The Instigator
freg
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
TesterPot
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Poker is a game of skill

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/13/2011 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,215 times Debate No: 15343
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)

 

freg

Pro

A game of skill is a game where the outcome is determined mainly by mental and/or physical skill, rather than by pure chance.

The question is, what is the dominating factor in determining the outcome of the game? If chance is the dominating factor, then it is not a game of skill.

My assertion is that the the skill of each individual player plays a larger role than chance in the long term outcome of whether they will be a winner or a loser. For the sake of argument I will define long term as >500,000 hands. After this many hands, the luck of each player has evened out to a large degree. Many players have greatly exceeded this number of hands and have continued to win, which would be extremely unlikely if chance was the dominating factor.
TesterPot

Con

Thanks for this discussion, freg.

As a poker player myself, I am able to identify the factors involved and I believe it would be erroneous to say that skill plays a larger role than chance. I will first outline the three typical conditions of defeat:

1. Running out of money.
2. Being intimidated into quitting (as a result of bluffing, etc).
3. Having an insufficient hand.

Inversely, the conditions for victory are:

1. Forcing other players to fold through either financial or psychological tactics.
2. Beating your opponent's hand with a superior one.

To narrow down these points, I'll state that a player's financial reserves will be dependent on his success - which will be decided by the win and loss conditions previously defined. e.g. If you were to take a snapshot of the middle of a game and see that Player A has less chips than Player B, it'd be reasonable to assert that Player A has been losing games either due to losing hands or falling victim to Player B's bluffing.

So the only remaining points to address are (a) good hands and (b) psychological tactics. I will do this below.

-

Regarding good hands:

I assume it will go undisputed that, in a fair game (i.e. without corrupt dealers, fixed decks or card switching), a player's success with the cards is down to chance. That is, a player cannot know his or his opposition's cards in advance, nor influence their selection. He is at the mercy of the random order of the cards. Therefore, we can agree that, between chance and skill, chance is the deciding factor on this point.

-

Regarding bluffing:

While it's true that a player's skill is a deciding factor in how well they perform the act of bluffing e.g. through saying the right things, keeping a straight face or falsifying body language, chance decides the effect on the receiver. I will try to clarify this with an example scenario:

Player A has an awful hand, but is attempting to manipulate Player B into believing that Player A has a potentially winning hand, with the aim being that Player B will fold. Player B will make his decision based on a number of influences - and there are cases where, no matter how hard Player A bluffs, Player B won't falter. For example, if Player B has a hand that is impossible to beat: a royal flush. As we have already previously established that the cards are subject to chance, we can draw the connection and deduce that Player A's attempts at bluffing are influenced by chance.

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In summary, even though techniques can be employed, their effectiveness is determined by other variables present in the game which are decided by chance.
Debate Round No. 1
freg

Pro

"I assume it will go undisputed that, in a fair game (i.e. without corrupt dealers, fixed decks or card switching), a player's success with the cards is down to chance. That is, a player cannot know his or his opposition's cards in advance, nor influence their selection. He is at the mercy of the random order of the cards. Therefore, we can agree that, between chance and skill, chance is the deciding factor on this point."

Chance has a limited effect on the outcome of the game due to the fact that each player has the same odds of having the best hand. Both players are at the mercy of their cards to the same extent, so skill plays the deciding factor in who will be a winner more often.

Regarding your argument about bluffing, you are right that chance decides the effect on the receiver. This however does not mean that a skilled player cannot use the information available to him to choose the right time to bluff, in order to increase the odds of his bluff working. A skilled player will have a good memory and will remember what situations his bluffs were effective against each opponent that he is up against. So while in your example, Player A's attempts at bluffing are influenced by chance, this does not mean that he cannot use skill to make bluffing an effective strategy that overcomes the role that chance has.

"In summary, even though techniques can be employed, their effectiveness is determined by other variables present in the game which are decided by chance."

You are right that the effectiveness of the techniques employed is determined by other variables which are decided by chance. However, this does not mean that chance is the dominating factor in determining the outcome of the game. An average player will not use the techniques as effectively as a skilled player, and thus the average player will lose to the more skilled player more often than not.

There is no doubt that chance plays a large role in the game of poker. Chance plays a large role in many games of skill. The question is not whether chance plays a large role, but whether it plays a larger role than skill.

Poker is a very complex game that requires a strong ability in math, an excellent memory, good people reading skills, and a large knowledge of all the strategies involved. Some of these things can be taught, but it takes years of studying the game. Other things cannot be taught and are dependent on a players innate ability. Few players have the necessary tools to be considered skilled, and fewer still developed their tools to the extent that the best players have.

If an unskilled player faces the best player, the odds of the unskilled player winning is very small. The same is true for players of a more similar level of skill, but to a lesser extent. This is strong evidence that the outcome of the game is mainly determined by the level of skill of the participants.
TesterPot

Con

"Chance has a limited effect on the outcome of the game due to the fact that each player has the same odds of having the best hand. Both players are at the mercy of their cards to the same extent, so skill plays the deciding factor in who will be a winner more often."

I quote this to point out that we're in agreement on the fact that the cards and the players receiving them are subject to chance.

-

"This however does not mean that a skilled player cannot use the information available to him to choose the right time to bluff, in order to increase the odds of his bluff working."

Due to forced bets[1], it's not possible for a player to continue folding until they have what they perceive to be a suitable opportunity to bluff; they will eventually run out of money. The player is at the mercy of whether such opportunities are present - an element of chance.

-

"An average player will not use the techniques as effectively as a skilled player, and thus the average player will lose to the more skilled player more often than not."

The law of averages may dictate, for example, that an amateur Player B won't receive a constant stream of winning cards while skilled Player A receives poor cards, thus affording Player A an opportunity to bluff, but this merely attempts to distract from the very real fact that these situations on a case-by-case basis are still influenced by chance.

-

I reiterate my original point that bluffing is at the mercy of chance to provide the conditions and opportunities for its likelihood of success, regardless of what the law of averages may reflect. It's no use to a player in an isolated scenario who is constantly receiving bad hands to say, "Don't worry; on average, people get better hands than this."

-

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
freg

Pro

"Due to forced bets[1], it's not possible for a player to continue folding until they have what they perceive to be a suitable opportunity to bluff; they will eventually run out of money. The player is at the mercy of whether such opportunities are present - an element of chance."

It is not necessary for a player to wait for a suitable opportunity to bluff. It is often not necessary to bluff to win money. Also, if a certain situation is not favorable to bluff, a skilled player can recognize this fact and decide not to bluff. A less skilled player may not be able to recognize such a situation and thus he will be more likely to lose.

"The law of averages may dictate, for example, that an amateur Player B won't receive a constant stream of winning cards while skilled Player A receives poor cards, thus affording Player A an opportunity to bluff, but this merely attempts to distract from the very real fact that these situations on a case-by-case basis are still influenced by chance."

I think you are talking about short term scenarios where chance plays a larger role. This doesn't change the fact that in the long run, each player will see a negligible difference in cards, so skill will play the deciding factor in who will be a winner or loser. I would compare your argument to someone who says "In basketball, whether each basket goes in or not is at the mercy of chance. Although players can use skill to influence whether the ball goes in the basket or not, basketball is still a game of chance." This is obviously not true, basketball is a game of skill where chance plays a large role, like poker.

Your argument that bluffing is influenced by chance doesn't change the fact that in the long run, skill decides who will be a winner or loser. I will say again that poker is a very complex game that requires a large knowledge and an innate ability, which few players have. The players that lack these things are at a disadvantage and will certainly lose in the long run.
TesterPot

Con

As my opponent has not contributed anything new to the debate, but has instead reworded his original points and continues to attempt distractions using averages - all things that I've already addressed - I'll just extend my arguments into this round.

I'd like also to ask that voters disregard a comment made on this debate containing arguments against my case which I chose not to entertain as it has no place in the debate between me and my opponent. It would be unfair when judging a debate to take into account uninvited arguments made by an outside party that were by choice not disputed.

Thanks again to Pro for the debate and for the attention of the readers and voters.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by TesterPot 5 years ago
TesterPot
Thanks for the suggestions and criticisms, Zealous1.

Regarding his "long run" argument, it wasn't new; it was just a rewording of what he'd already said regarding averages over a player's life. As I'd already demonstrated that averages mean nothing to the individual and that the "long term" is just made up of a series of short terms, from what I could tell, it was an old argument that I'd already covered.

To quote myself:

"The law of averages may dictate, for example, that an amateur Player B won't receive a constant stream of winning cards while skilled Player A receives poor cards, thus affording Player A an opportunity to bluff, but this merely attempts to distract from the very real fact that these situations on a case-by-case basis are still influenced by chance."

and

'It's no use to a player in an isolated scenario who is constantly receiving bad hands to say, "Don't worry; on average, people get better hands than this."'

What I meant was that it's a false argument to say that how a player will perform overall in his life has any bearing on the factors involved in an individual game. The fact that he and/or others will on average receive good hands isn't going to stretch back in time to alter the outcome of this game. The correct way to look at it is to say that the long run statistics are made up of all individual games that have happened and have known outcomes.

But as you said in your comments, I probably should have used the last round to summarize all of this. I'll be sure to do so in the future.
Posted by Zealous1 5 years ago
Zealous1
So yes, you should have stressed that point more. But sadly, your resolution didn't say that. Con could have argued that "Your resolution wasn't 'Poker is a game of skill in the long run'". In fact, Con should have argued that because it would have made me potentially vote him for best argument.

Good rebuttal on the chances of bluffing working. The problem is that it is completely dependent on "long run". A guy could have gotten lucky with his bluffing three times in a row, so he figures that his bluff works. But he just got lucky, and the next time he doesn't get so lucky. That's what Con should have said. But Con didn't, so you win on this point.

You should have expanded your argument that if an unskilled player played the best player, the best player would win almost every time. It would have been good.

You also should have expanded on the complexity of poker. You were debating on Con's ground, just rebutting his points. You want your own points. Get the debate on YOUR ground. Pro would have done better if he had made this into a full-fledged argument/point.

You did not adequately rebut the point with the source. It was a bit complicated since I don't play poker, but I can tell you didn't do a good job of that.

"I think you are talking about short term scenarios where chance plays a larger role. This doesn't change the fact that in the long run, each player will see a negligible difference in cards, so skill will play the deciding factor in who will be a winner or loser."

Yes, next time make the resolution "In the long run, poker is a game of skill".

Pro:

As I said in the voting comment, don't EVER do what you did of extending the points. If you were short on time, then mention it. Since you never addressed his "long run" argument, that one flows through and it alone wins the round. It would have been simple for you to point to the resolution.

Good job organizing your points and showing what usually creates a defeat.

Good debate,
Posted by Zealous1 5 years ago
Zealous1
Basically, I would never recommend doing what you did, Con.

I gave Con source points because he was the only one with a source (wikipedia). Try to get a more credible source for next time, though, because wikipedia loses to practically any other source.

I gave Con conduct because he politely dealt with his opponent. (Thank you twice). Pro did none of the sort.

I recommend to both of you guys to summarize your position after the debate, don't just rebut. At the very least summarize strongly during the last round. This is more of a policy debate tip, but: summarize your opponent's position with your own words. For example, if the opponent's plan is to create ballistic missile defense in poland, you would say, "My opponent's plan basically is trying to fix a non-existent problem (national security), actually creating the non-existent problem it's trying to fix, hurting our relations with Russia, and hurting the war in Afghanistan. Even if the national security problem existed, the plan wouldn't even solve it. "

That's a very strong summary, and if you have the last post you'll probably win with that.

Now, let's go over the arguments. From the beginning, I agreed that it is a game of chance. But since I'm a fair voter (:D), I didn't insert my bias.

Pro:

"each player has the same odds of having the best hand. "
Yes, but that doesn't mean they always get the best hand. This statement is like saying chance doesn't exist when it's equal. Let's say Player A has a 50% chance of getting card 1,2, and 3. Player B also has a 50% chance of getting card 1,2, and 3. Player A got 1,2, and 3 because he was really lucky. Player B doesn't get the cards because the 50% didn't work out for him. It works out one way or the other.

I know that was kind of hard to understand. Just take it as "that was a bad argument".

The argument IS valid, though, in the long run. After 500,000, unless chances went wacko, the cards you get will be about evened out...

See
Posted by TesterPot 5 years ago
TesterPot
This ain't your debate, Kiko. :p
Posted by KikoSanchez182 5 years ago
KikoSanchez182
The problem with the entire setup on factors for losing or winning is that they only are equal if every hand counted for the same number of bets, such as 1 bet. In this case, having an inferior hand (let's assume 1 vs 1) would always cost you 1 bet. Having the superior hand would always win you 1 bet. In the long run, now the 2 players are guaranteed to break-even. Now we factor in bluffing and skill can now decide who will win more (but not by too much). Alas, this model is awfully insufficient, as we always lose varying amounts on each hand, ranging from 0 to your entire stack. The biggest difference between winners and losers (in no-limit moreso) isn't who wins the most number of hands, but who can win the most on superior hands and lose the least on inferior hands.

Regardless, look at any statistical database of players or ask any long-term player and they can tell you skill is the overwhelming factor in the long-run. If chance were the deciding factor, there wouldn't be tons and tons of books on strategy, as it would be comparable to playing the lottery, which is at complete random.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Zealous1 5 years ago
Zealous1
fregTesterPotTied
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: Okay, Con, that was a terrible idea to just extend arguments. First of all because in this instance he had a valid point about "long run" which you hadn't addressed yet. Let's pretend he DID just restate his points. At least you should summarize your points. You're not going to get anywhere by just extending the arguments 1. Because most of the time your opponent DID rebut it. 2. Because likely your voters will not reread your arguments, so your opponent's args sit fresher. See comments 4 mor
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
fregTesterPotTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro could have used actual sources to indicate skill was important such as tournament placings/cash earnings.