One of the largest differences between poker and other casino games is the fact that there is no house. Well technically there is, in the form of the rake, but in this case the house has no interest in who wins. Essentially the casino merely provides the arena for players to duke it out.
The other distinction between games of luck and poker is that everybody has statistically the same chance of winning in poker while the house always has the advantage in other games.
It really changes your perception of gambling when you realize the house is basically out to get you.
Even Steve Wong, in a recent PokerListings.com video interview , admitted that he enjoyed playing standard casino games until he realized the house was invested in you losing. He said he would win and then lose at those games but his cousin, who played poker, would consistently finish in the money. Right then and there Wong decided he wanted to learn this game of skill.
One other big difference between house games and poker is the human factor. It's tough to bluff in video poker, and you will rarely get a good read on Texas Tea. In poker, however, knowing what another player is thinking is a valuable skill.
A lot of people think poker relates more to games like chess or checkers than it does to true gambling games.
Perhaps it was put best in poker epic "Rounders" when Matt Damon's character got into an argument with his girlfriend regarding luck in poker. He said that if poker was a game of luck then why are there always the same handful guys at the final table of the Main Event.
Now ironically things have changed somewhat since that movie was made and now we don't see the same 10 guys at the final table anymore. Due to the absolutely massive fields it's difficult for the 200-300 well-known players to make it past 10,000 players. Statistically they are at a disadvantage. That said, Full Tilt Poker Pro Allen Cunningham showed his skill by making it to the final table of the 2006 Main Event. No small feat.
All this is not to say there is no luck in poker. Obviously there is. The entire world has heard Phil Hellmuth go on one of his academy award winning tirades where he exclaims to the entire room that if it weren't for luck he would win every tournament he ever entered.
Phil could be wrong there, but nonetheless when some donkey makes his ridiculous draw on the river you understand what he is saying. Dealing with enormous fields is another part of the luck game in poker.
The thing is, dealing with luck in poker is what I would call a skill. Being able to deal with bad flops and unfortunate rivers is key to a pro's survival.
The best players realize they can't win every hand and they play accordingly. On a long enough time line they know that luck will change. Many great players seem to have wonderful strategies for dealing with that funny thing called chance.
Poker is a game of skill AND luck. There is just no way around that fact. I think, however, it's fair to say it's a skill game.
It's true that the outcome of a poker game is not entirely in your control, but than again neither is life in general. The thing is players do get better. If you're just getting into poker, spend some time playing online. Just by seeing hand after hand you will begin to understand the game better.
Because poker does involve some luck it is paramount to play with in your means. Start out small and get better. Keep playing online and then get into small-limit, live games. It's a natural progression that can keep new players from going broke when the luck isn't there all while upgrading the skill level.
Poker does involve skill and luck but in the long-run it's a whole lot better to relay on skill instead of luck.
Skill game? Yes sir.