This is a very common debate among beginners on poker forums. I am not going to attempt to tackle the legal version of this question, as it is highly contentious and may vary by jurisdiction. I will also sidestep all the linguistics nuances of defining gambling. The issue that I am discussing today is this: Is it correct to tell your friends and family “Poker isn’t gambling, it’s not like other casino games. It’s only gambling if you don’t know what you are doing.”
Poker isn’t like other casino games in a lot of ways, but it still involves wagering a sum of money on an uncertain outcome that players cannot fully control. Poker is a game of skill of course, but gambling and skill are not mutually exclusive.
There is a reason that David Sklansky’s book is called Gambling for a Living. There is a reason that virtually everywhere in the world bans children from playing real money poker. Poker is gambling. But you say, “Investing in a business is wagering money on an uncertain outcome. The entire insurance industry is gambling!”
Warren Buffet says it better than I: “Gambling involves, in my view, the creation of a risk where no risk need be created.” Placing a bet at a poker game doesn’t fulfill some societal need. The major desire to play poker is to create a new risk that creates the opportunity to raise money and only results in money changing hands. Nothing is created, as there would be in a business.
There is no insuring of a inherent risks, such as injury, fire, loss. A very small percentage of insurance transactions might constitute gambling, if someone is using the policies to speculate on affairs they are not involved in, but generally speaking the insurance industry helps reduce variance in ventures that are necessary to a functioning society.
Ostensibly the above definition I took for gambling could be considered excessive by many poker pros including my friend Annette Obrestad. After all she managed to create a bankroll in the millions starting with only money earned from poker game free rolls. This requires a lot of skill and this odds of this happening by pure chance are close to zero.
In poker there is some gambling and some skill, and every player has his own balance between the two. It is a personal choice, in order word the question in this post will depend on each player.