominantly a game of skill, not chance, and should not be classified as "gambling" under the law.

"In courtrooms across the country, judges and juries are finding that poker is a game of skill – not chance like lotteries or slot machines – and this study confirms that fact," said PPA executive director John Pappas.

The Cigital study released last Friday used data acquired from analyzing 103 million hands of Texas Hold’em played online in December, 2008.

According to the report, more than 75 percent of the cases saw an outcome determined with no player even seeing more than his/her own cards and the common community cards. Nearly 25 percent of the games witnessed a showdown or resolution on the final river cards in which the cards were revealed to the winner, but only half of the showdowns were won by the player who had the best five-card hand. The other half of the showdowns were won by someone with an inferior hand because his opponent with the better hand decided to fold prior to the showdown.

For a copy of the full Cigital study, go to

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