It seems the debate goes on. Luck vs. skill. Poker vs. Gambling. Balboa vs. Creed. Regardless, it appears there may be much to be gained if poker can be proven to be a game of skill rather than luck.
I’ve seen a couple of ideas lately that have me thinking more about this issue.
First, on Lou Krieger’s blog, he makes mention of a “duplicate” poker tournament wherein you compete not with the players at your table, but rather your counterpart at other tables. Your counterpart receives the same exact cards as do you, and sees the same exact flop, turn and river. It is an attempt to eliminate the luck factor and determine whose play is more skillful in similar situations. It seems difficult to do in a live setting due to administrative issues like deck setting and equaling the chip distributions, but as Lou mentions, this seems a perfect fit for an online or computer-based simulation.
A thread over on 2+2 started by David Sklansky is also interesting. In it, he states that you shouldn’t look at how skill impacts your ability to win in poker but rather how the lack of it impacts your ability to lose quickly. He, via his son Mat, theorizes that the difference in skill between a very good poker player and an average-skilled player is still quite small. It is because of this that the luck factor appears to be larger than it truly is.
I responded with this analogy in the thread:
I really like this argument.
If you suppose that poker is a competition among skilled players and that the difference in skill between the marginally skilled and exceptionally skilled is still close, of course that will magnify the luck factor.
Hypothetically assume two archers of near exact skill. Who wins a competition in archery? The uncontrollable factors, like the wind, air density, etc. will be super-magnified between two such competitors while minimized between an expert and an amateur. Archery is certainly a skill-based activity, but between two near identical competitors, it could be viewed as a game of luck by an ignorant observer.
The bottom line is that arguments like these are going to have to potentially convince lawmakers that poker is a skill-based game. Hopefully, with the collective intelligence of the poker community generating new ideas on this subject, we’ll one day see a wider acceptance of this belief.