Luck Vs Skill In Games – How Can You Measure The Impact Of Each?

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

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When it comes to gaming, luck versus skill always factors into the equation. Believe it or not, certain games like poker offer a competitive advantage to players.


‘When I win it is skill, but when you win it is luck,’ says the arrogant player!


How Important is Luck in Gaming?


The short answer: extremely important! Luck is the X-factor that players often need to beat the competition. If we exclude games like slots, roulette, baccarat and Keno and instead focus our attention on games like poker and blackjack, it becomes clear. Anyone can win a slots jackpot provided they deposit the requisite number of coins on the requisite number of paylines, and the right symbols lineup. In roulette, every single spin is independent of the previous spin. Assuming there are no biased wheels, the only thing that determines whether your betting selections come up is luck – there is no skill involved.

Baccarat is much the same since the game does not favour either the Player, the Banker or a Tie, but probability comes into play. Games like Keno and bingo and lottery-style games are also entirely dependent on luck – there is no skill element whatsoever. The mathematical probability of hitting all 10 numbers on Keno is infinitesimal, or it is small enough to make it more likely that you would end up in a submarine at the bottom of the Atlantic before you beat the game. And so it goes with many chance-based casino games, lottery games and other games.

Somethings Smells Fishy?


When it comes to skill-based games, you’re dealing with an entirely different kettle of fish. Skill-based games like blackjack and poker are unique in that a skilled player has a distinct advantage over the dealer, or other players. Consider for a moment a poker player who understands the nuances of the game, the card combinations that are possible, the probability that other players are holding certain cards, and the ability to manipulate the game by way of betting behaviour.

It is clear that poker is so much more than a chance-based game. It is the synergistic effect of bluffing, betting, card skills, mental acuity and memory that give poker players a distinct advantage. Another game which is largely skill-based is blackjack. Chances are you have read or seen the incredible stories detailing massive blackjack paydays. Blackjack card counting systems, strategy charts and guides are expressly designed to boost a player’s winning chances.

Everybody Needs a 4-leaf Clover at some point

image00Poker players and blackjack players who are able to rely heavily on their mathematical prowess and game strategies inherently rely less on luck to win their games. It is no coincidence that the world’s top poker players in Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Eric Seidl, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, Sam Trickett and Scott Seiver consistently win games at the highest level.

Luck alone does not allow for that; it is skill-based play combined with good fortune that allows players to turn in consistently positive performances. But the flipside of the coin is that no amount of skill will assist you if the luck of the draw is not on your side. You simply cannot form the best combinations of cards if your pocket cards are consistently poor, or if the Flop, Turn and River don’t go your way.

A Fusion of Skill and Good Fortune!

image03It may not be public knowledge, but the fact of the matter is that the world’s top poker players use mathematics on a regular basis when making their betting decisions. Things like pot odds need to be known.

Poker players need to understand ratios and percentages since this gives a clear understanding of how much risk is involved and how much reward stands to be gained. These simple tips indicate the importance of skill in games.

The complexity of mathematics in skill-based games can certainly be ramped up a degree, but the basics are good enough to get players grounded in setting a winning precedent. It’s all about probabilities and ratios and when the odds are in your favour, it is a good idea to make the bet. However, if the potential payoff is big enough to entice you to bet, it is also worth considering. And that’s where luck comes into the picture – without it the math falls flat!

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