If you’re an avid gambler, sooner or later in life, you might decide it’s time to learn how to play poker. People all around the world have been enjoying the game for decades, and one of the main reasons it’s so popular is due to the game’s accessibility—it can be played live and online; at home with friends; and in casinos, cash games and tournaments. There can be no doubt about poker’s status as a captivating and entertaining game, and its popularity around the globe is a clear indicator of that fact.
The game was created in the United States during the early 19th century, and it’s very likely that it takes a mixture of influences from the Persian game of “As-Nas,” which originated in the 16th century; the French games “poque” and “brelenc”; and the Renaissance game of “primero.” The more modern iteration of video poker was invented a little less than 40 years ago, and since then it has dominated the virtual gaming floors. But how did video poker come to be one of the world’s most popular online table games?
A Brief History of Video Poker Slots
The first slot machines were actually poker machines developed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, with 50 card symbols across five drums. The ten of spades and the jack were removed simply because it was hard to complete video poker hands such as a straight this way. Needless to say, those machines did not have the means to pay out by themselves. The winner’s award would be a drink, cigars or some candy. Eight years later, Charles Frey created the Liberty Bell slot machine. He replaced the playing cards on the drums with hearts, bells, spades and horseshoes, so the winning combinations could utilize symbols rather than poker hands.
More than half a century later, the first video poker machine was invented by Dale Electronics, and it was called the “Poker-Matic” video poker machine. It looked something like an ATM machine with a television-sized screen and would hardly be recognizable today. In 1975, the first video slots were created by Walt Fraley, but they never gained popularity among casino enthusiasts because they couldn’t see the reels spinning and didn’t trust the video slots payout. The SIRCOMA company, known as IGT in the modern world, introduced in 1979 a video poker machine called “Draw Poker,” which was an immediate success and set down the foundation for both today’s video poker games and video slot machines.
During the 80s, thousands of different wagering variations were invented, and most of them are still being played today. With the advent of the Internet, the next logical step was to get the game up online so it could reach people who had never been in a real-life casino. It probably goes without saying that online video poker spread throughout the world in a matter of months. Right now, video poker is one of the ten most searched after casino games, proving that the popularity of a casino game doesn’t depend only on the existence of a rich history. The history of video poker is short but impactful, and it tells us clearly how much people love playing and reinventing it so they can win awesome prizes.
So is winning at poker a case of sheer luck, pure skill or straight gambling? Or is it a mixture of all of this?
This has been a debate for years now, primarily because it’s difficult to pinpoint the answer exactly. The process of playing poker can be any of these things, depending on your approach to the game and your final goals.
Some people play for fun, while others approach it like a sport. These players are dedicated to learning more about the game, developing new skills and attending online or in-person coaching. Poker coaching is very expensive. One hour of training costs a minimum of US$50; this sums up to US$2,600 per year if you were to train once per week! Now, imagine convincing a person who studies the game so deeply and who pays for coaching, that poker is gambling or luck. Impossible! Similarly, players who treat the game like fun and only believe in luck can’t be convinced otherwise.
If you want to play poker to gamble and try your luck, you can certainly do it, but perhaps you would have better chances of winning by playing other casino games. However, that would probably also be less fun. The point where the luck factor diminishes remarkably is when you start studying the game and playing it like a professional—an extensive understanding of the game can help you maneuver tactically and come out on top.
Luck Or Skill—How to Tell?
Most professional players will say that poker is a game of skill with some luck factors. The more you play, these factors become less and less predominant. If you’re an expert playing with amateurs, you’ll almost certainly win every game in the long run. But what happens if two experts are playing together? Is poker luck or skill in that case?
For a group of players who have never played before and have only just learned how to play, the game will feel like pure luck to them. The winner of this game would simply be the luckiest one. This comparison can be applied to almost every game where both luck and skill are involved. However, the element of luck actually adds to the enjoyment of the game for new players. Take chess for example—the chances of winning a chess game as a first-time player are very small, even if you know all the moves and if you’re playing against a bad player. So players who are new to chess can have a very tough and grinding time at the beginning of their “career.” In poker however, a first-time player has greater chances of winning because the luck element does have the potential to trounce the skill side of things.
I have people around me who have been studying and playing poker professionally for almost two decades. I’ve participated in a few games where inexperienced players have won and walked away with my friends’ money (and mine, even!), but I have to admit, most times experience comes out on top. For those who deeply study different layers of poker and invest time and money in learning and developing new skills, poker is a skill game; those who play for fun would say poker is luck with a little bit of skill. The line between luck and skill in poker is hard to see, which is one of the reasons why the game has become so popular around the world, both in real life and online.
So, the answer to the question whether poker is luck or skill is… It depends on who you ask!