Freakonomics Author Finds Poker Players as Skilled as MLB Players


By now, most people are aware that poker is more of a game of skill, than of luck. Hence, we have poker pros.

However, the University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt, who gained national attention for his best-selling Freakonomics series, has published a paper alongside fellow University of Chicago professor Thomas Miles entitled, The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker: Evidence From the World Series of Poker.

In the paper, not only do they answer the million-dollar question whether poker is a game of skill or luck but they liken successful poker players to Major League Baseball players.

To conduct their research, The Huffington Post reports that they also turned to the annual WSOP, where players from all over the world congregate in Las Vegas most notably, last years event which included 57 tournaments, 32,000 participants and $185 million prize money, including the Main Event, where Jonathan Duhamel won almost $9 million. They concluded that skilled players (or pros) earned 30 percent on their investment, compared to all other players, who lost 15 percent. Their findings were that the high skilled player wins 54.9 percent of the match ups, compare closely to the skill of a Major League Baseball player.

They write, Since the year 2007, [baseball] teams that made the playoffs the previous season win 55.7 percent of their games in Major League Baseball against teams that failed to make the playoffs in the previous year. Thus, in some crude sense, the predictability of outcomes for pairs of players in a poker tournament is similar to that between teams in Major League Baseball. To the extent that baseball would unquestionably be judged a game of skill, the same conclusion might reasonably be applied to poker in light of the data.

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