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|Poker condemed by ignorant Jury
| Poker has been
found by a court to be a game of luck as much as skill. Why?
There are plenty of amateur
poker players who have entered tournaments on a whim, making it to a
high-stakes final and eventually scooping the top prize, beating seemingly huge
A chef and amateur poker player from the Blackpool area, for
example, won almost $1m (£567,419) in an online competition in 2005, when
his previous top winnings were just £28. And there are many others with
similar tales to tell.
But was it pure luck that dealt these card
sharps the winning hand, or sheer hands of skill?
The questions over whether winning at poker is down to a
cool and calculating mind, or just through being presented a fortunate set of
cards by the dealer, has arisen following the trial of Derek Kelly, owner of
the Gutshot Club in Clerkenwell in central London.
Mr Kelly was found
guilty of two counts of contravening the Gaming Act, because of the poker games
he organised and made money from. The law requires that a licence is needed to
host games of chance but not games of skill, like chess.
when one examines the rules of poker, with its varying types of games such as
draw, stud and community card, and all the different variants, the game can
simply seem confusing and highly complex.
It hardly seems a game that
could simply be down to luck. But then, when the chips are down, what control
is there over getting a strong hand, unintentionally, from the dealer?
Roy "The Boy" Brindley is a professional poker player who has won 20
titles over the past four years and who also commentates and writes about the
He believes that
although skill is a major factor, the element of chance also plays a role in
deciding who wins a game of poker.
"Poker is a game of skill but I
can't think of a game, including poker, where luck doesn't come into it. We've
all had luck in a game before," he said.
"If every game could be
attributed purely to skill the same people would win every week. What game is
"Poker is a very skilful game and the same skilful
players will win a lot, but not all of the time.
"In motor racing, for
example, Michael Schumacher was the most skilful driver, but didn't win all of
"But then people say poker is all luck, and it's not like
that at all. It's difficult to quantify it, but there is some blending between
luck and skill."
With the advent of the internet, playing poker online
has become increasingly popular with people from vastly different backgrounds,
a development that is welcomed by Mr Brindley.
"Online gaming is good
because it allows people to play poker who wouldn't normally get to play, like
women, who may not feel comfortable about going into a poker club and sitting
down with a table of men.
"But there's a different strategy with the
online version because, for example, with a live game you can read your
opponent, observe their body language, which is important. A live game does
involve more skill."
Scientist and "very" amateur poker player Simon
Singh believes there are several factors in poker which mean that winning is
down to more than just luck.
"When you look at any game there's a
spectrum. A game of roulette is clearly a game of chance, whereas chess is
particularly a game of skill," he said.
"In the middle you have
everything else. Cricket, for example, is a game of chance to some extent.
"It's influenced by who wins the toss and if the weather changes, and
you can alter your strategy for that but there are certain factors you can't
"If you're getting fantastic hands at poker all night
because of the way the cards are being dealt then that's lucky.
the long run you're all going to get pretty much similar hands. The test is -
are some people better at poker than others? .
"I can't be consistently
better than other people at roulette because there's no way of influencing the
outcome of where the ball falls on the roulette wheel.
"But in poker it
is possible for someone to be better than someone else, because the game has
got an element of skill."
Mr Singh says there are certain factors that
elevate poker above being a mere game of good fortune and is even a useful tool
for examining one's character.
"Poker is a very good way of testing how
you are as a human being, because it involves a whole range of skills.
"It tests how good you are at taking risks. You have to be aggressive
sometimes and back down at others, you have to work out what's in your own
head, use psychology to read your opponents through their behaviour.
"It involves so many aspects and that's what says poker is not just a
game of luck."
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