This Is Why Playing Poker Is Considered Gambling

Dealer handles cards poker table at the Paris Elysees Club.
A dealer handles cards at a poker table at the Paris Elysees Club. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP

Have you ever noticed the way live poker rooms are usually kept separate from the rest of the casino floor – maybe even in a completely different building?

There’s a very good reason for this: Poker isn’t a table game. There’s no house edge attached like there is for other games like:

  • – Blackjack
  • – Roulette
  • – Craps

What’s in It for the Casinos?

Casinos still make money off poker, of course. They charge you a certain fee for playing, usually in the form of rake taken from each pot that goes to the flop. That fee helps the casino pay the:

  • – Dealers
  • – Cashiers
  • – Floor Attendants
  • – Other personnel required for Poker

Otherwise, the casino has virtually no interest in whether you win or lose. This means you won’t get nearly the same “comps” offered to you as the high rollers over at the craps table. You might get the occasional perk here and there, but why should the casino throw all that free stuff at you if you’re not printing money for them?

Here’s the good news: In poker, you’re the house. This is a game of skill as well as luck; if you develop your skills sufficiently, and choose the right tables to sit at, you’ll be the one with the house edge over your opponents. They’ll be the ones printing money for you. 

This brings us to this week’s topic.

Many professional poker players refuse to play table games since the edge is not in their favor. “I don’t gamble” is their mantra.

It’s a useful mantra and a wise approach in most cases – but it’s factually wrong… and not just because these poker articles can be found under the Gambling menu here at TheRX.

What Are the Risks in Poker? 

According to Merriam-Webster, gambling is the practice of risking money (or other stakes) in a game or bet. That’s exactly what happens when you play poker for real money, whether it’s live or online poker. There’s an amount you wager, a risk that you’ll lose, and a reward for when you win.

Even if you’re a solid poker player with all your strategic ducks in a row, you’re putting your money at risk when you sit at the table. You could lose your entire stack on a single hand, or over the course of several hands. There’s no getting around the luck factor inherent in poker.

“Ah, but what about bankroll management?” Yes, that would be a very, very good idea if you’re serious about poker. Splitting your bankroll into a minimum of, say, 20 buy-ins for cash games and 100 for tournaments will help you minimize your risk of going bust by playing at the appropriate stakes. 

Notice that we said minimize, not eliminate. Even if you divide your roll into 1,000 buy-ins, there’s always a chance you’ll go broke in the long run. The best you can do is whittle your “risk of ruin” down to somewhere around 2%, then put it out of your mind and focus on the poker.

What If I’m Really Good at Poker?

Becoming a poker savant won’t completely eliminate your risk of ruin. Let’s pretend for one second that you did have some kind of magical powers that turned poker into a game of complete skill, where the whole world didn’t depend on the turn of a friendly card. 

Even in this scenario, you’re still risking your money. Perhaps you’ve heard stories of poker players who simply grabbed their chips and stormed off when they lost a giant pot.

If this happens to you, there’s only so much the casino can do to help. They might bar the offending player from ever returning, but they’re usually not going to tackle said offender and wrest those chips away. 

There are other hidden risks in any poker game that you should consider the next time you’re going to play.

Maybe two of more of your opponents will cheat by colluding against you. Maybe you’ll have a hand that is “guaranteed” to win no matter what the river card is, but that card somehow ends up being exactly the same as the turn card, leading to a foul deck and the cancelation of the hand. 

These things happen. Again, the best you can do is minimize your risk and play on; in the meantime, remember that you are indeed gambling when you play poker, so gamble intelligently, and may the rectangles be with you.