There is some debate whether poker is considered a game of chance or a game of skill. The answer, as so often in this field, is that it depends.
Periodically, and usually on the occasion of such outstanding as winnings or losses worth millions, you turn on the debate between those who believe that poker is a game of chance, and those who believe that it is a game of skill.
But what defines the gambling skill, and to what extent these two elements come together in a game of cards?
The great Walter Clyde Pearson, better known as Puggy, liked to say that people are more willing to lose than to win.
The good Pearson, winner of the WSOP Main Event (which played continuously from 1970 to 2005, before shutting down the following year) in 1973 and Hall of Famer since 1987, was fond of saying that the best gambler knows one thing: the average player is happy when he wins the money for a dinner and a movie at the cinema, but when he’s losing is willing to gamble every penny.
It is here, in one of the most famous phrases in the history of poker, which will hide the answer to our question.
Poker is not gambling if you play the right way, being influenced by external factors that do not take account of mathematics that underlies this game.
To clarify the concept we can use a classic example.
Suppose you offer to your friend a simple bet: you pull a coin 1000 times, and will give three Euros to your friend whenever you come out head, and he will give one euro to you whenever you will land tails.
This is a gamble?
The answer, obviously, is no. It would be if the coin to be launched once.
But we all know that in 1000 launches, more or less 50% of the time come out head and 50% of the time will land tails, since these are the only two options available.
And even if he were to win only 300 times out of 1000 (well below 50%), your friend should win still 200 euro net.
Similarly, every time a person plays poker and invests his chips in a situation which has the correct odds, do something mathematically impeccable in the long run.
That’s why the big players, those who win millions and millions of dollars in his career, potentially in one shot to losing to anyone (like everyone else), but the samples know that making mathematically correct decisions in the long run will end up making money.
Play a single hand of Texas Hold’em going all-in pre-flop with AA, KK and lie against, it means head start about 80%, but does not mean automatically win the hand.
AA could easily lose: just drop a board on K.
But try to play the same hand 10, 100 or 1000 times and you’ll see that the gain is guaranteed. And if it is warranted, it is safe.
And if it is safe, well ‘… then it is not gambling.