Playing poker definitely takes skill, not luck

Mar 31, 2009 5:08 PM
Back in the Saddle by Johnny Hale |

I have been lucky all my life in business, marriage, health and friends. So lucky in my youth that if you touched me, I would burn you!

When asked by other poker players if I would rather be lucky than good, I tell them they have about three chances in life to be successful in whatever they choose to do.
First, pick your parents well! Second, make sure to marry well. Third, tell the player who wants to know how to win.

In my book "The Gentleman Gambler" of a few years ago, I wrote a chapter about the acorn not falling far from the Oak Tree. (E-mail me at [email protected] or my e-store at for a copy. If you do not like it, I will give you double your money back!"

In the book, I list and tell about several great poker players of today and their highly successful parents! I think Doyle Brunson is the best No Limit Texas Hold’em poker player in the world!
When his son Todd was beginning to play poker, I told him he would be rich and famous in the world of poker. So is Todd skillful or lucky? He very carefully and skillfully selected the world’s best poker player to be his father.

My dad used to tell, "It is just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl as a poor one." Many times a player will need a little help on the road to success in the poker world. The player may be the best at the table and skillful in the way he manages his game, but his wife may be his Ace in the hole!

I was the best player in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War! I owned the ship and my shipmates owed me money!

But during the battle of Inchon, we made an end run and picked up several Marines who were fighting to hold a small piece of the beach! They wanted to play some poker so my shipmates arranged a game. I took on the Marine Corps in a poker game of the Navy against the Marines.

They did not know how skillful I was and that I busted everyone who played with me! It did not matter much how skillfully I would play. The Marines had no fear and would just call and out-luck me!

They busted me, but I had an Ace in the hole – an African-American friend of mine. He said, "No, Johnny you’re not broke," and handed me a $20 bill.

I took that $20 and won back the Navy and busted the Marines. Was this skill or luck? You have to have an Ace in the hole.

I have lived on a dirt floor without running water or electricity during the depression days. It did not hurt me. I made my first million before I was 24 years old!

Did I do this with skill or luck? Well, I was married five years before I bought my first car. I made my first investment in my head by graduating in the school of civil engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

The first time I played in the World Series of Poker, I won the best all around gold bracelet. Skill or luck? Winning is when working poker skillfully meets luck!

Tip of the Week

To win you must not play poker, but work it. Those that play lucky poker merely play poker. The skilled players study.
True, when I get lucky I win more than I should. Like so many other skillful players, I know how to manage money, compute the odds, observe the other players, have a game plan and execute it.

When unlucky, I lose the minimum and manage the game. I do believe in luck and like the movie "The Postman Always Rings Twice," I do not wait for the second ring. I act when I see luck. If I see it in another player, I stay out of his way. If I am having a lucky day, I move with it!

I work poker, but always end my column with staying lucky.