Forum Archive :
Luck versus Skill
How much skill versus luck?
We have seen a few discussions in the past about the role of skill vs
luck in Backgammon (and in other games like poker and chess). Whilst
I've always enjoyed the lively discussions, I've always wondered if
there was a way to analyze this and put a number on it.
I was messing around with the account manager in Snowie to see if I
could spot anything new about why I play so badly and realized that
snowie easily allows you to display luck vs wins/losses.
The amount of data isn't exactly significant but I think some of you may
find it interesting from an anecdotal point of view.
Out of 68 matches I've played against Snowie since I got it earlier this
year I've won 29 and lost 39. Snowie classifies me as Intermediate (only
Of the 29 wins Snowie says I was lucky in ALL of the matches.
Of the 39 losses Snowie says I was lucky in 9 of the matches.
What this tells me is that I need luck to beat Snowie, but more
revealing is that even if I do get lucky my poorer play results in me
squandering that luck some of the time.
Snowie's skill therefore overcame my luck 9/38 (24%) of the time. (It
also tells me that I'm a lucky S.O.B. :-) )
Most of these matches are played against Snowie 1-ply, almost all are 7
Snowie 1-ply is pretty strong compared to me, it is about 300 'snowie
rating points' better than me.
What this tells me is that skill is a comparatively small factor in
backgammon compared to luck (in 7 point matches anyway). However if you
can outplay your opponent by 300 rating points you may see a handy
profit on your efforts over time.
Clearly there needs to be more data before we can draw firm conclusions,
but this does confirm my suspicion that skill is second to luck. All the
more reason to get better and better to counteract that luck factor!
If anyone else can extract this data from Snowie I'd be interested to
see if the results are similar or not.
Michael Manolios writes:
I recently did a small research similar to yours. I went through 196
matches analysed by Snowie 2. These were matches I played against
Snowie or JellyFish, but mostly on line on GG. Typically they were 9
and 11-point matches, with some 7-pts and a few 5-pts and 25-pts. I
wrote down for each match who was the better player, who was the
luckier one and who was the winner.
Results: The better player wins 54.60% of the time.
The luckier player wins.......... 91.50% of the time!
Of course quite often (50%) the better player is the luckier one. As
far as the myth we all like to believe when we win (that we won despite
our bad luck), this happens only 4.6% of the time...
All the above consist in no way reliable data as there are some
objections about the luck evaluator of Snowie 2. For example I noticed
that in two or three matches she said that the winner was the unlucky
player who had played worse, which doesn't make sense.
But I would be very interested to know if we can derive from
such data a straight Luck vs. Skill comparison in the form of e.g. "80%
Luck - 20% Skill". I didn't have the time to search it. Any ideas
Michael Manolios (mann on FIBS, Glass on GG)
Luck versus Skill
- Are good players just luckier? (Douglas Zare, Sept 2000)
- Are luck and skill related? (Eskimo+, Feb 2003)
- Does backgammon need less luck? (Raccoon, Jan 2008)
- How much of backgammon is luck? (Wai Mun Yoon, Jan 1998)
- How much skill versus luck? (Alexandre Sierra, Nov 2000)
- How much skill versus luck? (JP White+, Aug 2000)
- How often to win with perfect play? (Robert-Jan Veldhuizen, Nov 2000)
- Is backgammon gambling? (Luc Palmans+, Oct 2010)
- Is backgammon gambling? (Kevin D. McLeaster, Sept 1997)
- Is there really luck in backgammon? (benf+, Jan 2012)
- Recognizing luck (Walter Trice, Dec 2004)
- Strange result (az-willie+, Mar 2003)
- The Bower Luck-O-Meter (Gary Wong, Aug 1998)
- Why are stronger players luckier? (Bob Sweeney+, Oct 2002)