poker chips

Poker has been deemed a skill game, UK and Dutch research suggests. (Image: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty)

Poker players in the UK could be looking at a new government tax if a new study into the game is anything to go by.

Research by the University of Nottingham and Erasmus University in the Netherlands, has shown that skilful players will out-perform less-able players over the long-term.

The findings could lead to a new tax on poker if it’s found to be conclusively a game of skill rather than luck. Currently, gambling for consumers (as in Australia) is not taxed.

The Role of Skill in Poker

The researchers’ findings, published in a paper titled, “Beyond Chance? The Persistence of Performance in Online Poker”, gleaned from over 450 million hands across three different stake levels, show “substantial evidence” of the role of skill in profitable poker.

The report also suggests that there is a “tipping point” at which poker skill over-rides luck – around the 1,500-hand mark. In fact, the research says, skilled poker players can expect to out-perform poorer players at least 75 percent of the time after this tipping point has been reached.

The University of Nottingham’s School of Economics’ Dr. Dennie van Dolder said in the UK Daily Mail: “The study showed skilled players will consistently outperform less skilled players if enough hands…are played.

“….It follows that poker involves an element of skill and can’t be merely a game of pure chance.”

Dr. Van Dolder added:

“It’s up to legislators to decide whether the role of chance diminishes fast enough for poker to be considered a game of skill. If so then our findings represent both good and bad news for players.

“The good news is they’ll have the satisfaction of knowing the game they love is recognised as requiring real skill.

“The bad news is that one day they might have to start handing some of their winnings to the taxman if the policymaking community takes notice of findings like ours.”

The Online vs. Skill Argument

Whether poker is a game of skill or luck has long been a source of debate across the world. Determining its element of skill is key to deciding whether to legalize it in countries where traditional forms of gambling are illegal, or taxing and regulating it differently in countries where gambling is already permitted.

Poker has already been determined a game of skill in various US courts and in Russia, but the Nottingham University research contradicts a 2012 study that found that “card distribution was the decisive factor for successful poker playing” rather than any innate player skill.

For now, Aussies and Brits alike can at least enjoy online poker free from the taxman until governments decide whether to legitimise poker as a game of skill or keep it under the same bracket as casino games like craps, roulette and blackjack.

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