Is Poker Gambling?

March 30, 2022
Clinton Jacob Machoka

Without question, poker is a famous and beloved game by players all around the globe. The age-old debate of if poker is a game of chance or a skill-based game never ceases to exist.

The fact that poker is considered a game of skill doesn't change it's still gambling. Gambling can be defined as any game in which a wager is placed on the outcome of an event. Poker and sports betting are two distinct types of gambling that are also considered skill-based games.

You can make money in the long term by playing poker or betting on sports if you're skilled enough. Even the most experienced sports bettors and poker players gamble each game.

Unlike other casino games, your primary opponents in poker are not the house but other players, making poker a game of skill rather than chance.


A legal dispute broke out soon after the UIGEA took effect on April 15, 2011, when poker was banned in the United States. In the United States v. DiCristina case, a federal court concluded that poker did not violate the Illegal Gambling Business Act since it was a game of skill (IGBA). Though a significant win for the country's poker industry, it did not solve the subject of whether poker is still gambling or not.

Different Researches

Cigital Group and the University of Hamburg released findings that have garnered interest. The Cigital, a Washington, DC-based consulting organization, conducted the first large-scale study of more than 100 million hands. Most experienced poker players would agree that the following are the two most significant results:

  1. Three-quarters of all hands never go to showdown.
  2. Approximately 12% of hands are won by the best hand.

They found that poker is a game of skill since the chance factor (the cards dealt) was less important in an average hand. It's all about balancing your bluffs and knowing what ranges you're representing. However, in addition to an analysis of hands, a player analysis is required.

Critical Repetition Frequency (CRF)

It was good when Ingo Fiedler and Jan-Philipp Rock from the Institute of Law and Economics at the University of Hamburg initially started looking into this. A total of over 50,000 online players' records were analyzed. In the beginning, they assumed that poker is a game of skill, but they pointed out that this is still a theory that needs to be tested.

Importantly, they point out that this type of research may employ no particular statistical aspect of the game. Critical Repetition Frequency (CRF), or the number of hands needed to be 95 percent sure that the findings represent skill level and are dependable, is the candidate for this measure.

They analyzed the data from 55,000 online players who played millions of hands of Texas Hold 'em in mid-level games, and the outcomes were unexpected. A player with a CRF of 300 is highly skilled, averaging 100BB/100hands. They can be sure in their results if they can maintain this level of play for just 300 hands.

The figure changes drastically for talented players with relatively modest and realistic win percentages. A still unreasonable win rate of 30BB/100h has a CRF = 3,300; one of 5BB/100h, is 118,000 and 295,000 for 1BB/100h.If you're averaging +1BB every 100 hands, don't believe your findings; even if you're averaging 5BB/100h, you likely shouldn't either, except if you are multi-tabling and doing it for several hours.

The Fiedler and Rock technique demonstrates that poker is a skill-based game. It gives converging streams of evidence for the skill-based thesis. When combined with the Cigital research, it provides two lines of support for the skill-based argument, one from the "hands" viewpoint and the player's perspective.

Who wins in poker?

In the long run, poker is a skill-based endeavor entirely. Short-term success is heavily dependent on luck. Professional poker players can reduce their reliance on luck because they constantly make better decisions based on math.

Suppose you want to play poker and be profitable in the long term. In that case, you will need to utilize a poker strategy that comprises understanding how to make the most of your hand, keeping an eye on other players' betting tendencies, and determining whether or not they are bluffing.

If you want proof that poker is a skill game, you don't have to go any farther than the world's best poker players. As it turns out, while some players have built immense fortunes via pure chance, most of the top-earning poker players have done it through years of dedication and a string of impressive performances in the game.

Even when playing at the same stakes, two players with equal skill levels might play the same amount of hands at the same stakes and end up with wildly different outcomes.

Stakes players compete in are vital; however, you may find brilliant players at low stakes and mediocre players at the highest stakes. Furthermore, private games differ from licensed poker room games much as live poker varies from online poker; also, full ring games are distinct from short-handed games.

According to estimates, between 80 and 85 percent of regulars in No-limit poker games at $1/$2 or $2/$4 stakes are losers in the long haul. The issue stems from the game's inherent variance ("luck"), as well as a variety of other elements. These include rake per hand and frequently a poor beat jackpot. Winning 1 or 2 BB/hour routinely under these conditions is unrealistic, even if you're reasonably experienced in cash games.

Mid-stakes and high stakes are where professionals appear. These stakes range from $2/$5 to $10/$20 going up, and ten to fifteen percent of regulars are long-term winners at these stakes.


So is poker gambling? Yes or no, depending on how well the player uses the game's innate adaptability.

Even the world's best poker players gamble every time they sit down at the table. If you're willing to put in the effort, you can win money at poker, but remember that poker still has an element of chance.

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