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PokerStars Sponsors Study of "Skill vs. Chance" Poker Debate

March 27, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — In its efforts to help prove that poker — and more specifically, the game of Texas Hold 'Em — is a game of skill and not chance, and thereby removing it from the UIGEA’s legal jurisdiction, leading online poker site has recruited a prominent software consultant to conduct an official study on the topic.  

Cigital, a software security and quality services firm, today released its findings, entitled “Statistical Analysis of Texas Hold 'Em”.

“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,” states a summary of the report on Cigital’s home page.

“We look at two aspects of Texas Hold 'Em that are clearly skill and chance factors,” the summary explains. “The decision to stay in the game until the end or to fold at an earlier point is strictly a matter of skill — weighing the costs and risks and potential benefits of staying in versus cutting losses and folding. The two cards each player is dealt as his 'hole' cards and the 'board' (the five community cards shared by all players) combine to make a 5-card hand, and the strength of that hand is strictly governed by chance.”

The summary goes on to list the frequency of poker's final “showdown” element as “a measure of how often chance is allowed to shape the outcome of the game." Over at the Wall Street Journal’s blogs page, Cigital’s technical manager, Paco Hope, is quoted as saying that the rarity of “showdowns” shows that poker is based on skill more than chance. “Most people think, you get your cards, and the best hand wins,” Hope was quoted in the article. “Whether or not you go to a showdown is determined by the decisions you make, which are determined entirely by your skill.”

The Wall Street Journal coverage notes that the study isn’t likely to convince skeptics who refuse to acknowledge poker’s reliance on skill over chance. “For one thing, players’ decisions are determined by the cards they draw, which is entirely a matter of luck,” the article states. “Also, there’s no way to know that PokerStars poker hands are representative of all poker hands.”

So, although it's not likely to change the minds of any skeptics, the study is a valuable addition to the body of work that’s currently being used to re-classify poker in many states across the U.S.

Cigital’s study can be downloaded here. Click here to read the Wall Street Journal coverage.