Why Poker Is a Game of Skill and Not Luck

Table of Contents

Studies reveal that over 100 million people play poker globally, with 60 million from the US alone. Now, these stats only account for online poker and not in casinos. Taking a step back, there were approximately 7,176 poker tables in casinos globally in the year 2021. 

These numbers have since then increased drastically, serving millions of gamblers every year. If you combine the number of online and casino players, the total number of poker players is remarkable.

The timeless controversy of poker being skill or luck is just as old as the game itself from when it first originated between the years 1810 and 1825. This debate covers all aspects: luck, skill, and even a combination of both. 

However, this article aims to settle that debate by analyzing the game and devising the most logical and practical conclusion.

Is Poker Based on Luck?

The generally shared notion is that Poker is a game based on luck. If you are a poker player, then this might be infuriating, but you cannot blame them. This is mainly due to poker being associated with casinos along with other games like slots, craps, and blackjack, which have a huge element of luck.

This is the main reason why people often assume that poker is luck-based, too. However, poker is a game that requires 100% pure skill in the long run, with only some luck in the short term. However, at a more advanced level, luck becomes useless, and professional players completely mitigate the luck element through mathematically superior decision-making.

The first and most important thing you need to keep in mind is that poker is a game that is played against other people and not the house. Therefore, the saying “the house always wins” does not apply in poker.

Psychology in Poker

Poker involves a lot of psychology, and your decisions are determined by how either you play your opponents or how they play you. A study conducted took individuals from different games that required skill and knowledge and to no one’s surprise, experts from chess and similar games exhibited superior decision-making in poker compared to those who knew about the game and depended completely upon luck.

In addition, casinos in Vegas are commonly known for setting up top math graduates from the country to be 100% certain that they can return a profit from casino tables. Mathematics plays an important role, but firstly, psychology is the part where you generate the profit.

Consider a scenario where you are dealt a poor hand, but you play it as if you have the best hand and bluff the opponents into thinking you are winning for sure. They will immediately fold, and you get the pot regardless of whether your hand was lost.

Similarly, if you have a good hand, you do not want to scare away the opponents but lure them into betting big so you can turn an even greater profit. It all comes down to how you can play others by the sequence of your decisions in a round.

Mathematics in Poker

At the core of poker, you will find mathematics playing closely with the luck element. To understand how it works, consider tossing a coin 1 billion times. Now, probability states that there will be heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time. However, there will be instances where you will land on the same side, maybe a dozen, a hundred, or even thousands of times in a row.

Nevertheless, this exhausting practice is called variance. This comes into play in instances where pocket aces have about an 85% probability of beating any random hand when you use a significantly larger sample size.

When professionals play poker, they only leverage luck in the short term and gradually focus more deeply on variance in the longer term. It is not the same as counting cards; rather, it enhances decision-making based on numerous aspects.

Poker Is A Game of Skill

The short answer for anyone asking why poker is a game of skill and not luck. Just hit them back with the question, why do professional poker players exist? All professional games require skill and cannot be based on luck; otherwise, it is just another slot machine.

The skill element comes into play when you learn more about the game and understand when to play your hand and when to fold. Moreover, understanding your hand helps you decide how much you want to bet.

This is the bit where psychology comes in again; even the amount you bet or raise will determine how your opponents will react. So long as you play the proper hand with the right amount of chips for the round, you will notice that luck has very little to do with the game, and it is indeed a game of skill.

A general rule that professionals follow is - to put more money in the pot where you have a statistical advantage and less in the pot where you are at a clear disadvantage. These advantages and disadvantages are learned through experience and knowledge as you continue to play the game.

Overall, poker sounds quite easy to play in general with friends and family, but if you are up against pros, your luck will run out.


It is clear that poker does involve a certain degree of luck, but that is rendered useless in the long run. Since poker is played against other people, as a professional poker player, you will need to be able to observe your opponents, their behavior, the pot, the pool, and your hand to make the most superior decision and win.

Due to the moves involved in poker, there is always a way to even turn a poor hand into a winning one, so long as you are capable of playing the game in a way that you dominate your opponents. In the end, it all comes down to skill, and luck has little to no involvement in winning the game.

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