Saturday, March 22, 2008

In the news: Skill vs. Luck, and FT amends CardRunners deal

Ryverrat linked to this study that purports to show that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of luck.

While it's obvious to me that poker is a game of skill, this study's premise is inherently flawed.

The study incorrectly presumes that poker is a game of skill because players' results improve after you teach them some of the strategy of the game. In a game of luck, no amount of instruction would make a player better.

There's one big problem with the study: blackjack.

Blackjack is another game in which instruction can improve your chances of winning, but I don't believe that makes it a game of skill because it's very hard to win in the long run when playing at a disadvantage to the house.

Can a game in which you can't win be considered a game of skill? I don't think so.

Studies need to do a better job of defining what constitutes a "game of skill." I would argue that games of skill must not give an inherent advantage to any of the players.


It appears the mini-controversy over CardRunners pros being given temporary screennames while making videos has blown over after Full Tilt made some adjustments to its plan.

Many players were concerned that pros were being given an unfair exemption to the "one screenname per player" rule that could help them take advantage of opponents who didn't know they were up against a pro.

From Full Tilt's 2+2 update:

1. You recently signed a deal with CR that has been the point of some debate.

- That's a very kind way of phrasing the situation, thanks.

After reviewing the volumes of feedback in threads, in person, and via email on our proposed solution, and a number of high level meetings on the subject, we have revised our plan with regards to CardRunners. Before getting to the details, I'd like to thank everyone who gave their input (especially those that gave it a lot of thought themselves and didn't just post knee-jerk reactions) and let you know that we take all of the issues raised very seriously. For the record, I still believe our original plan was ethically sound, and I know we were (and still are) just trying to do the right thing for both our customers and our business relationships.

With that in mind, here is the new and hopefully improved plan for how certain educational videos will be created on Full Tilt:
  • The next big software update (still over a month away) will include a backend feature that allows us to create "Educational" ("EDU") tables. When a player sits down at the table, they will see a popup explaining that at any time they could be playing against an instructor and might be recorded for the purposes of educational videos. They will need to accept these terms before sitting and playing. These tables will be marked in the lobby with the "EDU" tag in the table name.
  • Instructors (with the express consent of Full Tilt) will be able to request a screen name and red status change for the duration of a video. This change of status and "temporary screen name" will only last for the duration of their educational session, and immediately after the session the instructor's account will be changed back to the "true" screen name and status. The modification of account name and status can only be done by our security department, and instructor play will be carefully monitored during the session.
  • When using a name other than their normal "red" name, they will only be allowed to play at these new Educational tables.
  • All players at the Educational tables who participate in a session with the instructor (whether or not the video is eventually used) will receive a bonus. The bonus will scale based on the stakes they are playing, and be offered to any player who plays at least one hand during the session. The amounts are still being finalized, and will be detailed from the popup in the screen when a player sits down. Examples might look something like a $50 bonus at $1/$2 and a $250 bonus at $5/$10. This will be the only form of compensation given to players at these tables.
  • There will not be Educational tables at limits higher than $5/$10 NL.
We feel that the above will enable instructional content to be recorded in a realistic playing environment, and offer players the choice to participate in these educational videos.


kurokitty said...

I can understand why this had to be done, but I think it'll affect the quality of the CR videos, altough maybe it'll provide instruction in how to play regulars. Thankfully there's still 'Stars.

Lifesagrind said...

While I was aware of the situation but not actively following it, I'd have to say well done Full Tilt.

(this was not a paid advertisement for Full Tilt Poker - Come Play With The Pros)

Ryverrat said...

hmm... good argument re the blackjack skill element. Im going to have to think about this one.

Absinthe said...

I think you're off base on blackjack not being a game of skill in this regard. The game can be played suboptimally or optimally. Yes, you will eventually lose, but proper play is likely to delay this end substantially.

Take games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, for example. They go on forever, can't be "won" in the conventional sense, and they're essentially mechanisms for separating people from their quarters. But nobody can say there isn't a skill difference between someone who can't get past the first level and someone who can ride for an hour or two on a single play.

Gnome said...

Good points, absinthe.
I should have expressed in the original post that simply determining that a game is a "game of skill" doesn't necessarily make it fair or beatable.
I wanted to get across the idea that just because there's skill involved, that's only part of the issue.
I was trying to change the definition of "game of skill" to include fair play and beatability, but I now realize those are separate topics.