John Racener (L) of the U.S. tosses in chips as he plays against Jonathan Duhamel of Canada in the finals of World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
Credits: REUTERS/STEVE MARCUS
A new study argues chance is an under-rated factor in the natural order of things -- or at least when it comes to how you lost that money in Vegas.
Last week, New York Federal Judge Jack Weinstein found poker couldn't be considered illegal gambling because it's a game of skill rather than luck -- bolstering the case to legalize Internet poker.
However, professor Gerhard Meyer of Germany's University of Bremen's Institute of Psychology and Cognition Research says the thought that expertise wins the day at the card table is a bluff.
On one hand, you have roulette, which is all chance. Then there's chess, which is all talent.
But Meyer reasons most games, like many parts of life, are heterogeneous -- a combination of luck and skill.
Judge Weinstein wrote in his ruling: "While players' actions are influenced by chance events, their decisions are based on skill."
Online players have revelled in his findings.
But Meyer's university study argues happenstance is much better to have in your corner than ability.
Meyer had 300 players deal out 60 hands of poker.
Divided between experts and average players, the researchers figured out how they did with both good and bad hands.
While the sharks walked away with more money from crummy hands, the rookies actually made out a bit better on great cards.
"It's a common misbelief when people think they can influence the outcome of poker games just by their skills," Meyer tells QMI Agency.
"In crucial situations the victory of the whole tournament is decisively determined by luck."
The odds for a professional go up, he says, if they face beginners. But against average people, they survive -- or fall -- by sheer luck.
"It is illusory to believe that you are (permanently) successful as a result of your abilities," he figures, adding the luck factor also has a greater than admitted part to play in what financial traders do every day.
But Toronto-born professional champion Negreanu -- who owns four World Series of Poker bracelets and has a rock-star following -- isn't impressed by the academic's theory.
"The study is absolutely flawed because 60 hands is statistically irrelevant," he says in an email exchange.
"The presence of luck in poker decreases as more hands are played."
While you may beat Negreanu over 60 hands, the only question over 10,000 hands, he adds, is calculating how much you'd owe him in the end.
"You can't make a living playing roulette because you don't have an edge," he points out. "You can make a living playing poker by playing against players less skilled than you."