Is Poker a Game of Skill or Luck?

Dennis Clarke
13 March 2023

It has been debated for a long time whether poker is a game of chance or a game of skill. Scientific research has now shown that even when playing poker at online casinos, skill is more important than luck. However, this only applies after having had a lot of experience and playing thousands of hands and tens of hours.

In this article, we are going to break down and explain why poker is a game of skill rather than luck, although luck plays a significant role.

Luck vs Skill in Poker

Poker has been the subject of discussion for some time about whether it should be counted among the games of chance. The main reason why poker shouldn’t be classified as a game of chance is that skill, bluffing, and experience have a more significant influence on the outcome of each game round or hand than pure luck.

Although luck plays a significant role in a single hand of poker, skill starts to weigh a lot more over multiple hands played. When hundreds or even thousands of hands are played, the reliance on luck is minified, and pure maths combined with bluffing start to play a much more significant role in the success of a poker player.

According to experts, poker has now developed into a full-fledged mental sport, which means that it can no longer be classified as a game of chance.

Similarities Between Chess and Poker

Expert players compare poker to chess because of its many possible moves and outcomes at any given time and the fact that most aspects of risks can be completely calculated with every move.

Chess has been an important sport that has cracked our brains for years. We’ve been playing this game since the Middle Ages, and although the game has never been gone, the success of the Netflix series Queen’s Gambit has put the game back on the map. Like poker, chess is all about anticipating how your opponent will react to your actions. You also have to visualise in chess, for which you need a so-called visual working memory, according to experts.

You also have to work on problem-solving, just like in poker. The way your opponents place the cards on a pawn move gives you the opportunity to get back into action.

Differences Between Chess and Poker

Although poker and chess are all about anticipating your opponent’s actions, there is an essential difference between the games. You can’t hide anything in chess. All moves are transparent.

You may not be able to guess the tactics in your opponent’s head, like in poker, but that is not the same as bluffing during a game of poker. Poker is therefore also referred to as an ‘incomplete information game’. That means you have no insight into what cards your opponent has.

Nevertheless, in 2015, a computer managed to solve this Poker Dilemma. The University of Alberta in Canada has developed an algorithm that can crack the code of poker in a game between two players without being able to see the cards. That means that good tactics and good play are still decisive in poker, apart from having good cards.

Games like chess and poker also require extreme cognitive effort. That is why professional chess and poker are seen as top sports. Chess, for example, requires so much energy from the players that they can burn about 1000 extra calories in a game of a few hours on top of their resting calorie consumption. But then you have to consider that a chess player sits for about five hours per game and, therefore, barely moves.

Elements of Luck in Poker

Although luck is undoubtedly needed to some extent when playing poker, the reliance on sheer luck is drastically lowered by professional poker players. They do this because they can largely calculate the chances of winning.

Consider, for example, the chance that you lose with 2 Aces versus a 2 and a 7.

The probability of Aces winning is about 88%, and the probability of 2 and 7 winning is about 12%. When you play this hand with the aces once or twice, you may indeed lose twice. When you play poker professionally, and every day, you win about 880 times out of 1000 times. So it is the law of big numbers; the more you play, the fairer the winnings are distributed, and the more you eliminate luck.

Poker is Proven to be a Good Skill to Learn

Poker strengthens your brain and protects your nerve cells. It provides so-called new wiring and generates myelin for a longer life. Furthermore, it also helps to control your own emotions and to make quick decisions. It also benefits your problem-solving and reading skills. But even if the game didn’t offer all these benefits, for many people, it is also just an opportunity to relax a bit, which also has a positive effect on our brains.

Poker skills can also be handy in the job market and in work life. As a proficient poker player, your negotiation skills are more developed, and you can handle more tasks at the same time. This makes negotiating for a raise more easily and allows you to say exactly what your peers want to hear during evaluation interviews.

FAQs About Poker Luck and Skill

  1. How Much Of Poker Is Luck vs Skill?

    Calculated over a single poker hand, luck counts for around 90% of the outcome, whilst skill weights only 10%. However, over the long run, skill plays a much higher role, and the percentages begin to shift in skill’s favour.

  2. Do You Need A High IQ To Play Poker?

    Poker can be as simple as Memory or as complex as a bridge. The first challenge you will face is taking in what cards are or have been visible. Your mathematical thinking and your memory are of crucial importance, but so is your ability to reason logically. To put it simply, if all the kings are already on the table, no one can hold a royal flush.

  3. Why Is Poker Not A Game Of Luck?

    Because poker players can influence a large part of the game, there is, of course, a significant element of luck in the game, but this can be minimised by playing many games.

Author Dennis Clarke

As a vivid poker and casino fan, I became a full-time iGaming copywriter to write about what I genuinely love: gambling. I am now a copywriter at,, and