Is poker a sucker game too?

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pogreshilly

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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?
 
Irexes

Irexes

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To win at poker you have to have someone else lose and win by more than the house takes from your winnings. In MTTs and SnGs you need to be an 11% winner for a 1% ROI.

This is why very few people win in the long run. I don't think this comes as a revelation to many.

Playing is a choice and problem gamblers are going to lose their money somewhere if not poker unless they get help.

The money has to come from somewhere..
 
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Inscore77

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The fees are just so the poker sites are taking in some money, has nothing to do with weather a player makes money or not
 
NoWuckingFurries

NoWuckingFurries

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I still buy a lottery ticket every week - the fact that it is 100% down to luck is what actually attracts me to it...
 
PokerVic

PokerVic

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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.

Emphasis mine.

The whole point is that there are weak players who make bad decisions. One really poor player can cover the rake for everyone else at the table.

You'd think that players will get better, and yes many of them will. But there will always be a stream of new players who are either learning the game, or don't take it as seriously as some people. Not everyone plays poker to win money. Many play for the sheer entertainment, and some are just hardcore gamblers who think they can get something for nothing with little or no effort. And don't forget the players who think they are sharks, but are marginally losing. All that adds up to a chance for smart, consistent players to come out ahead.
 
KyleJRM

KyleJRM

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Yes, poker is a sucker bet. It is about betting that the suckers will come eventually.

As you rightfully point out, amongst players of equal skill, the rake will ensure that all lose money.

Good players make money when there are enough bad players throwing away their money to make up for the rake, either in a tournament or a ring-game setting.

A lot of strategy and focus goes on how to extract an extra percent or two from playing against good players, but I find most of my profits come from sitting around waiting for someone to donk away a lot of money.

I played a lot of razz and stud hi-lo yesterday and was basically breaking even despite these being my best games. I don't like hold'em, but I needed a break.

At my six-man table, there was one guy who tried to buy every pot on the river, regardless of what he had. If it got to the river, he was overbetting. A second player loved to call big pre-flop bets with raggedy cards, hoping for someone to get overattached to an unimproved AK or something.

Three river calls on player A and a pre-flop all-in with AA against player B (he called with K9). Those four hands accounted for my entire profit for the night.
 
blankoblanco

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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.

this central part of your conjecture is wrong and has been shown to be wrong time and time again. most losing players don't make this realization thanks to the beauty of selective recall and all sorts of other mental mechanisms that makes a player believe they've just been unlucky (even for years). it's not really because they're insane. if anything, it's human nature

so most of this money ends up coming from #2, obviously. if you're not comfortable taking those people's money, i'm sure someone else, like me, will be glad to take it instead. it's kind of a predatory game, but nobody is forced to play it. for some people, the entertainment value is worth the money lost
 
KyleJRM

KyleJRM

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this central part of your conjecture is wrong and has been shown to be wrong time and time again. most losing players don't make this realization thanks to the beauty of selective recall and all sorts of other mental mechanisms that makes a player believe they've just been unlucky (even for years). it's not really because they're insane. if anything, it's human nature

so most of this money ends up coming from #2, obviously. if you're not comfortable taking those people's money, i'm sure someone else, like me, will be glad to take it instead. it's kind of a predatory game, but nobody is forced to play it. for some people, the entertainment value is worth the money lost

The best part about poker is that the edge between winning and losing is so thin that people don't realize why they are losing.

They figure they are playing good starting hands, being aggressive and only chasing draws with pot odds, so that should be enough.
 
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markkaz

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I agree with most of the points here. I guess it also has to matter whether you are playing poker for a living or for entertainment.

I have a full-time job and also a side business so poker is my entertainment. That doesn't mean that I'm playing just for the fun of it though. I'm competitive and I want to win.

The vast majority of my experience is from $40 no-limit holdem tables at Commerce Casino. While many players are gamblers, there are many players are there to appreciate the game. I don't mind a calculated risk but gambling means something totally different to me.

I definitely agree that the house does better than we do!
 
flint

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this central part of your conjecture is wrong and has been shown to be wrong time and time again. most losing players don't make this realization thanks to the beauty of selective recall and all sorts of other mental mechanisms that makes a player believe they've just been unlucky (even for years). it's not really because they're insane. if anything, it's human nature

True, I posted about this in a thread in the poker strategy section. It is part of Behaviroal Finance and psychology in general, that losses are associated with luck and wins with skills. Also people tend to overestimate their skills, although I never do. :rolleyes:
 
beardyian

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If you sit down at a table and cannot find who the sucker is - then its you :)
 
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pogreshilly

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Your replies have satisfied me on this topic but there is another, closely related topic I'm going to start a new thread on. If the mod wants to merge the two threads that's fine with me.
 
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pogreshilly

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Scratch my last post. I'll move the discussion to the Player Lounge because I don't want people to get sidetracked into some silly "is poker gambling" thread creep.
 
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1122phoenix

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You hit the nail square on the head. You have to overcome the house/site rake or session fee before you make any money in poker. If you are only marginally better than the other players, the house/site eats up your winnings. Hence, all the first deposit bonuses. At first you win because you are a better than average player plus the site gives you back the rake, but if you don't keep improving, after the deposit bonus is used up, you are just working for the site.
 
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always2away

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any advance you make in a poker game is dependent on someone else making a losing decision...as long as you are playing against fully informed, rational adults in a "fair" game i feel pretty sure that your ethics are just fine.

your moral position may be a little more iffy, depending upon the basis for your moral construct. for example, my moral construct is based in traditional judeo-christian principles where the only admonition i am aware of regarding gambling is in the casting of lots.

casting lots (so long as no sleight of hand is involved) is a purely random chance event with zero player skill required. last time i checked, the skilled poker player likely has a better than 50-50 chance of prevailing against the lesser skilled player. so, poker is not the same as casting lots, but is less like gambling and more of a skilled COMPETITION with an element of random chance. and no, this is not just semantics, this is discernment (look it up).

so, in my world, so long as i am not pitting my skills against the very young or the mentally challenged, and the playing field is fair and equal to all participants, my morality is intact as well.

as far as the casino always always always having an edge...uh, duh.
 
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