The Big Question: Are Card Games games of Chance or Skill?

The Big Question: Are Card Games games of Chance or Skill?

We’ve all met them: those poker or bridge enthusiasts who loudly declare that no one can beat their skill with a pack of cards. That they are the biggest, the fastest, the best. But how much of this is reality and how much is bravado? Are card games of chance or games of skill?

Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question, with credible arguments on both sides of the debate. It also depends on which card game you are playing, as some are certainly more skill-based than others. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about assessing whether a game is one of chance or skill, and how this will impact on your ability to enjoy the game:

Perfecting your Poker Face

One of the main games where the debate between chance and skill abounds is poker. A 2012 study in the Journal of Gambling Studies asserted that poker isn’t a game of skill, because the hand you are dealt is pure chance, and that it is this hand that will ultimately determine whether you win or lose the game. This has been hotly attested by players of the game, who argue that their ability to work with the cards they’re dealt makes poker a game of skill. The argument continues that reading other players is integral to playing poker successfully and that this is a skill.

This may be true in a casino or live casino environment, but inscenarios where you don’t have this eye contact, as is the case with online table games, these are likely to involve more chance than skill: the quality of the hand you’re dealt will play a huge role in determining the success of your game, particularly if you’re playing against a machine rather than one of your peers. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t some skill involved in showing your hand at the right time: you can see why this is a debate which so many people feel has no right or wrong answer!

Bridging the Gap

By contrast, Bridge is recognized as one of the world’s most popular card games, largely because it is a game of skill rather than a game of chance. It is impossible to be dealt a bad hand in Bridge because it doesn’t matter what cards you have: how you play them will determine whether or not you can win the game. In simple terms, because when you are playing Bridge you are playing against other players, rather than against the house, your ability to win or lose to those other players will always be considered an act of skill.

That doesn’t mean that there is no luck at all involved in playing Bridge: as with almost any game, there is a small luck element, and this can help drive new and inexperienced players to success. In competitions, the same hands are played at each table so you can compare your scores with the other partnerships and work out who did best with what they were dealt with, thus almost eliminating the ‘luck’ aspect that exists in games such as poker. It’s no wonder that more than 5 million people across the world choose to play Bridge rather than any other card game!

Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash