|The authors of a
new study backing that theory say their findings could prompt the government to
consider taxing players' winnings.
Researchers analysed hundreds of millions of
online plays to discover 'substantial evidence' of skill's role in a successful
Drawing on a database of 456 million player-hand observations
from a year's worth of online games, academics discovered players who ranked in
the top-performing ten per cent in the first six months were more than twice as
likely as others to do similarly well in the next six months.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham, working with colleagues
from Erasmus University Rotterdam and VU University Amsterdam, also noted that
players who finished in the top one per cent in the first half of the year were
12 times more likely than others to repeat the feat in the second half.
The findings could leave card
sharps ready to throw in their hand - and the taxman rubbing his hands with
Poker is among the most popular internet games in the UK, with
leading bookmakers and other big-name operators running sites attracting
millions of players.
H2 Gambling Capital, a leading consultancy in the
gaming industry, calculated that in 2013 alone online poker rooms generated
more than £2bn in winnings, with expert players often taking part in
multiple online games at once.
The academics ran tens of thousands of
simulations, pitching the best performing players in the sample against the
worst and comparing their respective winnings.
Over the course of just
a few hands the better-performing players fared better only slightly more than
half the time.
But their success rate gradually increased until they
1,471 hands had been played, when they fared better at least 75 per cent of the
Dr Dennie van Dolder, of the University of Nottingham's School of
Economics, said the study showed 'skilled players will consistently outperform
less skilled players if enough hands...are played.'
The expert in
behavioural and experimental economics said that if, as the study found,
performance is predictable, 'then it follows that poker involves an element of
skill and can't be merely a game of pure chance.'
Writer and TV
presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, one of Britain's top professional players,
has won more than £1.5m - including £400,000 at a single event.
Dr van Dolder said his study's findings could now have 'significant
legal implications' for such people.
He added: 'It's up to legislators
to decide whether the role of chance diminishes fast enough for poker to be
considered a game of skill. If so then our findings represent both good and bad
news for players.
'The good news is they'll have the satisfaction of
knowing the game they love is recognised as requiring real skill.
bad news is that one day they might have to start handing some of their
winnings to the taxman if the policymaking community takes notice of findings
The research contradicts a 2012 study by Professor Gerhard
Meyer, of the University of Bremen's Institute of Psychology and Cognition
Research, which suggested that poker was largely a game of chance.
that study, 300 poker players took part, playing 60 hands each on tables of
six. They were divided into 'expert' and 'average' players, and their ability
to make money from good, bad and average hands was assessed.
expected, 'expert' players lost less money on bad hands, but did no better than
'average' players on mediocre hands - and made slightly less on good ones. Prof
Meyer concluded that 'poker players overestimate the skill factor in their