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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Dutch Professor Reignites Debate of Poker as Skill Game

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Since 1998, poker has been officially classified as a game of chance in Holland. A Dutch Supreme Court decision did so to make organized poker games illegal without a license, which in essence granted a monopoly to the only licensed entity, Holland Casino. But the debate of poker as a game of skill has resurfaced thanks to one of the country’s leading professors.

In his farewell address to the University of Tilburg prior to his retirement, Professor Ben van der Genugten spoke of the Supreme Court decision and presented a valid case to support his view that poker is indeed a game of skill. Not only did he give details of his formula that proves his assertion, but he called for the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The strong sentiment delivered by a well-respected man was duly noted by the Dutch media, and members of the country’s Liberal Party have called on the Justice Minister to call for a review of the case.

Professor van der Genugten is an expert in probability and mathematical statistics, and the formula he developed with fellow professor Peter Borrn takes into consideration that the learning effect of the game determines the outcome of the game for a beginner versus an optimum player, the result of which makes it a game of skill. In basic terms, the formula is as follows:

Skill = learning effect ÷ learning effect + chance effect
Learning effect = optimum player - beginner
Chance effect = fictive - optimum player

When chance plays a smaller role in the game than the learning effect, which is the case in poker, the skill value is higher. In most casino games, the learning effect is limited and is outweighed by chance, but in poker, the difference between an optimum player and a beginner is great enough to affect the formula and qualify the game as one of skill.

Professor van der Genugten is so highly regarded in Holland because of his involvement in the application of the Dutch Betting & Gaming Act, as his skill game formula was applied to fantasy sports games, which are legal. He has appeared on Dutch television to prove his formula and now insists that it be applied equally to poker.

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