FanDuel Exec Disses Poker Skill Factor

4 min read

FanDuel executive disses poker.
FanDuel executive Matt King told PBS’s Frontline that poker is a game of luck. (Image:

A FanDuel executive believes poker is more a game of chance than skill, but adds that the same doesn’t apply to daily fantasy sports (DFS). Matt King, chief financial officer at DFS site FanDuel, told Walt Bogdanich of PBS’s Frontline program that poker is not really a game of skill.

King’s comments won’t go over well in the poker community, of course. Especially to the many grinders out there that spend countless hours studying the game and all of its nuances in order to earn a living at it. When facing a question about daily fantasy sports’ connection to gambling, King defended his product.

“We are, every time that you talk to our users, what comes through loud and clear is the fact that we are an entertainment product,” he said.

But is poker a game of skill?

“No, poker is not,” he answered, apparently unaware of what kind of backlash that could bring from the poker community at large.

“There is a lot of academic research on this, what’s the skill versus luck kind of spectrum. The reality is within poker, every time you shuffle the deck, it creates an element of luck that trumps it basically to being much more a chance-dominated game than a skill-dominated game. If you look at our data, the players that are good, are frankly consistently good. It is truly a game of skill,” he continued.

Skill vs. Luck

King suggests “academic research” backs his argument up, but that can be easily contested. In fact, Dennie Van Dolder and Rogier Potter van Loon at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Martijn van den Assem at VU University Amsterdam in Holland conducted exhaustive research on this subject.

The trio studied the connection between skill and luck in poker to determine which factor dominates the game the most. Following a lengthy investigation, which included drawing from a database of 456 million online poker hands, the researchers posted the results of their study in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The results indicate that skill trumps luck in poker in the long run. Players who ranked in the top 10 percent in the first six months of the year were twice as likely to match or beat their performance in the following six months, the researchers said.

And those in the top one percent for six months were 12 times as likely to profit the second half of the year vs. others. On the flip side, the majority of players that lost during the first six months continued the pattern during the remaining six months of the year.

He Must Be Joe King

King, in between his verbal attack on the game of poker, adamantly denied any connection between daily fantasy sports and gambling.

But many lawmakers around the country don’t share his belief. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been fighting to ban DraftKings and FanDuel from operating in the state for months, and he is but one example of the opposition front who definitely perceive DFS as a form of gambling.

Schneiderman also spoke to Frontline recently, and made it clear that in his view, daily fantasy sports isn’t just a “harmless” form of entertainment, which is what King claims.

“It’s clear to us that what they’re doing is gambling,” he said. “And for them to contend that it’s not gambling, you can almost lure people who know they have gambling addiction problems into getting back involved in betting.”

The battle will no doubt continue.

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