Luck In Poker: The Myth Revealed

According to Merriam-Webster the word "luck" can be utilized as either a noun, or a verb. The definitions for these uses are similar but there is enough of a difference so that the word may only relate to poker in one of its forms, and even then only slightly. Misguided fools who shouldn’t be near a Hold Em Poker table, let alone give their money away by playing poker at one use the other form. It is this group by which many players derive a steady bankroll increase. It is to those "lucky" players that winners owe a hearty "Thank You, and Come Again".

In order to differentiate the winners from the losers let's first delve into "luck" in it's improper form.


Function: intransitive verb

1. To prosper or succeed especially through chance or good fortune -- usually used with out.

2. To come upon something desirable by chance -- usually used with out, on, onto, or into.

The player that says "He lucked out" or "That was a lucky draw" does not fully understand the game of Texas Hold'em. While it is fashionable to say these things they rely on a perceived outside force that changed the cards dealt. As we know the cards cannot be changed so this is an incorrect assumption. With the thought of "luck" as an outside force playing havoc with the cards no one can beat the game in a long-term struggle. In fact those that believe "luck" is a factor in the outcome of the game should never play the game. If one persons "luck" is more powerful than another, then the second can never win. If "luck" won't be on your side then why play? This player doesn't think in these terms though. The "lucky player" always believes, nay, has to believe, that "luck" will come his way. He knows that he will "get lucky" often enough to stay in the game. This player will pay over and over to see the cards because the next one just might be the "lucky" one.

Now that "luck" is known as a mysterious outside power that is not really in the game of poker, "luck" can be made.

Function: noun

1. A force that brings good fortune or adversity b: The events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual.

2. Favoring chance - The first definition is the one that applies to the game of poker. To break it down the "force that brings good fortune or adversity" is yourself as a player. Your ability to "read" the other players can give you an edge. The ability to force your will upon a table allows you to bring your own luck. Forcing others to fold by bluffing also is a way of creating your own luck.

To aid in this cause look at the "B" definition. "... events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual" is our betting. The act of placing chips into a pot is the "event" that can aid or hinder you as a player. In conjunction with your read of the table, betting is what makes your luck happen. There can be no bluff without the bet, no control without the bet, without each other one cannot survive. It is this symbiotic relationship that makes up the game of poker and allows you to create your own "luck".

If we expand this further the word luck becomes interchangeable with the word skill when looked at in its proper usage. It is a player’s skill, his abilities to maximize the situation in his favor. Knowing when he/she has the best of it, or getting out when they do not. Understanding your outs and the odds of achieving them. Although the cards have decided the outcome of the hand before the first one hits the felt, it is the player’s skill that may determine the eventual winner. If you think the game of poker is just a game of "Lucky draws", and "Lucky players" then do yourself a favor and quit playing the game before it's too late. If you are willing to take the time to develop your "skill" then the game can be "lucky" for you. Just remember where the luck comes from and you'll prosper.