NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker: Evidence from the World Series of Poker

Steven D. Levitt, Thomas J. Miles

NBER Working Paper No. 17023
Issued in May 2011
NBER Program(s):   LE

In determining the legality of online poker - a multibillion dollar industry - courts have relied heavily on the issue of whether or not poker is a game of skill. Using newly available data, we analyze that question by examining the performance in the 2010 World Series of Poker of a group of poker players identified as being highly skilled prior to the start of the events. Those players identified a priori as being highly skilled achieved an average return on investment of over 30 percent, compared to a -15 percent for all other players. This large gap in returns is strong evidence in support of the idea that poker is a game of skill.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17023

Published: “The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker Evidence from the World Series of Poker,” Journal of Sports Economics : 2012 (with Thomas J. Miles). DOI: 10.1177/15270 02512449471

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