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Is Poker Gambling?

Home » Is Poker Gambling?

Is Poker Gambling?

A person rolling dice on a poker table.

If you had to walk up to anyone who’s ever played live or online poker and ask them, “Is poker considered gambling?” you’d probably get a different answer from each one. Some might say yes, and others see it as a game of skill and say no. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between. 

What Is Poker?

There are various different types of poker that you can play, and the rules for how to play poker will vary slightly for each one. However, the general principle is that the game is ideal for between six and eight players, and the goal is to win the pot (average of all bets made by all the players in any one deal). You can win by having the highest-ranking hand or by bluffing your opponents into believing you do. Throughout the game, players must decide whether to call (match) their bet, raise it, or fold (concede their hand). 

This card game is enjoyed worldwide in land-based casinos, online poker sites, and even in private home games. Poker is sometimes affectionately referred to as the national card game of the United States. This is interesting considering, at one point, poker was actually banned in the U.S., but this decision was soon overturned. Not long after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) took effect — making processing payments for gambling activities prohibited under federal or state law a crime — there was a legal dispute. The United States v. DiCristina case saw a federal court conclude that poker did not violate the Illegal Gambling Business Act because it is a game of skill. However, despite the game legally being classified as a game of skill, the debate on whether it is gambling or not still continues in the poker community.

Poker is a game of skill, chance, and strategy. To be a successful poker player, you need all these elements to work together well. However, when you look at the definition of gambling, this timeless casino game could be classified as gambling.

What Is Gambling?

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, gambling is “the activity of playing games of chance for money and of betting on horses, etc.”

Considering that you can play live or online poker for money, it’s safe to say that poker can be classified as gambling. At the core of both online and live poker tournaments is the thrill of possibly winning big and being named among some of the poker greats, such as Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey.

Is Poker Luck or Skill-Based?

A person sitting with folded hands looking at cards and chips on a poker table.

A lot of people who are considering playing poker but want to know what they’re getting themselves into wonder how much of playing poker is luck and how much of the game is based on skill. When asked if poker is considered gambling, Brunson affirmed this but went on to say that some people are better than others, meaning that it’s not all about chance. One of the most popular poker tournament tips is that you should never walk into it blindly; you must have a strategy. This is essentially what makes poker a game of skill.

While chance does play a role in winning, depending on the cards that you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you as the player to make those cards work for you. This means that you need a certain level of tact, mental fortitude, and a winning strategy to emerge triumphant.

Can Poker Be Both Gambling and a Game of Skill?

This is a debate that has existed for years, considering the game itself has been around for generations and continues to be one of the most-loved casino table games. The answer to this question has flip-flopped throughout the years, with enthusiasts weighing in on the matter and reaching their own conclusions.

Depending on how you approach the game, it can be one of the two or both. When it comes to poker, the more you practice, the better your gameplay. This alone suggests that it’s a game of skill.

If you were to play a firm favorite like Texas Hold’em poker today against the top players from a decade ago, chances are, they’d be outsmarted and outplayed if they approached it the same way they did years ago. With the advent of online casino games, more people are being exposed to poker and can improve their skills and strategy by regularly playing online.

That being said, some people approach it purely as a game of chance, with no real winning strategy in place. Novice players may start off mainly relying on the cards they were dealt as opposed to having a strategy, risking their money in the process — as one does when gambling.

The short and sweet answer to whether poker can be both gambling and a game of skill is yes. All the things that were pointed out so far suggest so.

Is Poker Considered a Sport?

A man picks up a stack of chips on a green poker table.

If you take a step back and look at what goes into playing poker, you’ll realize that poker is the only form of gambling that can be considered a sport. If you’ve ever seen poker enthusiasts and players gathered around a Texas Hold’em poker table, you probably know that it’s also a form of entertainment.

Additionally, it’s competitive and requires both mental and physical aptitude to succeed, much like any other sport. Another key thing about sports is that you need to have a strategy to beat your opponents, which is why practice improves gameplay.

Here are some of the tried and tested strategies that could see you up your game in both live and online poker tournaments.

Poker Strategies That Can Help Your Overall Poker Gameplay

A man at a red poker table folds during a poker match.

Given the competitive nature of poker, you need to have an ace up your sleeve in the form of a winning strategy. In fact, poker is about decision-making and making your cards work in your favor. Any experienced poker player will tell you that it’s the only way to beat your opponents and improve your gameplay. Here’s how you can go about it.

Know When To Fold

Unlike in most other sports, folding in poker isn’t a sign of weakness or defeat. On the contrary, it shows an understanding of how poker is played. Making emotional or impulsive decisions can be highly detrimental to not only your bankroll but also how you experience the game of poker. Knowing when to bow out if the odds appear to be against you protects you from losing money unnecessarily.

Practice Makes Perfect

Poker strategies and gameplay evolve over time. This means you need to continually refine and improve your poker game through practice to develop new ways of doing things and avoid being a one-trick pony. Much like all other sports, the more time you put in, the better the results. One way of doing so is by embracing technology and online poker. Online casinos have made poker games extremely accessible, so it’s easier than never for you to play the variation of poker, you want, practice your strategy, and even continue your poker education with all of the resources and poker guides that online casinos offer. 

Take Breaks When You Need To

This is especially true during poker tournaments. As exciting and thrilling as the game might be, the high-stakes environment of a poker game can be a lot to handle, even if it doesn’t seem stressful outright. It’s important to take regular breaks and give yourself time to refresh in order to perform at your best, both mentally and physically.

Play Fewer Hands

Playing too many hands could lead to you eating away at your chip stack unnecessarily, so it’s always best to play a tight and aggressive game.

Attack When Your Opponent Shows Weakness

This is a strategy that becomes easier to do over time because of the experience and tell-tale signs you’ll be able to identify. For example, your opponent may keep checking if their hands can’t call multiple bets — that’s the best time to attack and play aggressively.

Experience the Thrill of Online Poker at BetMGM

If you’re ready to practice some of these winning strategies in your next poker game, why not look at what a great online casino offers? Explore the extensive range of online poker variations when you register at BetMGM and experience the thrill.

Live and online poker are often classified as gambling. However, there’s a lot more to consider. Discover if this classic game is about skill more than chance.