Poker as a Domain of Expertise

At Global Poker, we love everything about poker; we love playing it, we love the strategy, the hot streaks, the downswings (sort of), and we love it when someone brings new thinking to it.

We were therefore excited when we came across this article, which delves into psychological aspects of the game.

Published in the Journal of Expertise, it’s interesting reading, and we’d recommend it to anyone who loves thinking about the game. We’ve provided an overview to the article, which you can find here.


Jussi Palomäki, Michael Laakasuo, Benjamin Ultan Cowley, and Otto Lappi.


June 2020


Journal of Expertise, Volume 3, Issue 2


Poker has long been called a game of skill and chance, but what individual traits make players successful at poker has been a heavily debated subject. In the academic article Poker as a Domain of Expertise, the authors study what effect emotional regulation has on a player's success rate while playing poker, and in other fields. They also suggest areas for further research.

Throughout the 22-page journal article published in the Journal of Expertise, three main research questions are debated at length:

  • The Components of Poker Skill
  • The Development of Poker Expertise, and
  • Poker as a Research Tool for Further Studies.

What makes a good poker player has been discussed since the first forms of poker were created in the early 1800s. It is this question that has seen the game studied at length during the 21st century.

Previous studies have researched the effect of decision making, learning and emotional self-regulation in high-risk situations. In Poker as a Domain of Expertise, the authors take this concept one step further and look at the relationship between emotion and technical skill. They argue that expertise develops based solely on these two factors.

According to the article, being successful at poker requires proficiency in both the technical aspects of the game and emotion regulation. Poker is a highly emotional game; with tilt being a common occurrence. This state of extreme emotional distress has a huge influence on players making poor decisions. Tilt has long been the cause of many good poker players losing their wits, quickly followed by all their money.

The authors go beyond exploring the concept of poker and tilt and debate if this state of emotional distress isn't just confined to poker. People involved in sport—and finance in particular—could experience this state regularly. Becoming an expert in something is often the ultimate goal when learning a new sport or task. The authors wonder if developing technical skill in these areas relies heavily on controlling your emotions, in the same way it does in poker.

Poker and the many different aspects of the game are the article's primary focus, but the authors also delve into what makes an expert, specifically which factors make certain people more competent than others. Why are some people able to master a skill, while others fail?

The authors also provide their thoughts on what future study could be conducted. One of the key concepts is the role of skill in intuition. How skilled does someone have to be that their gut feelings start becoming so accurate that they can aid in decision making?

Poker has been studied extensively, but most research has been aimed at discovering how problem gamblers are created. With articles like this, researchers are trying to prove that the game and the research into it has significance beyond just studying gambling. It's argued that poker has a vast well of untapped potential for positive research into psychology, decision making and expert performance. The role of skill is a crucial concept for discovering how exactly to become good at a particular task, and in Poker as a Domain of Expertise, the answer to this question and more are explored at length.


The Journal of Expertise (JoE) is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing original scholarship in the area of expertise and expert performance, including both basic and applied research. JoE focuses on human expertise in complex domains such as music, sports, games, medicine, and science; research that uses animal models to understand basic issues relevant to expertise may also be appropriate. Empirical work published in JoE may use experimental, psychometric, historiometric, behavioral genetic, neuroimaging, computational, or idiographic approaches. Review articles may be qualitative (narrative) or quantitative (meta-analytic). Published quarterly, JoE is fully online and open access.