Dutch professor Ben van der Genugten has created a formula for calculating the skill level of a game. He has used it in Dutch courts to help determine that fantasy sports games are games of skill and now he’s using it to argue that poker is a game of skill, too. (See Leading Professor Rekindles Dutch Debate on Poker as a Game of Skill by Gaming Intelligence Group, free registration required — bugmenot helps).
His formula is simple. Skill level is Learning effect / (Learning effect + Chance effect). Result is a score between 0 and 1.
Learning effect is the difference between the optimum player and a beginner. In games of pure chance like roulette this is of course 0, in a more skilled game this approaches 1. For example in go, a skilled player will beat a newbie for certain, so the value is 1.
Chance effect is the difference between the optimum player and a player who knows the result of the game before the game. Say, in roulette, a player who knows where the ball will land. Of course, in roulette the difference would be huge. In poker the difference is significant too, if you consider a pro player and even a beginner who can see the everybody’s cards. In go and chess this would be zero, as there’s really no information to be known in advance.
Professor van der Genugten gets a value of 0.4 for poker and 0.049 for blackjack. Fantasy sports leagues get 0.3 from him. I think this is a pretty neat idea, but coming up with the exact values can be a bit tricky.