Yeah, that’s right, it’s not gambling. I’ve never played fantasy sports, and likely never will. It is a concern to me that this is such a controversy, because of its close relationship to something else I enjoy that’s not gambling, which is poker. I assume because the average person doesn’t understand what gambling means, they lump anything that involves an exchange of money and risk as gambling. If that’s the case, we’re really all gambling in pretty much everything we do in life. Right down to driving our cars down the street. You exchange money for gas, that goes into someone else’s pocket, in hopes that the gas the fuels your car will get you safely down the street. But that’s not always the case.
What’s frustrating to me personally is this isn’t very hard to understand. We have definitions for these terms, and we have mathematical models to prove something is a game of chance or not. In the realm of the game of chance, we have things that are riskier than others. Playing roulette is less risk statically than playing slot machines, and much much less risky than purchasing a lottery ticket. But none of these games of chance can you win at. In fact, you can’t even control whether you lose either. And both of those facts demonstrate why fantasy sports, and poker, are not games of chance, or gambling. As I like to say often to friends, “You don’t see any professional roulette players for a reason. And I haven’t won hundreds of thousands of dollars at poker because I’m one of the luckiest guys on the planet.”
This really isn’t very hard to understand, so let me break it down. We have a definition for what gambling means – playing games of chance for money; bet. If I handed you a hundred dollar bill and said, “go lose this money at the roulette table.” You wouldn’t have control over whether you won or lost. You could be trying to lose it all, and end up hitting every time and winning. That’s a game of chance. And that brings me to definition point #1 – You have no control over the outcome. Which brings me to definition point #2 –Overtime if you played long enough, you would lose that money, because, in all gambling games of chance, the odds are always against you.
Now, if I handed you that same hundred dollar bill and said, “go lose this at the Texas Holdem table.” You could do that on one hand. Just have no hand that can win, and put all your money in. Or just get all of your money in except one chip, and then fold to the next bet. You could lose that money instantly because you have significant control over the outcome of the result. Based on reason, psychology, risk analysis, mathematics, observation, logical deduction, and the prescience of knowing how to stay one step ahead of your opponent. All of these are skills that you need to hone, study, and work on in order to be successful at the game of poker. Which brings me to definition point #3 – no skills are needed in games of chance. You just place a bet down in a game of chance and hope for the best. In fact, if you’ve ever been to Vegas or a big casino, you’ll see this all the time. The dealer explaining to a gambler where to place their chips, and what kind of payouts exist for each type of bet. You cannot be successful at poker without the necessary skills, long term. You may get lucky in the short term, but in the long term, skill will always prevail. And this is the rule of variance.
Variance, as I’ve learned through some conversations with friends, and my wife, is something that people don’t inherently get, and I think I know why. I think because we’re so consumed with our own essence all the time (and I’m not talking about narcissism here) because this existence right now is all that we know. We know nothing else than this immediate instance, and if we allow this essence to overwhelm us, it can completely consume us. I’m sure we’ve all had breakups with girlfriends, or boyfriends, or situations with friends that seemed like at the time was almost the end of the world. Now you look back on those life events that seemed so tragic and laugh because you have perspective. You’re not fully consumed at that moment anymore, and you see and understand variance for a moment. Life doesn’t end after a bad breakup or life event. That moment doesn’t define you. It’s one part of the variance of life.
In poker, the less skilled player will win. But in the end, the player with the higher skill level will always win. Always. Because while short term variance will play its roll in one single bet, or all-in, that one loss won’t make up for all the skilled calculations of the highly skilled poker player. Eventually, the less skilled player will lose if they keep putting their money in as a 3:1 dog, and the short term variance will come to an end.
The exact same thing is true in fantasy sports. The less skilled fantasy league player can and will have days that their players or team perform exceptionally well. The short term variance of that is undeniable. In the end, though, the higher skilled fantasy sports player will win because they are using a higher degree of reason, logical deduction, understanding of the game, and skilled predictions to bring them out on top in the long run. Skill always wins in the end.
So even if you don’t play fantasy sports. I know many of you that read this blog do, some of you may be highly skilled poker players, but fish in fantasy sports. Whether you are or you aren’t, if you’re a poker player I urge you to stand in solidarity with fantasy sports businesses. They are fighting a big fight against moneyed casino interest. If they deem that fantasy sports is gambling, it just makes it that much harder to show why poker isn’t gambling. If however fantasy sports does prove it’s not gambling, that bodes well for shedding this outdated notion that poker is gambling and not a game of skill. A saying that should be an insult to any serious poker player.
In solidarity my non-gambling friends!
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