Is Poker Gambling?

min read
A person rolling dice on a poker table.
BetMGM Sep 07, 2022, 5:34 AM

If you had to walk up to anyone who’s ever played live or online poker and ask them if poker is gambling, you’d probably get a different answer from each one. Some might say yes and others no, while the truth lies somewhere in between. 

Poker is a game of skill, chance and strategy. To be a successful poker player, you need all these elements to work together well. However, when you look at the definition of gambling, this timeless casino game could be classified as gambling.

What is gambling?

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, gambling is “the activity of playing games of chance for money and of betting on horses, etc.”

Considering that you can play live or online poker for money, it’s safe to say that poker can be classified as gambling. At the core of both online and live poker tournaments is the thrill of possibly winning big and being named among some of the poker greats, such as Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey.

Is poker gambling or a game of skill?

When asked if poker is gambling, Brunson affirmed this but went on to say that some people are better than others, meaning that it’s not all about chance. One of the most popular poker tournament tips is that you should never walk into it blindly; you must have a strategy. This is essentially what makes poker a game of skill.

While chance does play a role in winning, depending on the cards that you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you as the player to make those cards work for you. This means that you need a certain level of tact, mental fortitude and a winning strategy to emerge triumphant.

Can poker be both gambling and a game of skill?

This is a debate that has existed for years, considering the game itself has been around for generations and continues to be one of the most-loved casino table games. The answer to this question has flip-flopped throughout the years, with enthusiasts weighing in on the matter and reaching their own conclusions.

Depending on how you approach the game, it can be one of the two or both. When it comes to poker, the more you practice, the better your gameplay. This alone suggests that it’s a game of skill.

If you were to play a firm favorite like Texas Hold’em poker today against the top players from a decade ago, chances are, they’d be outsmarted and outplayed if they approached it the same way they did years ago. With the advent of online casino games, more people are being exposed to poker and can improve their skills and strategy by regularly playing online.

That being said, some people approach it purely as a game of chance, with no real winning strategy in place. Novice players may start off mainly relying on the cards they were dealt as opposed to having a strategy, risking their money in the process – as one does when gambling.

The short and sweet answer to whether poker can be both gambling and a game of skill is yes. All the things that we’ve pointed out so far suggest so.

Is poker considered a sport?

If you take a step back and look at what goes into playing poker, you’ll realize that poker is the only form of gambling that can be considered a sport. If you’ve ever seen poker enthusiasts and players gathered around a Texas Hold’em poker table, you probably know that it’s also a form of entertainment.

Additionally, it’s competitive and requires both mental and physical aptitude to succeed, much like any other sport. Another key thing about sports is that you need to have a strategy to beat your opponents, which is why practice improves gameplay.

Let’s explore some of the tried and tested strategies that could see you up your game in both live and online poker tournaments.

Poker strategies that can help your overall poker gameplay

Given the competitive nature of poker, you need to have an ace up your sleeve in the form of a winning strategy. In fact, poker is about decision-making and making your cards work in your favor. Any experienced poker player will tell you that it’s the only way to beat your opponents and improve your gameplay. Here’s how you can go about it.

Know when to fold

Unlike in most other sports, folding in poker isn’t a sign of weakness or defeat. On the contrary, it shows an understanding of the game and knowing when to bow out if the odds appear to be against you protects you from losing money.

Practice makes perfect

Poker strategies and gameplay evolve over time. This means you need to keep practicing to develop new ways of doing things and avoid being a one-trick pony. Much like all other sports, the more time you put in, the better the results. One way of doing so is by embracing technology and online poker.

Take breaks when you need to

This is especially true during poker tournaments. As exciting and thrilling as the game might be, give yourself time to refresh in order to perform at your best, both mentally and physically.

Play fewer hands

Playing too many hands could lead to you eating away at your chip stack unnecessarily, so it’s always best to play a tight and aggressive game.

Attack when your opponent shows weakness

This is a strategy that becomes easier to do over time because of the experience and tell-tale signs you’ll be able to identify. For example, your opponent may keep checking if their hands can’t call multiple bets – that’s the best time to attack and play aggressively.

Experience the thrill of online poker at BetMGM

If you’re ready to practice some of these winning strategies in your next poker game, why not look at what our online casino offers? Explore our extensive range of online poker variations when you sign up at BetMGM and experience the thrill.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.