Is poker gambling? It’s a question that’s been asked for as long as the game has been around. The short and uncomplicated answer is yes - but when is anything worth having that straightforward? After all, it’s not like any average Joe can walk off the street and become a poker grandmaster. Does this perhaps suggest that there’s an element of skill to the game? Let’s break it down!


The Element of Chance

Let’s look at poker in comparison to its fellow popular casino games. Contained within every popular brick-and-mortar casino game is an element of chance and the opportunity to win real money. The presence of these traits alone allows us to define these casino games as gambling. Still, is it likely that we can simply lump poker in with the rest of the casino lot when it hosts key differences? Where poker strays from the norm here is in its wealth of opportunities for decision-making. Where other games only provide the chance for one or maybe two decisions (consisting of when and how much to bet) poker is slightly more complicated. What’s more, in poker, you’re typically playing against other human players. This opens the game up to human error (or skill) and thus, diminishes the element of chance.

Still, no matter which side of the argument you stand on, there’s no doubt that luck has its part to play. After all, you could be the best player at the table, holding an amazing four-of-a-kind hand. But even with the odds stacked in your favour, your opponent could technically still land a straight flush…with a little luck. This element of chance is part of what makes poker such an unpredictable and thrilling game. Regular players know that feeling of riding both hot and cold streaks. It can feel like, no matter how much experience or skill you bring to the table, fate is ultimately dealing out the winning hands as she pleases.

Still, these streaks don’t last forever. If a poker enthusiast plays for long enough, eventually they’ll run their course. At this point, it’s a player’s skill that will determine who’s taking home the pot. To have any kind of controlling and longstanding influence over the outcome of a poker game, a player needs expertise.

The Element of Skill

In the same way that we can’t deny chance is present in poker, skill also has an important role to play. If you want to win more than one hand in every hundred that is. Many experts tout the idea that poker is getting more difficult each year. Is this because luck is getting scarcer or because poker players are refining their skills to become more adept at the game? We think it’s the latter!

Yet, what expertise are we talking about exactly? Among the variety of skills and qualities needed to master the poker tables is:

  • Mathematics
  • Psychology
  • Logic
  • Recall
  • Focus
  • Decisiveness

In truth, poker is one of those confounding mysteries of the world where even if you have every rule and tip at your feet, you can still lose. While some may argue that this is definitive evidence of its links to chance, we’d wager that the opposite is true. The fact is that it’s the skilful application of these rules, alongside the elements of mathematics, psychology and logic that result in continuous success. If you want to read up on how to employ mathematics, psychology and logic to perfect your game, check out our previous blog posts.

Social Casino Isn’t Gambling (and you can play poker in social casino)

We all know that poker has evolved far past the real world tables in recent years. This growth into the online gaming sphere has had a big impact on the skill vs gambling poker debate. Especially when we consider social casino operators (like KamaGames). Again, key elements of gambling are the concept of risk and the opportunity of being rewarded with something that has real-world value. While social casino games share a lot of similar gaming mechanics with real-money casinos, this is where their differences lie.

In real-money casino games, be it a bricks-and-mortar establishment or online, the potential to win or lose money is overtly present from the moment a player “enters” the casino. It’s this danger of the gamble that drives many real-money casino players back to the tables time and time again. Social casino is on an entirely separate playing field. These games are a bit of a phenomenon due to just how differently they operate from traditional, real-money casino games. Most importantly is the fact that within the confines of social casino gaming there is no ‘cash out’ option, eliminating any possibility for real-world-value gain.

As a result, anyone who participates in social casinos is aware that if they put money into the game, they won’t get it back. At every opportunity, KamaGames reiterates this point to players and as this is an absolute certainty, any gambling element within our games is entirely phased out. Within our flagship app, Pokerist, we only use virtual chips which hold no value in the real world.

What’s more, social casino games are built around the ‘freemium’ model which means that an individual can play entirely for free thanks to the bonus chips they receive daily. If a player runs out of chips and want to continue playing immediately, they can of course purchase more but this isn’t a requirement to play. They also can’t exchange these chips for real-world currency once the transaction is complete.

Without a core element of risk or return on investment, can we justify labelling these games as gambling? The evidence says no and yet, even without the gambling element, poker is still being played using all the expertise required in a traditional game.

Marrying Chance & Skill

Given the complexities of poker, it’s not surprising that there’s no clear and easy answer to this question. The truth is that it wouldn’t be the game it is without all of its components. That means both the range of skills that are required to dominate opponents and that unpredictable ingredient that’s provided by sheer luck. Of, course the mark of a true poker player is their ability to make the most of the hands they’re dealt, and when they sense lady luck by their side, take home the pot!