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Poker News | World Poker News

Study by Cigital Shows Poker Skills Far Outweigh Chance

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A new study has been released that looks to prove that poker is unquestionably a game of skill. Cigital, Inc., in cooperation with Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited (REEL) and PokerStars, recently released the findings of its 103 million-hand study.

The reported, entitled “Statistical Analysis of Texas Hold’em,” was sparked by a need in the poker industry to provide data that shows why poker is a game of skill, not chance. Authors Paco Hope (Cigital Technical Manager), Brian Mizelle (Cigital Managing Principal), and Sean McCulloch (Ph.D. and Associate Professor at Ohio Wesleyan University) released the study and followed up with a conference call to explain the results to interested parties on Friday, March 27, 2009.

Recent court cases in Colorado and South Carolina have called upon testimony from experts in the field of statistics, game theory, and poker to prove to the courts that poker is not a game of chance and should, therefore, not be considered gambling under the law. While many judges are not only allowing this argument but agreeing with it, a study upon which attorneys could rely has been much needed. The Cigital study fills that void.

The 103 million hands were taken from a series of cash ring games of Texas hold’em on PokerStars that were played between December 1, 2008, and January 2, 2009. All multi-player games were taken from the micro-limit arena with 10-cent, 25-cent, and 50-cent blinds. Cigital looked at the data “without predisposition towards the final outcome” and found that the majority of the hands played were won without deference to the actual value of the cards, as only 24.3 percent of the hands went to a showdown, and only 50.3 percent of those were won by the player holding the best five-card hand. The most interesting statistic was that only 12 percent of the hands were won by players who made the best hand early and took it to a showdown to take the pot. The vast majority of hands were won through betting strategies that did not rely on the best five-card hand.

Not only has the poker industry taken notice of the study, but the Poker Players Alliance praised it in a press release. As the PPA has been involved in numerous court cases and legal battles regarding the legalization and regulation of poker on the state and federal level, the study looks to be a piece of evidence to use in ongoing and future cases to further make the point that poker is a game of skill.

Noted PPA Chairman and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato, “As a poker player I can tell you that knowing when to hold or fold is not based solely on the cards that are dealt, but a series of decisions based on skill and the actions taken by the other players. This study provides the raw data to back up the compelling arguments made by poker players around the world that it’s skill, not pure luck, that determines the outcome of the game.”

PPA Executive Director John Pappas added, “The question of whether poker is a game of predominant skill or chance is not about the player’s ego, but the nature and legal protections of the game. In courtrooms across the country, judges and juries are finding that poker is a game of skill - not chance like lotteries or slot machines - and this study confirms that fact.”

The poker community has long believed that poker involves more skill than luck, but a study with hard facts with which to prove it has been missing until now. As stated by Cigital, “This study concludes that the outcomes of 103 million observed games of Texas Hold’em Poker were determined by skill more often than by chance, and by a significant margin.” Evidence such as this may be just what the legal and political systems in America need to make the right decisions regarding legalizing and regulating poker going forward.

To make this study known to your political representatives, visit the Poker Players Alliance for more information.

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