It’s better to be good than lucky at the poker table – you may remember from last week’s column that GT reader Jay Bingham, a very experienced California poker player, originally emailed me about his disagreement with my point of view on the relationship between skill and luck in the game. poker as revealed in the May 1 column of Gaming Today (“Skill remains important for real poker,” where I compare Video Poker to games like hold’em that involve competition against other poker players sitting at the table).
In response to Jay’s comments, I wrote Part I of this debate, where I took exception to his statement that “Poker (like many things in life) is 80/20 practice.” Eighty percent of the player’s results are a matter of luck, he explained, visiting online gambling sites.
Of course, I agree that luck is a big factor, but I doubt that it accounts for nearly 80 percent of the payoff in the long run.
Furthermore, Jay modified his original statement, explaining that, “Poker is often more about luck than about skill (so 50:50, 1: 1 ratio) even in the long run.” Then, he added, “the analysis of luck and skill in poker is closely linked to the situation at hand. . . There is no one fixed skill: a lucky ratio that works in all situations.
“There are times when skill dominates. . . and the times when luck rules,
We agree on this. What’s more, even when card odds make you the big favorite, the unexpected can happen at any time, and your remaining opponent seizes one of the few chances he has.
When that happens in the river, we are referring to you who have been “flooded with the river.” Don’t blame the dealer. Like you, he has no control over the cards. Call it bad luck; and get ready for the next hand. Most importantly, at that point, don’t tilt. (That will only make matters worse for you.)
Not changing the subject, turning to related issues, Jay added:
“No player will ever play enough hands (even online players playing dozens of tables at once) to scratch huge amounts of poker. Live players, even after decades of play, are still at great risk of facing a bad card that hasn’t been seen in months. I believe this is a big part of why you see so many poker pros go broke after years of profitable play.
“They rely on two very suspicious propositions: (1) that the skills they have developed are enough to win good luck (partly because that’s what others in the poker community say can be done); and, (2) that they feel tens of thousands of hands, even hundreds of thousands (millions even) should be enough to clear up all those unlucky luck problems. . . it is as if large amounts of poker have to bow down before a decade or two of play. The ‘long run’ extends far beyond human life. For humans, poker was and will always be a highly varied game. “
Then he offers a very thoughtful comment: “But if you regularly target (prey?) Those who are less skilled than you at poker, you can still make money.”
Jay made another interesting comment. He suggests we devote room to the “luck factor.” This is a matter closely related to luck, which I believe is only a matter of chance, which no one can control.
That’s an interesting idea. I told Jay I would tend to devote an entire column to “The Luck Factor” if he’d come up with this list. Meanwhile, I appreciate the time and effort Jay has put in, and have arranged to send him a signed copy of my book, “The Art of Bluffing.” I invite your comments on our “debate” on skills vs. luck.