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Roger Hannum
Matthew Rutherford
Teresa Dalton


For more than a millennium, people have been drawn to card games because they provide an interesting and entertaining forum for the elements of chance and skill to play out. Current players risk running afoul of the law when, in the course of play in a game of chance, money is wagered and won or lost. Several recent criminal and civil court actions in the U.S. have focused on the extent to which skill is a factor in the game of poker and this question is the subject of much debate in legal and political arenas. If chance is the driving force underlying the economics of poker, some states are considering the possibility of regulating―and thus legalizing―poker for the potential revenues it may generate. If poker is a game in which outcomes are dominated by skill, most states would lack the regulatory power over this multibillion dollar industry. This paper examines the factors affecting players’ returns on investments in poker and presents the results of an analysis of one billion hands of real online poker games.

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