Gambling and Poker = Apples and Oranges
Is Poker gambling?
I'm pretty sure every serious poker player has encountered this question or has gotten into a debate with someone about this. "Oh, poker? i'm not into gambling." "Poker huh? good luck!" We've all heard comments like these or somethig like it. I sometimes find myself trying to explain to some ignorant guy condemning poker as a vice, as something "bad", that it is not gambling, only to have it fall on deaf ears and a closed mind.
So what is it really? Of course we can't deny it, there IS a gambling element in Poker, in the same way that there is a gambling element in ANY business that you can go into, or investing in the stock market for that matter. To differentiate between gambling and investing, you can see it as either taking chances or taking risks.
Taking chances is associated with gambling. When you take chances, it is unpredictable. You have no control over the likelihood of a particular outcome. Throwing the dice will not give you control of what numbers will come out, same as the reels of a slot machine.
Taking risks is the same as making investments. When you invest in something, you go into it on a calculated risk of making more money out of your investment. There IS a risk of losing your investment (as any person who has ever put up a business will understand). A lot of people has lost everything they have on the stock market, but you don't see anyone complaining about it.
The magic word here is control. When you have the power to influence the outcome of something, you have control over it. Now, the extent to which you can control the outcome will depend on your decision making skills, that is, if you can make the right decisions at the appropriate time. When your money is on the line, you make the decision, and if it is the right decision, you gain from it. Your investment will earn from it. Now, there is also the element of chance involved, meaning you can make the right decisions most of the time and gain on your investment most of the time too, but there will be times when factors you cannot control will come into play, and it can affect your investments to some extent, even if you make the right decisions.
Playing poker is more like investing in a sense that when you invest, you get to make all the right decisions before taking the risk. Game selection, seating position, call or fold, bet or raise, who should you play against, what stakes will you play, all these things are information you can derive to calculate the risk of making money or losing money. Now, if you have all the right knowledge and skills to make the right decisions at the right time, you will win and gain on your investment most of the time.
In our lives, everything we do is risky, even just crossing the street. But if you make the right decisions, and look both ways before crossing, the likelihood of you getting hurt is diminished to almost an impossibility.
Just like poker, if you want to avoid getting "hurt", look to your left and your right before playing, and make sure the tight player is on your left, and the loose guy is on your right!