Is poker a skill game? New insights from statistical physics
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Cagliari - Cagliari, Italy and DUMAS - Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Sassari - Sassari, Italy
Received: 1 April 2015
Accepted: 1 June 2015
During last years poker has gained a lot of prestige in several countries and, besides being one of the most famous card games, it represents a modern challenge for scientists belonging to different communities, spanning from artificial intelligence to physics and from psychology to mathematics. Unlike games like chess, the task of classifying the nature of poker (i.e., as “skill game” or gambling) seems really hard and it also constitutes a current problem, whose solution has several implications. In general, gambling offers equal winning probabilities both to rational players (i.e., those that use a strategy) and to irrational ones (i.e., those without a strategy). Therefore, in order to uncover the nature of poker, a viable way is comparing performances of rational vs. irrational players during a series of challenges. Recently, a work on this topic revealed that rationality is a fundamental ingredient to succeed in poker tournaments. In this study we analyze a simple model of poker challenges by a statistical physics approach, with the aim to uncover the nature of this game. As main result we found that, under particular conditions, few irrational players can turn poker into gambling. Therefore, although rationality is a key ingredient to succeed in poker, also the format of challenges has an important role in these dynamics, as it can strongly influence the underlying nature of the game. The importance of our results lies on the related implications, as for instance in identifying the limits within which poker can be considered as a “skill game” and, as a consequence, which kind of format must be chosen to devise algorithms able to face humans.
PACS: 89.65.-s – Social and economic systems / 89.75.-k – Complex systems / 05.90.+m – Other topics in statistical physics, thermodynamics, and nonlinear dynamical systems (restricted to new topics in section 05)
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