Is Poker Mainly Luck

November 8, 2009 · Posted in Physical Supernatural

I often find myself asking, “is poker luck?” (talking strictly about No Limit Texas Hold’em here).
I mean it seems like it all depends on the cards that are turned over.

Many newcomers to poker believe that the most important thing in the game is luck. In fact, this is not so. Professional players believe that only 10% of success depends on luck in poker, and the. While poker's main attraction is its element of luck, playing in a poker tournament requires skill to capitalize on that luck when the cards are going your way and to moderate its effects when the cards are going against you. The following steps give you advice on how to play in a poker tournament. Is Poker Mainly Luck, where to buy wizard of oz slot machine, chistes poker face, free rm casino. This fast-paced casino card game is easy Is Poker Mainly Luck to learn and fun to play online. Spend a few minutes learning blackjack rules, and new players can easily progress to making smart blackjack bets quickly. Practice Is Poker Mainly Luck using one of our 50 free blackjack games now before playing blackjack for real money. Yes, the stats and the data shows us that poker is more luck-based when played for a short amount of time. A hand with a 90% chance of winning can lose 10% of the time. What does this means is that out of 100 times the hand with 90% chance will lose 10 times. So, the remaining 90 times the hand with 90% chance will win.

But back to the question at hand: “Is poker skill or luck?” — or what combination of each?

Let’s talk about “getting lucky” for a moment…

Is poker mostly luck

Having good luck in poker is not (necessarily) something you can control ( unless you believe in NLP 😉 ).

When it comes to changing your luck at poker, you could stop playing hands when you notice that you’re not getting good cards or if people keep getting lucky and “bad-beating” you.

Here are some examples from the recent (2009) World Series of Poker (WSOP) of where pocket aces were cracked.

Examples of Lucky Poker (Cracking AA)

Actually, Lon McEachern and Norman Chad (the WSOP commentators) mentioned that it takes more than pocket aces to make the final table.. and they are right!

1) Begleiter has Jack 9 of diamonds and raises to 450k. Lamb, sitting next to Begleiter, has pocket aces and raises it to 1.1 million. Begleiter is feeling lucky, so he calls.
The flop comes 5, Jack, 9 – Begleiter has Jacks up. He slow plays his two pair by checking to Lamb, who raises 1.5 million. Begleiter pushes all in and gets the call.
The turn and river are no help to Lamb, so his pocket aces were cracked!

The odds went like this (Begleiter/Lamb): Preflop (20/80) – Flop (75/25) – Turn (82/18)

So you can see, Begleiter was LUCKY enough to win when he only had 20% chance of doing so! Is poker luck? – that situation suggests it is!

2) Robbins raised with pocket aces, but didn’t raise enough because Akenhead raised all in pre-flop with K Q off suit. Robbins calls, and they flip the cards over.

Akenhead only had a 13% chance to win preflop, but when the flop came KJQ, his two pair put him at a 62% chance to win (that means Robbins still has a 38% change of winning this hand). But the next two cards that come out are blanks for Robbins and his pocket aces were cracked by two pair.

So Akenhead was having good poker luck because he turned his 13% into 62%, whereas Robbins couldn’t do anything with his 38%!

3) Robbins now doesn’t have many chips left, so when he gets pocket 10’s, he pushes all in. Cada has pocket aces, so he calls instantly.

Preflop, Robbins only has a 21% chance of winning (or splitting the pot). Flop comes 6, K, 2 rainbow – and now Robbins only has a 9% chance. The turn is a 5, and now Robbins only has a 5% chance of getting a 10 on the river to win the pot.

Is poker all luck? – Well when you go all in pre flop and are already behind in the hand, yes, poker is all luck at that point!

Guess what.. a 10 comes on the river and Robbins wins the hand to stay alive! It takes more than pocket aces to make the final table (or to win a hand in general!).

Being Good at Poker Involves Skill

These examples of where people are getting lucky and beating pocket aces are rare, I do admit that.

There are many hands played in every tournament or cash game – and some of them come down to someone getting really fortunate – but there is some skill involved too.

Raising to represent that you have a big hand can often scare your opponents away, even if they have the best hand (your raise makes them believe they are beat). Knowing when the other player is bluffing or doesn’t have the best possible hand takes skill, and practice is the only way to gain that skill.

But if someone asked “is poker luck?” – I would tend to say yes. I think it is more luck than skill, especially when you are very skilled yourself and are playing with people that are equally as skilled.

What do you think? Are you a poker player who knows something about the game? Comment below..

  1. Hi! This is an issue that can make poker seem like a paradox. I’m a professional player and my short answer is “yes and no and yes.”

    In the short term, whether or not a skilled player wins or loses is determined much by luck. But in the long term, a skilled player is almost guaranteed to win (assuming he’s not only playing against players as skilled as him). The money he saves from his good folds, plus the money he earns from his well-calculated bets (and the mistakes his opponents make by calling those bets), all adds up to a steady hourly profit that reveals itself when the streaks of good and bad luck cancel each other out.

    Notice the stipulation, “when the streaks cancel out.” Theoretically, it’s possible for the best player in the world to lose at every table he sits at for the rest of his life, and likewise for the worst player to beat every table! For this reason, one could take the view that poker is completely luck, and in a way he’d be right. I take a different approach. If P is the probability of a good player losing in the long term, then I say poker is (100*P)% luck in the long term. I think most pros would agree that P is astronomically low, so in the long run, poker rounds to 100% skill.

    Think of it like this: the pros are the “house” and the fish are the gamblers. It’s almost as hard for a pro to lose in the long run as it is for the casino to lose in the long run (I say “almost” because the casino needs no skill, whereas a pro must keep playing well). For a bad poker player to win in the long run would be like a craps player winning in the long run.

    It’s like any other event involving chance. If you flip a coin 10 times, it’s not so unlikely for it to land on Tails 10 times. But after 10^100 flips, the percentage will be pretty darn close to 50%, otherwise a miracle has happened. When a pro loses one night, he doesn’t quit poker forever. He keeps playing because he trusts that over time, the percentages will happen as math dictates they should.

    Defining the skill-luck ratio for a short term is trickier. I think the ideal way to define it would be to find someone in the universe who plays absolutely perfect poker (pretend there’s a genius alien out there that happens to play poker), make it play in Earth’s casinos, and keep a log of its results. Whatever the alien’s win percentage for a given period of time, is the true percentage of skill involved in that length of poker session. So if the alien wins in every 7 out of 10 hours it plays, then an hour of poker is 70% skill. If it wins 9 out of 10 days it plays, then a day of poker is 90% skill, and so on. Since we don’t have a perfect player on Earth, we can’t know what the true short-term ratio of skill to luck is, nor the time-dependent function.

    Keep in mind that I’ve mainly been talking about cash games. A tournament involves more luck because you only get one buy-in (or your rebuys are small compared to the average chipstack), the blinds increase, and the chips aren’t worth money until you place. I’m only a cash player, but I think most tournament players would agree that a single tournament is mostly luck (my own uneducated guess would be 80%). As for the long-term luck factor of tournaments, I have no clue, but I have to imagine it’s greater than that of cash games.

    You also mentioned the possibility of equally skilled players playing each other. In such a game, any win (short term or long) would be purely luck, as would any loss. In the long run, they should all make nothing from each other, and will end up losing to the rake. I hope it’s a long time before this becomes the state of poker…long live the fish!

  2. of cource poker, especially tournament is all luck. for example, in wsop 2010 the champion won four times with bad started hans such as 10svs11, jjvskk, 1qvs1k and all those hands mizrachi won
    as nuguen said, in mtt poker depends on pure luck
    if somone say poker is skill not luck he tells a big lie

  3. LOL @ “long live the fish” hahah

    Frank – I agree with everything you said. Well put and thanks for your thoughts.

    I just want to say that the reason poker seems like it’s all luck is because when you’re watching the WSOP, there is no second chances. You mentioned something to this effect when talking about tournament play.. you only get one buy in.. so if you go bust, you’re done.

    That’s why when you see a crazy hand (where the odds are defied) – you think to yourself that poker must be all luck.

    I know that it’s not, and agree with your entire response regarding the skilled player will make money in the long term.

    Best of luck to you 🙂 (and I actually mean that.. even if you’re sitting across the table from me)

  4. Thanks and same to you! There are some people I don’t mind losing to and you’d be one of them, hah.

    One thing I forgot to add: to play cash games in stakes higher than you can afford, is to reduce poker to a short-term game, and therefore it makes your success greatly depend on luck. It becomes more like a tournament because if you get sucked out a few times, you’re dead.

    The general consensus for no-limit hold’em is that a good, tight-aggressive player should be able to afford losing 20 buy-ins of the stakes he wants to play in, and to me this seems pretty accurate. A buy-in is defined as 100 big blinds, but really this isn’t necessary because in most stakes you can get away with buying in for less. In order to play 1/2 NL, one should have $4,000 in spare cash. But if you’re not someone who has an advantage over most tables he sits at, then you should have more than that.

    Those rules can be found online and there are separate rules for limit hold’em, omaha, and tournament play.

  5. if you think poker is skill rather than luck, please watch wsop 2011, how mizrachi won

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The following article was found on the 2+2 forums. The original post by ThaHero is titled Pooh-Bah Post: Luck and Poker and can be found here.

I realize it’s somewhat long, and if you decide not to read that’s fine. I hope it helps someone. Just writing it really helped me.

I know I’m not the most regular of posters here, and not very popular or respected either, but I still feel the need to write a Pooh-Bah post. Partly because I love poker, partly because I love to write, and partly because I love to help others.

My poker “career” has been a tumultuous one. I’ve been broke a few times, had lots of money a few times, and floated in mediocrity for most of the time.

I always thought I had terrible luck. One time, after going broke, I went to NVG and BBV and read about other’s successes. I searched the board and read the Well’s of other posters to see their stories. I turned to my twin brother, after losing my last few dollars, and said, “I’d rather be lucky than smart.”


At the time, I meant it. It’s where my mind was at during that time. I didn’t realize what luck really meant. Over the past few months I’ve really tried to reflect on my poker playing. I’ve examined situations, trying to get to the heart of the game. What makes a great player? Are they really just more lucky than the rest of us? Certainly many posters here believe so. I decided to look up the definition of luck:

1 a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual
2 : favoring chance;

A “force?” What’s that? I love Star Wars and all, but I don’t believe there’s any mystical force hovering over my head when I go all-in preflop with KK and see my opponent turn over AA, or vice versa. Now, events and circumstances is more concrete.

What are events and circumstances in poker? A hand is dealt(event). You are UTG with 72o(circumstance). Of course you fold. That event and circumstance operated against you. Another hand. You get AA in the big blind. MP raises, Button goes all in. Of course you call. That event and circumstance operated for you. But does this mean you are lucky or unlucky? Let’s delve further…

I’ve heard a lot of quotes about luck in my lifetime. I never really paid attention to them until now. Here are a few good ones that I think we should keep in mind when going through a downswing, or even an upswing, and we think luck has something to do with it:

“Luck is the by-product of busting your fanny.” – Don Sutton

“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.” – Harry Golden

Is Poker Mainly Lucky

“Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it, and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work — and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.” – Lucille Ball

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity“

I’m unsure who said the last one, but I’ve heard it plenty throughout my screenwriting journeys. Did you notice a pattern? The common denominator in all those quotes, for the most part, is hard work.

I remember joining these forums, reading TOP, SSHE, HOH, and thinking I was entitled to winning at poker. I bought PT with poker winnings, PAHUD, etc. The highest I made it before crashing was 100NL and 200NL with brief shots at 400NL and 600NL. I had hit a wall. It put me on tilt really.

Is poker mainly lucky


I didn’t know it at the time. I truly thought I was UNLUCKY. Brian Townsend was LUCKY. CTS was LUCKY. Bruiser was LUCKY. I WASN’T.

A while later, a little reflection, and now I see things much clearer. I see why I didn’t beat those games.

I never posted hands here. I rarely replied to hand posts. I rarely reviewed hands in PokerTracker. I would look at my basic stats for the day, my winnings(or losses), check out a few bad beats, and be done. I would read a book once and think I understood everything in it. I went back and read Brian Townsend’s Well. He said this:

“I have spent a lot of time playing poker in the past year. I completely immersed myself in poker. I have read every poker book, spent countless hours browsing and reading forums, spent even more hours analyzing my play and my opponents plays. And then beyond this I have played endless hours. I really enjoy playing and I think if you don’t you will never reach your fullest potential. You really have to love to play the game.“

Did I love playing poker? Of course! Did I “immerse” myself in it? Not quite. Did I read every poker book? Certainly not, and the ones I did I only read once. Did I spend countless hours on 2+2 or other forums? Nope, unless it was reading OOT or BBV4L or some inconsequential forum. I didn’t do much analyzing of my play, and certainly didn’t look at what my opponents did. I didn’t even put in “endless” hours when I did play. I played more than most people I knew, but not endlessly. I’d make enough to buy some shoes or a video game, dick around in the Stud games a bit, and stop playing for the week or month.

Luck had nothing to do with it. It was my unwillingness to work hard. I understand not everyone has the ability to immerse themselves in poker. This forum has a wide variety of posters. Many have families, jobs, etc. I had a few obligations, mainly school, but I certainly had plenty free time, mostly spent watching TV.

I had the circumstances to be a great player if I wanted. I had the opportunity. Did I prepare? Nope. Another quote:

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.“

I had set myself up for my own failure! I didn’t even know it. I would blame a poor run of cards on going broke, when in actuality it was a lack of preparation coupled with poor bankroll management.

This is dragging on so I’m going to conclude with this. Prepare for every opportunity. If you want to be great at poker, you have to do this. Understand the game so you don’t put yourself in tough spots (circumstances). Get in +EV situations (circumstances) and get your money in (event). Work on table selection (preparation) and get on tables with plenty fish (opportunity).

Every +EV situation is an opportunity. You can’t identify them unless you prepare. Sure, you will lose. That’s where the last definition of luck comes in. There is a 5% chance your opponent will hit his out on the river. One day, that card WILL hit. And AGAIN. And AGAIN. Don’t fight this. It isn’t back luck. It’s just chance. You’ve already done all you can- you worked hard. If you work hard at poker, you WILL WIN. It’s a game of skill. Stop counting real money over the short term and instead count Sklansky Bucks and G Bucks over the long term. On the other side of that 5% chance is a 95% chance. Make sure the majority of your bets are on the good side of chance.

I’m not telling you to remove luck from your vocabulary. Keep it there. Simply change the definition. Make it mean something else.

Is Poker Mostly Luck

From now on, I have good luck, because I vow to work hard. At poker, and more importantly, at everything else in my life.

Good Luck.

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