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Revised Mass. Gambling Bill Won't Criminalize Online Poker 104

Posted by timothy
from the us-rule-v.-british-rule dept.
travdaddy writes "As reported on Slashdot only about a week ago, a passage of a gambling bill in Massachusetts would have criminalized online poker. That passage has been stricken due to the help of a grass-roots organization called the Poker Players Alliance. It 'quickly got the message to all of its Massachusetts members — around 25,000 people — and over 1,000,000 nationwide to make their voices heard; apparently lawmakers were listening since the language making online poker illegal — and online gaming in general — was taken out of the legislation.' Another Massachusetts bill may even 'take [poker] completely out of the gambling genre' and make it legislated as a game of skill."
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Revised Mass. Gambling Bill Won't Criminalize Online Poker

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  • Re:Oh teh noes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:38PM (#31864914)

    Considering that the biggest gripe of the WSP old-hands is that young players are ruining the game by relying too much on aggressive betting, I would like to argue that it is not nearly as much a game of skill as a lot of people think.

    Yes, there's a big gap between someone who doesn't what they're doing and someone who knows the odds, the optimal bet associated with the odds and when someone's bluffing. At the same time, once you get to a certain level, it boils down to whether you get the cards you need. If you don't, you will lose - regardless of how awesome your strategy, card-counting and face-reading is.

    So, yes, there's skill in Poker. But you can still do nothing but lose just because you're getting crap cards - or win just because you keep getting awesome cards.

  • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#31865006)

    I mean, seriously, a game of skill is a game where if your skill is superior to your opponent's you win, period. In poker if the deck keeps spitting out cards that favor your opponent you can have all the skill in the world, and you will lose...

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki.cox@net> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:56PM (#31865140)

    Not if you stare them down and play aggressively. Even if you're short stacked, a well timed, aggressive play will win pots by pressuring another player with more chips/money.

  • by bmk67 (971394) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:01PM (#31865188)

    A skilled player doesn't need "good cards" to win.

    Over a decent-sized sample of hands played, I guarantee that a skilled player will absolutely crush an unskilled one.

  • by protest_boy (305632) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:07PM (#31865268)
    In any game or sport there are elements of luck. Take Scrabble for example. I doubt many would deny that Scrabble is a game skill. Yet there's a huge amount of luck involved in which letters you choose, and when you get them.

    Granted, luck plays a large factor in a single hand of poker. However, poker is not a game of individual hands. The better players will be distinguished from the less skillful in the long run; hundreds of thousands of hands.
  • by Rary (566291) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:09PM (#31865302)

    I mean, seriously, a game of skill is a game where if your skill is superior to your opponent's you win, period. In poker if the deck keeps spitting out cards that favor your opponent you can have all the skill in the world, and you will lose...

    You're thinking short term. Skill pays off in the long run.

    It's statistically impossible for the cards to always favour your opponent. Eventually, you will be dealt a better hand than your opponent's hand.

    A simple way to look at it is this. In an infinite number of hands dealt randomly to two players, Player A will be dealt the better hand 50% of the time, and Player B will be dealt the better hand 50% of the time. If A is "perfectly" skilled and B is "perfectly" unskilled, then A will ensure that he wins the maximum amount of money on the hands that he wins, and loses the least amount of money on the hands that he loses. Additionally, when both players have "iffy" hands, A will play in such a way as to convince B that B's hand is inferior, even when it's not, so that B will fold and give the pot to A.

    Over the long run, A will make more money, even though he isn't dealt more winning hands, and even though there will be periods of time when B is being dealt a sequence of winning hands.

    Of course, this only really applies to cash play, as tournaments have a designated end, and therefore they are much more influenced by luck.

  • Re:Oh teh noes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by venicebeach (702856) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:19PM (#31865438) Homepage Journal

    After watching Phil Ivey burn out at the WSOP last year... I'd say it's both. It's about making the right decision based on what you know, and what ou have. You can't last long in tournament play if you're a sloppy player, and on the reverse, no matter how good you are, if you're drawing crap hands, even if you muscle in with crap cards, it's going to destroy you.

    First, tournament poker is only one form of the game and involves higher variance compared to a cash game. But while the outcome of any individual hand or of a single tournament is a combination of luck and skill, long-run outcomes can only differ among individuals on the basis of skill, since the random factors do not favor any particular individual in the long run.

  • Re:Oh teh noes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:49PM (#31865768)
    Whether poker is a game of skill or a game of luck depends on the number of hands played. Of course luck has an effect on any individual hand or for that matter on an individual tournament, and a skillful player can have a bad day or a bad month. Over a large enough number of hands though, the good hands and bad hands will be distributed evenly between all players. Therefore, the difference between a successful player and an unsuccessful player is a difference in skill, not a difference in luck. To me, that's a strong enough argument to classify poker as a game of skill.
  • by jsvendsen (1668031) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:50PM (#31866338)

    That's largely a myth. The mathematics of playing poker usually involves making simple calculations of pot odds or making rough estimates of the probability of your hand being a winner or your opponents folding to a bet or raise. You can be an excellent poker player with no explicit awareness of the mathematics that are the basis of your actions. The key traits common to most great poker players are situational awareness and pattern recognition.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:03PM (#31866462)

    There's more to poker than "reading", it has multiple levels of skills.

    If two people are playing and neither of them knows how to play at all it'll be pure chance, whomever gets the best cards will win.

    If one of them know some pretty simple probability (either book knowledge or just from experience of seeing what happens), they'll have an edge.

    If one knows basic probability, and the other knows conditional probability they'll have an edge.

    If one knows conditional probability but the other also knows game theory, they'll have an edge.

    Then there's the reading you mention, which operated in parallel. Though I would argue that simple things like observing (and remembering) betting patterns are significantly more useful than observing biological cues.

  • by ramul (1103299) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @10:49PM (#31867338)

    There is a luck and a skill side to poker. The luck side keeps the bad players in with their occasional wins, thinking they are good at poker or are overall winners, while the skill side wins money in the long run. The effect of having good or bad cards dealt is described as variance, if you look at a winning poker players profit/loss graph it will be a bumpy road upwards. The individual bumps are short term variance, the overall trend reflects the skill of the player.

    How can skill count ? What if you have a middle pair, youre opponent has top pair, and he bets the river. You raise...because you know he's a player that can fold a top pair type hand based on his previous play, and based on your tight image, and based on the cards on the table. He folds the better hand. So its not JUST luck, its strategy and perception of your own image and your opponents playing tendencies.
    Skill is also about extracting the maximum amount of value out of your better hands, and FOLDING when you know youre beat.

    If you want to read some real poker strategy go to a poker strategy site and browse the theory articles, judging by the discussion here a lot of you will be surprised at the amount of strategy in the game.

    And just to answer a previous post by someone, yea phil ivey is (one of) the best poker players, but tournaments are extremly high variance - you need to play a lot of them before you can judge if you are a winning player or not. Cash games are lower variance generally.

  • Re:Oh teh noes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @11:00PM (#31867410)

    But you can still do nothing but lose just because you're getting crap cards - or win just because you keep getting awesome cards.

    You can also lose because you think your opponent has better cards than you/makes bets that are unprofitable to pay off, and win because you make your opponent think you have the best hand/make bets that are unprofitable for him/her to pay off.

    That is where skill comes in. If you just deal out the hands and ignore what happens during the hand (i.e. dealing out the entire hand), sure - luck is a factor, but that evens out over a long session.

    But making your opponent lay down the best hand, when you can't beat anything - that requires skill. Skill in knowing when to make that bluff, knowing what opponent you can do it against, reading your opponent. And getting paid off when your opponent does similar things also requires skill.

    Suppose we are playing Texas Hold'em. Are you really willing to pay off a bet on a board of [Ah, 3h, 6h, 2h, 9d] if you don't have any hearts in your hand (let's say Ad, 7c)? If we're just playing heads up, we know there is a 35% chance that your opponent has a heart in his hand. If the pot is 100 cents, what size bet is it reasonable to pay off? You can only beat any pair smaller than an ace. There are straights (4,5) and flush (any heart) options out there, as well as some slightly questionable two pairs.

    Figuring out what price is acceptable for a long term profit requires math skills. And you also need skill to figure out, if you can make a bet that will win you the pot, even if you don't have anything. Suppose you were dealt Tc, 8s in the same situation. It is unlikely that you will win by showdown, as more than 50% of the hands that are possible to be dealt are better than yours. In other words, you can only win the pot by making your opponent lay down his hand.

    What kind of bet, if any, would make sense? Should you just muck your cards? Or should you call, because your opponent could have a busted straight draw, like 4,7 (no heart)? You can beat 4,7. Can you make your opponent lay down KQ? KT? TJ? Can you make him lay down AK? After all, if you make a bet, you can make it look like you made the straight or the flush, in which case his pair of aces aren't any good.

    Doing the right thing once - luck. Doing it constantly - skill. Yes, you need luck, because you can't just bluff all the time. You are going to get called once in a while, and then you need your cards to hold up. You also need to do the calling from time to time, and you need the cards to be on your side for that.

    But there is actually a fairly simple way to demonstrate that skill plays a role. Simply line up some of the best cash game players in the world against people who haven't played the game before. Give them a massive stack of chips (5,000 big blinds should be good), and have them play a huge amount of hands. Let's go with heads-up, 10 pros against 10 new players. 5,000 hands in each match-up. And let's cap the pot sizes to lower the variance/luck factor. Say 100 BB per player. That way you can lose 40 massive pots and still have plenty of play, as you can only lose 10% of your chip-stack.

    That'd give us a sample size of 50,000 hands. We can't merely compare the number of hands won - that doesn't really tell the story. You can win 80% of the hands and still come out the loser. But number of hands won, chip stacks, average number of chips won per pot, number of times the worst hand has made the best hand fold etc.

    This kind of setup should give a much better picture of the level of skill involved. And to avoid having the rookies throw the game, let's bring in the people who say it's entirely a game of luck for a similar line-up as well. Now we have a sample size of 100,000 hands total. Motivation is a factor as well, but I suspect telling the pros that if they lose, poker will be banned, no exceptions, will be quite a motivator. And let's pay off the non-pros as well ... a prize of say ... 100 US$ for every BB you're ahead after the 5,000 hands.

    Now, I doubt it'll end up with the pros having all the money. But I'd be surprised if it was anything lower than 60/40 in their favour.

  • by P-Nuts (592605) on Friday April 16, 2010 @06:13AM (#31869464)

    Yeah, I thought online poker would appeal more to the Slashdot crowd too. The main poker site is the Two Plus Two forums [twoplustwo.com], and there's a lot of good strategy advice to be found amongst a fair amount of childish rants.

    I play micro-stakes cash games. Last night I played 1000 hands and lost six buy-ins, but I think I played reasonably well nonetheless. Statistics backs me up as I turned a small profit according to "all-in expected value" (a calculation that removes the luck factor from hands where all the chips went in with cards still to come). It's just a bit annoying as I was hoping to move up stakes soon, and it will probably take me several thousand hands longer now.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:52AM (#31872004)

    He who wins the most money is the winner. It has a really simple score keeping system, with clear winners and losers

    Of course the most skilled player doesn't always win - there is a large element of chance. So determining who won is not the same as determining who is most skilled. However, because there's a large amount of luck (and it is a large amount, I'm certainly not claiming the best player always wins) doesn't mean there is no skill at all.

    And folding when you would have won is "losing" that hand (folding anytime but preflop with no antes/blinds is), but it is not "losing" in trying to determine who has the most skill. There are plenty of situations where folding the winning hand is the *correct* play and not doing so would be an indication of having less "skill".

    For example, you are pretty sure from the way the player has played in the past that there's a 30% chance you have the best hand and a 70% chance you don't and the other player just made a pot sized bet and assuming he's all-in (or you only have that exact number of chips left yourself) then folding is the correct play even if it happened to be that 30% of the time. You aren't measuring against "what would you do if you could see their cards".

    Of course there is no way to test and falsify, there's too much guess work involved. You don't actually know what the percentages for your opponents holding is, you are working off just the information you have seen in the past. You didn't see every hand, and he could have decided to completely change his way of playing 2 minutes ago.

    But I don't think the existance of a (large) chance component changes that the skill involved is still "traditional".

    The issue with poker is that the chance component is huge, and overwhelms the skill in lots of cases. Plus a lot of the skill involved looks like luck.

    The guy who hits a set on the flop or makes a flush on the river or jams pre-flop with nothing and doesn't get called looks like he got lucky, but there's skill (knowledge really, but I think the terms are the same in this context, chess skill is all knowledge for example) in determining that the returns beat the odds and hence there's a positive expectation

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