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Poker is Not Just a Game of Chance
by Tye Smith

I'm sick of people treating poker like any other gambling game. Admittedly, many poker players are gambling degenerates who will probably lose their money regardless of what happens, but that shouldn't incriminate the game of poker.

Just because there are bad poker players doesn't mean poker is a bad game.

In fact, poker is a game that, if treated as an intellectual pursuit or profession, can be profitable, and the proof lies in the fact that there are a good number of poker players making a living by simply playing the game.

The main reason poker is a much better gambling game than others, such as roulette or slots, is that you don't have to play against the house. When you play against the house you are bound to be playing with the odds stacked against you, and for the average person, beating these games is next to impossible over the long run.

Most casino games are luck games, and the people who play them accept that they are playing a game they have little chance of winning. The people who play these games have a lottery mentality, which means they want to take a chance of winning big, should they win.

On the other hand, poker is a game in which you match wits with the other players instead of competing against some preconceived, mathematical scenario that virtually guarantees you will lose if you play long enough. This means that as long as you can outplay most of the players at your table, you can win. This is not as hard as it sounds. Poker games are divided into limits, and if you can't outplay the guys at the high-limit games, you can always go to the low-limit games.

Most people who look negatively on the game of poker don't understand it. They think gambling is a disease and any game that involves gambling automatically falls into the category of evil. For example, after I covered a story about the U preventing a poker tournament from happening on campus last winter, an angry father e-mailed me. He told me his son had lost everything playing poker. For this reason he was proactively lobbying for stronger enforcement of anti-poker laws in Utah.

I can sympathize with the plight of a father whose son has a problem, but I think addressing his son's problem would have been more constructive than trying to stop poker games from being played.

If his son had a drinking problem, I guess he would try to remove all alcohol from the world so that his son couldn't get drunk anymore. Maybe the angry dad should have bought his son a poker strategy book.

In fact, many states in this country do not even classify poker as a gambling game; it is classified as a game of skill, like bowling or golf. California, for example, has casinos devoted entirely to the game of poker while casino gambling games classified as games of chance remain illegal.

Don't get me wrong. Just because poker is a game of skill doesn't mean everyone who plays it will win. What it means is that the better players have a better chance of winning. Even the best players in the world lose sometimes, but they win more often than they lose.

It takes courage and intelligence to be a good poker player, so if you are either naturally stupid (no condescension intended) or if you have trouble asserting yourself in large groups, my advice for you is to quit the game of poker. But if you have some guts and are willing to learn, this game could change your life.


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