Luck vs. Skill in Poker Playing | Poker Tutorials

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Hey I’m Nicky Numbers, I’m a professional poker player, and maybe the most common question I get asked is: How much of poker is luck versus skill? Well, that answer to that really depends on the sample size. If you just play one hand of poker, it’s going to primarily be luck that drives the outcome of the hand. Just one session of cash game poker is going to be largely luck. One tournament hand or one tournament, tremendous amounts of luck. However, the more hands you play, the less luck there is.

As the number of hands approaches infinity, luck approaches zero. If you play tens of thousands of cash game hands, or thousands of tournaments, and you’re a good poker player, you will win in the long run. Poker is a pure skill and the reason it’s beatable in the long run is because the house, the poker room or the casino, only takes a very small amount out of each pot and they’re not a player.

You’re not playing against the house like you would be in craps or roulette, where if you play frequently enough, they’re guaranteed to win. In poker you’re playing against other players and the house is basically just charging you an hourly amount to sit at the table. This amount comes out in the form of rake, which they take a small percentage from each pot or they take an upfront vig for a poker tournament. So for example you might play a poker tournament that’s $120, where $20 of it is just going to the house and $100 is going to the prize pool. Unless the rake is too high, which it will rarely be in a casino or a poker room, then the games are going to be beatable.

However, you do have to be careful when you’re playing in home games or private games, because it’s not uncommon for those games to have enormous rakes. Something like 10% of the pot with no cap might well be an unbeatable game for most if not all poker players. The more poker that’s played, the more the cream will rise to the top. Play enough poker, and if you’re a very good player, you will win in the long run.

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23 Responses

  1. S Simpson says:

    So what I got out of this video is that I should turn my basement into a casino and take 10%.

  2. Silkroadgermany2 says:

    It's 10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will,
    5% pleasure, 50% pain
    and a 100% reason to remember the name!

  3. FullTimeSlacker says:

    Yeah getting the flop, turn and river you need is all skill

  4. Andrei P says:

    This is the REAL answer to Luck VS Skill: Poker is a weird game. It's both, but not combined. Poker is 100% LUCK. But here is the twist: when luck hits you, Poker instantly becomes 100% SKILL.

    Conclusion? Well, Poker is both luck and skill, but luck HAS to come first. Why? Because the best player in the world WILL LOSE any tournament / table if luck doesn't hit at all.

  5. RyanORourkelol says:

    He says "Poker requires skill" then fails to actually tell us how exactly it requires skill…

  6. 1. Thou Shant Lewd Kaori says:

    they're not guranteed to win in craps…

  7. Cookiesrfood says:

    Poker is mostly luck with a little skill but that skill can make a huge difference especially at the higher stake tables but even then theres always going to be luck involved and the percentages of luck vs skill change base off the players the cards and the probabilities involved some hands require more luck then others

  8. Eduardo Freitas says:

    What people are missing is that he's not saying you will win every game if you're better but that you'll win some, lose some, but if you're good, in the long run you'll be winning money.

  9. pwnzar121 says:

    "As the number of hands you play approaches infinity…" — love this explanation.

  10. Luis Villa says:

    I like the other guy better he explains everything better

  11. john smith says:

    I'd say it's 75% luck and 25% skill. Skill DOES play a factor – but realistically, luck is the overriding factor. Bottom line: you're not going to be on the final table without good starting cards. It doesn't take a lot of "skill" to play aces – or if you're hitting the flop every hand. When you get good cards you'll win if you play skillfully. If you don't get good cards — no amount of "skill" will allow you to overcome luck — unless you hit a big pot on the first hand and then walk out of the casino with the winnings.

  12. john smith says:

    "If you play tens of thousands of cash games or thousands of tournaments — you will win." Uh — okay. In the meantime, you'll be broke. Who the F plays THOUSANDS of tournaments?? Thousands?? Even if you played FIVE tournaments a day, seven days a week for a year — you'll STILL be less that "thousands" of tournaments. This is why most players LOSE. If you are winning – it's likely temporary. You had a big hit or a good streak. 99.9% luck – 1% skill.

  13. Paul Pena says:

    Poker is ALL luck. No one can beat the rake in long term. People are kidding themselves. Go to any casino and play for a couple of hours. EVeryone leaves broke with a rare exception here or there.

  14. Byron Jones says:

    lol poker is all luck. only skill is knowing when your beat.

  15. ZlZlZlZlZlZl says:

    Am I the only one who thought he said chuenty instead of 20 lol? One hundred and cheunty dollars. Not trying to make fun of him, I am laughing on how weird it sounds, it was just my first time hearing someone uses a ch sound instead of a t sound

  16. michael brill says:

    poker is aprox 75-80% luck. on a poker table people normally gets small pots from each other in a period of time, some of the small pots there is played are bluffs, some are not. It doesnt really matter because its all small and not important pots, what people really are waiting for is for 2 people to get a good hand at the same time and both hit the flop, from there its all luck and unfurtunately its the important pots in poker where all the luck matters. Example, a q vs 44. aq raise 44 calls and flop says A Q 4. from that point only 1 thing will happen, both players will putt all the money in the middle and none of them will have made a mistake, its all just luck, and after that there will be some stealing and small pots again. Until a player hits his AK and another player hit his flush, again its just a matter of who has the best of 2 good hands. That is also why you have to play correct over a long period of time just to make sure to make money. Its not like that in any other sport or hubby where the best player wins a signifficant amount of time.

  17. Kebawo says:

    variance doesn't even out at all, especially when mtts are concerned as you need to hold during the later stages

  18. MrStevie57 says:

    I feel that with good play your chances of winning are increased but bad luck and you lose.

  19. Sherry Smith says:

    He is talking absolute drivel. The luck involved in poker is immense. You can learn everything about poker from pot odds to how much to bet to how to read opponents but it will not guarantee success because some people are just plain unlucky.

  20. Pierre Alie says:

    Way I see it is the best possible hand goes all in preflop against the worse hand (Aces versus 7-2 offsuit), aces will lose 11.8% of the times so the game has a minimum percentage of luck that can be established at 11.8%. Most hands going on though are not going to be anywhere near that. It is impossible to estimate the percentage of luck in the game, but there is definitely a high amount of it since what people call ''skill'' is nothing but a combination of maths and reading abilities. The math is only approximations because you don't know which cards were dealt you count your outs based only on the cards you see, so your calculations may be off. As for the reading abilities, you can be wrong there too even if you're a very good player. Long run, it is possible to beat the game I know someone who did it on stars, I've seen his graphic, up and down, but up in the long run. It is very hard to do though, and it takes more than card skill, emotional control is probably the hardest part of it. I would say skill wins in the long run, it's %, if you take good decisions in the long run you will win

  21. Beneath the Surface says:

    80% luck 20% skill, but that 20% makes the difference in the long long run playing the game

  22. Mike Boatright says:

    Well who plays infinity hands dude.. So you play 5,000 hands a week 3 times a week and it's still luck and that's playing a lot.

  23. FuManBoobs says:

    Only the truly skilled win the lottery.

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