Rant: If Poker's a Skill Game, Stop Saying You (or They) Were Lucky

Phil Ivey
If you beat Ivey, drop the man of honor schtick.

Words are as powerful as Harry Potter's twig.

They've started and ended wars, made people strangle the life out of others and they've made Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth look (the) nuts.

So it’s incredibly frustrating when you consider that most of us let our tongues fly without any conscious thought.

This is even more alarming when you consider most of us were told by our teachers to think before we speak.

Poker Leaders, Watch Your Words

The most successful people in the world are aware of this secret. They understand the power of words and they use them to their advantage.

I want the leaders of poker to start doing the same. Words can create a ripple effect throughout the world and it’s high time we started to gain something from this fact.

Norwegian online poker star Ola Amundsgård has been unveiled as the flesh and blood behind the online monikers of “Odd-Oddsen” and “no_Ola." He's one of the most successful high-stakes Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) players in the world, and he's taken off his mask because he's a little pissed off.

Amundsgård cares about his country and believes its antiquated gambling laws need to be changed. Rather than hide behind his anonymity and hope that Thor Hansen really has a magical hammer, he's decided to come out from behind his bedroom door and offer a challenge to Norwegian lawmakers.

Ola willing to put his own money on the skill line.

His goal is to prove that poker is a game of skill -- not a game of luck like the rulers of the land of Vikings believe.

“I also hope that the government in the future will view poker as a mind sport like chess," Amundsgård told Danish online poker site PNN.dk, "since these two games aren’t really that different – at least not in my mind.

“...in order to drive the point home I would like to challenge all members of the Norwegian parliament to play a Heads-Up freeroll of 10,000 hands, where the prize money is one million Norwegian kroner ($170,000), paid from my own pocket, should any of the politicians beat me.

“I make this offer to demonstrate that poker isn’t merely a game of luck (which is the status of the game according to the current legislation in Norway), but a mind sport based on skill, like chess and bridge.”

Snap Judgments Based on Loudest Voice

Pieter De Korver
Say you were good, not lucky.

Strong words from Amundsgård, but we already know they have fallen against the sides of the goldfish bowl and are now being eaten by the grubs that live amongst the pebbles and the dirt.

When the lawmakers stare into our goldfish bowl they do not see the minutiae of our lives. They don’t care about the detail.

Christ, these guys are busy men. They work 16 hours per day and still have children to ignore and wives to bonk.

They look at us, hear what we have to say and then thin slice us. They take a snap-judgment based on the loudest voice, make a move, place us in the ‘to file’ draw and move on to the next piece of legislation that is giving them gastrointestinal issues.

So when a poker player is interviewed on television after winning a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, it doesn’t help the goldfish when he or she tells the watching world "I was just lucky."

Head onto YouTube this very minute and check out as many winner interviews as you can and see how many tell the interviewer that they were just lucky.

I interview people for a living and am always interested in extracting the secrets behind people’s success. Yet all I hear, time after time, is how lucky people were.

Call Phil Hellmuth the Best Because He is the Best

When the camera lens cap is doing its job, when the Dictaphone battery is taken out, when the chips have been stowed and nobody is watching I ask poker players why people like Phil Hellmuth and Michael Mizrachi have won so much money and achieved so many wonderful things.

Phil Hellmuth
Stand up for Hellmuth's talent.

Time after time I'm told that it’s because they are lucky.

Poker is a game of skill, and luck, where the person with the most skill is more likely to come out on top over the long run. Yet the people who feed us do not believe this to be true. So we have to make them believe.

Our words need to be in alignment with what we want to produce, and as far as I can tell we want to produce a story that tells politicians that poker is a game of skill.


Tell the camera that he is the best because he is the best.

The next time you beat Phil Ivey heads-up to win a major title, don’t tell the world that you were "just lucky." Drop that man of honor bullshit. Instead, tell the world that you had him in your pocket and each time you wanted to spank his skinny arse you just took him out and produced some welts.

No more tales of luck, guys and gals. It’s about time we start to acknowledge, appreciate and even celebrate our levels of skill.

Let’s change the energy that we are putting out there so people like Amundsgård have a greater chance of turning the heads of those that believe the very thing we continually say … we just got lucky.

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Mat 2014-01-13 15:10:26

If you teach everyone poker is a game of skill, the pond will have no more fishes soon!

JM 2014-01-12 22:47:11

It's luck when you hit 2 outers. It's luck when you opponent makes a big hand and you make a bigger one. It's luck when you have an edge on a player and they are too clueless to see it. Some players think nothing of the fact that they sucked out or that the other guy only moved in because they were strong.

Some will call luck variance, but it's still just luck!

Just because skillful players rely on their skill more than luck, doesn't make it wrong when they admit they got lucky. What's wrong is when a player clearly gets lucky but can't even admit to themselves that they did.
As you say Lee, Poker is a game of skill and luck. While a considerably amount of skill is required, luck is still a factor.

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