Back in December 2017, poker fans from all over India received some serious bad news – the High Court in the second most populous country in the world dismissed a petition to declare poker a game of skill.
The online poker community denounced the decision which belittles their achievements in the great game of poker. But were they right to feel that way? What differentiates poker from actual games of chance like roulette, slot machines or the lottery – none of which can be beat reliably in the long run?
First off, you need to understand that when you play those games, you’re playing against the house. Meanwhile, when you’re playing poker you’re actually competing with other players for the money – the house takes their profit by raking the pot or collecting a fee when you register for a tournament. So in the case of slot machines, roulette and lottery the operators have to set up the payout structure in a way that it ensures that overall players put more money into the system than what they take out.
In sports betting, it’s called “the odds’ margin”. With slot machines, it’s called “payout percentage” – no matter what the outcome is, the house is guaranteed to make a profit from the players’ losses.
But with poker, as we mentioned, casinos don’t have to set up such a system, they can make money by collecting rake. So they can allow players who are consistently winning to keep coming back to their game– they are taking the other players’ money, not the house’s, after all.
However, there can be some complications with this ecosystem.
In order for the house to cover operating costs, a certain amount needs to be generated in rake. In order for a certain amount of rake to be generated, a sufficient value of play needs to take place at the tables. New money needs to keep being pumped into the system.
What can be a few things that hinder that?
Lately, this is the issue that online high stakes players and poker shows like Poker Night in America or Poker After Dark on PokerGO have been having to deal with. That is how to keep losing players at the table. In order to keep the poker ecosystem alive, some people need to be willing to put fresh money into it over and over again – they are the “bad regs”, “the fish”, “the fun players”. Make fun of them at your own peril, since if they leave – according to the “laws of nature” – someone else needs to become a new losing player, and it might just be you. Whose money are the winning players going to win otherwise?
So hopefully the reader’s now convinced that unlike games of chance, poker is actually a beatable game in the long run because the game operators do not have to set up a system where the loss on the players’ part is required for them to make money.
But how you can beat the game, that’s coming in later articles – stay tuned.