What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us
Freakonomics Radio

The hidden side of poker

Kai Ryssdal Sep 19, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Freakonomics Radio

The hidden side of poker

Kai Ryssdal Sep 19, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

You may have dropped $20 or $50, even $500 bucks at the poker tables in a Vegas casino or piddled away your pennies online. But even though you can lose fistsful of dollars playing poker, it’s not just a game of luck.

Freakonomics co-author and economist Steven Levitt is a poker fanatic.

“Poker is so obviously a game of skill,” Levitt says. To test his gut reaction, Levitt has conducted two studies to examine whether luck or randomness accounts for players who consistently win. The first compared the performance of ranked players at the World Series of Poker with casual fans who showed up to rub elbows with the pros.

“The good players did very well and earned postive returns,” Levitt said. “And the bad players, the guys like me who show up and think it will be fun to play with the good players, end up losing a lot of money.”

In the second study, Levitt and his colleagues looked at 12 million hands of poker played online. The site also shared the cards each player held and kept hidden throughout the games.

“We can analyze the skill of the play in a way that others never have been able to do,” Levitt said. “We show on every test we can think of doing that skill predominates over luck in no-limit hold ’em poker.” 

News and information you need, from a source you trust.

In a world where it’s easier to find disinformation than real information, trustworthy journalism is critical to our democracy and our everyday lives. And you rely on Marketplace to be that objective, credible source, each and every day.

This vital work isn’t possible without you. Marketplace is sustained by our community of Investors—listeners, readers, and donors like you who believe that a free press is essential – and worth supporting.

Stand up for independent news—become a Marketplace Investor today with a donation in any amount.