Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poker is not Gambling: or is it?

I've been learning poker (Texas Hold'em) over the last few years and have been entertained with a persuasive argument that poker is not gambling.  I get the distinct impression that most people think it is gambling.  I could be wrong.

Why not?  If gambling is defined as a game of chance, like a lottery where every ticket has an equal chance of being picked, then poker is clearly not a game where winning and losing is based on chance and hence is not gambling.  It is a game of skill.

In a game of chance, if played repeatedly, the distribution of winners would be randomly distributed.  So one day, Manitobans win the jackpot; another time it's an Ontarian.  Those who buy more tickets will on average win more often.  That's how lotteries seem to work (excluding any of the suspected fraud taking place by those who sold lottery tickets).

In poker, such a random distribution of winners does not occur.  Winners continue to win.  Losers continue to lose.  Winners of poker tournaments or cash games have a higher chance of winning again than some who doesn't.  Hence, poker is not a random game and as is not gambling, it is a game of skill that may or may not involve the use of converting points to money for the purpose of distinguishing winners and losers.  Sometimes cards flip that make a losing player into a winner, but this is variance, not randomness.  This is the gist.  So I stop here.
Do you have a view on this slippery slope?  I understand things are not black and white, and am interested in hearing what poker players and non-poker players have to say on this.  Or perhaps this discussion is moot and everyone is bored by poker/gambling talk.  Clearly, there must be more pressing things to discuss.
BTW:  My comedy troupe which includes yours truly will be performing an audiciously fun 30-minute comedy set at a poker charity formal this Saturday, November 14 at 7:30PM (see for more info) in Markham (Shangri-La Banquet Hall -- tickets available until Thursday).  Yes, please come check out Asiansploitation ( and maybe play a hand or two in a skill-based game while wearing formal wear -- not something you do everyday.  It'll be FUN.  Let me know if you're interested.  And the sketches we'll be doing have never before been performed together.  So unless you've been to every single major performance that we've done (I'm thinking through everyone I know and can't imagine anyways who has), then there will be at least one thing that is NEW for you to see.  Regardless, I'll blog about the experience and if I can, I'll post photos of the experience.  Wish me a broken body part!  And Happy Remembrance Day!

Posted via email from middledragon's posterous


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