Birnbaum: An important life lesson from blackjack and baseball
From SABR member Phil Birnbaum at Slate.com on July 29, 2013:
Is poker a game of pure luck, or is there skill involved, too?
One way to test, as Stephen Dubner suggested, is to check if it's possible to lose on purpose. If it is, then there must be skill involved, because the player has some control of the outcome. And, of course, it is possible to lose at poker at will, if you want to ... so it's reasonable to argue that poker is a game of skill.
On the other hand, you can't lose the lottery on purpose, no matter how hard you try. So, the lottery is just a game of luck.
But ... there are exceptions to the "lose on purpose" rule.<snip>
Let's suppose that you're a baseball team, and you're trying to decide who to draft. There are 29 other teams competing with you to make the best choice, but nobody competing with you to make the worst choice.
That means it's hard to beat the other teams on purpose. But it's easy to lose to the other teams on purpose—just pick your mother, for instance.
Now, the interesting part. The same thing applies about winning and losing by accident. It's hard to beat the other teams by accident, but it's easy to lose to the other teams by accident.
This page was last updated July 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm MST.