Is poker a sucker game too?
I gave up on games such as blackjack
once I got a better grasp of game design theory, and it has been a good six years since I wasted money on a lottery ticket. I stuck with poker because I thought poker really was different from the sucker forms of gambling. These were my thoughts:
1. Poker is not played against the house, so the house doesn't need to make sure each player loses in order to stay in business, and doesn't need to design the game in such a way that, when the rules are scrupulously observed, every player is guaranteed to lose. In poker the players take money from each other and the house has no reason to favour one customer over another customer, and in fact has incentives to ensure the playing field is level.
2. Although poker does contain an element of chance, in poker skill level does make a difference, and there are practical steps you can take to help turn yourself into a winning player. In blackjack the only thing that helps is some forms of card counting, and that merely gets you expelled and banned from the casino.
But the more I look at the basic math of poker, notably the ring hand rake and tournament entry fee, the more I'm starting to decide that I was wrong about these things. Assuming a level playing field and equal skill level between players, the rake and entry fee ensure that each player takes less money out of the pot than he puts in, which makes it at bottom a sucker game of the same sort as lotteries. Yes, skill level matters, but sensible human beings will work to improve their skills to the extent their aptitude allows. If they have the aptitude to become winning players they'll keep playing; but if they don't and they're not insane they'll quit as soon as they realize they're never going to be winning players. That, in turn, raises the average player quality and turns some of the winning players into losing players, so they, too, quit; and so on until there is only one poker player left in the world, and he's forced to play with himself. So, in order to make a profit, winning players have to count on three things: (1) new players who are deliberately throwing away money in order to get experience; (2) losers who don't bother to take the proper approach to an endeavour that costs them money; (3) problem gamblers who lose control, lose everything, and blow their brains out in the desert. I am not completely comfortable with taking money from those three groups of people. Any thoughts?