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Scientists: Poker and Golf Dominated by Skill
Now there’s proof: skill predominates over chance in poker. At least to the same extent as in golf.
The question whether skill or chance is the dominating factor in poker is central for legal purposes. But it’s hard to decide by just studying the rules of the game. You end up in questions without answers, such as “how long is the long run?”
Poker isn’t the only game where there’s an element of chance, though. Or uncertainty. Most or all endeavors are affected by some kind of unpredictable events.
In golf, for example, changing winds may mean an extra shot or two for one player compared to the competition.
Judging chance by actual results
So how can we compare poker to golf? Researchers Croson, Fishman and Pope took a clever angle on this matter.*
They looked at the results of poker competitions over a range of years and compared them to golf results over the same time span.
It turns out that poker shows much the same pattern as golf in this respect.
WSOP vs. PGA
They compared 25 years of the World Series of Poker Main Event to 25 years of the golfers’ PGA Championship. This is some facsinating reading.
In 25 years of the WSOP Main Event:
- 21 players won the title.
- One player won three times.
- Three players won twice.
- Three players won back-to-back titles.
- Fourteen of the 21 champions finished top ten in other Main Events.
In 25 years of the PGA Championship:
- 22 players won the title
- Three players won twice.
- One player won back-to-back titles.
- Fifteen of the 22 champions finished top ten in other PGA Championships.
Poker is really a skill game
Judging by these numbers, the results of poker competitions are no more random than those of golf competitions. If anything, they seem less random, but let’s not go there.
In all appearance, skill predominates over chance in poker much to the same degree as in golf.
Then, only one question remains before everything is said and done: Is poker a game of skill – or golf a game of chance?
* This analysis was used by the Poker Player Association in a paper submitted in connection with court hearings in Massachusetts.
They in turn refer to Croson, Fishman, Pope: “Poker Superstars Skills or Luck?” I haven’t been able to read this paper yet, so I can’t really tell what kind of significance they attach to their findings.
PS Now I have the text. It turns out it’s the wrong text. Croson, Fishman and Pope have performed a different study, also suggesting that poker and golf are decided by skill to a comparable extent.