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


  • Steven D. Levitt

    () (Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA)

  • Thomas J. Miles

    (University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL, USA)


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, the authors 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%, compared to a −15% for all other players. This large gap in returns is strong evidence in support of the idea that poker is a game of skill.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven D. Levitt & Thomas J. Miles, 2014. "The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker Evidence From the World Series of Poker," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 15(1), pages 31-44, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jospec:v:15:y:2014:i:1:p:31-44

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ben van der Genugten & Peter Borm, 2016. "Texas Hold’em: A Game of Skill," International Game Theory Review (IGTR), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 18(03), pages 1-13, September.
    2. Duersch, Peter & Lambrecht, Marco & Oechssler, Joerg, 2017. "Measuring Skill and Chance in Games," Working Papers 0643, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    3. Mikołaj Czajkowski, 2015. "Poker - a game of luck or skills. Review of theoretical and empirical studies and conclusions for law regulations," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 40.
    4. repec:eee:jeborg:v:161:y:2019:i:c:p:52-67 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Eil, David & Lien, Jaimie W., 2014. "Staying ahead and getting even: Risk attitudes of experienced poker players," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 50-69.
    6. Jussi Palomäki & Michael Laakasuo & Mikko Salmela, 2013. "'This is just so unfair!': A qualitative analysis of loss-induced emotions and tilting in on-line poker," International Gambling Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 255-270, August.

    More about this item


    gambling; poker;

    JEL classification:

    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law


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