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Prize and Risk-Taking Strategy in Tournaments: Evidence from Professional Poker Players


  • Lee, Jungmin

    () (Seoul National University)


This study examines whether people optimally respond to prize incentives for risk taking in tournaments. I exploit the television game show World Poker Tour as a natural experiment. The results show that professional players strategically choose the degree of risk taking depending on the incentives implied by the prize structure they face. I find that they are more sensitive to losses than to gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Jungmin, 2004. "Prize and Risk-Taking Strategy in Tournaments: Evidence from Professional Poker Players," IZA Discussion Papers 1345, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1345

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Hans K. Hvide, 2002. "Tournament Rewards and Risk Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 877-898, October.
    3. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    4. Chevalier, Judith & Ellison, Glenn, 1997. "Risk Taking by Mutual Funds as a Response to Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1167-1200, December.
    5. Rosen, Sherwin, 1986. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 701-715, September.
    6. Knoeber, Charles R & Thurman, Walter N, 1994. "Testing the Theory of Tournaments: An Empirical Analysis of Broiler Production," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 155-179, April.
    7. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    8. Main, Brian G M & O'Reilly, Charles A, III & Wade, James, 1993. "Top Executive Pay: Tournament or Teamwork?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(4), pages 606-628, October.
    9. Kachelmeier, Steven J & Shehata, Mohamed, 1992. "Examining Risk Preferences under High Monetary Incentives: Experimental Evidence from the People's Republic of China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1120-1141, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grund, Christian & Höcker, Jan & Zimmermann, Stefan, 2010. "Risk Taking Behavior in Tournaments: Evidence from the NBA," IZA Discussion Papers 4812, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Christian Grund & Oliver Gurtler, 2005. "An empirical study on risk-taking in tournaments," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(8), pages 457-461.
    3. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Joo Young Jeon & Abhijit Ramalingam, 2016. "Property rights and loss aversion in contests," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 16-14, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..

    More about this item


    risk; tournament; poker;

    JEL classification:

    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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