The U.S. Supreme Court recently had a chance to settle that issue, at least in the eyes of the law. But it did not. The court turned down a case where a New York man had been convicted of running a "game of chance" in his business by hosting Texas Hold 'em games. A federal judge sided with the business owner; an appeals court did not, saying state gambling laws include poker.
After playing poker for years, online and in person, we've concluded the answer to our question is not a simple either/or. There's a bit of luck, in terms of right cards falling at the right times -- but there's also a measure of skill, in knowing how to play hands and when to make certain key moves.
If you think about it, that also can describe our lives in general. For instance, a big tree could fall on top of your car while you're driving toward the poker room. But if you see the tree moving out of the corner of your eye, you might be able to skillfully drive around its fall and escape damage.
In the same way, some people say God doesn't really control anything -- that our lives are simply the result of our own decisions and unexpected events. They might actually quote a Bible verse to support that view:
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. - Ecclesiastes 9:11
We emphasized the last part of that verse, because that happens in poker on occasion. Poker rooms have "bad beat jackpots" for a reason. It's possible for two players to hit "quads" (four of a kind) in the same hand. Even the best-looking hands played in the best possible way sometimes can run into something better.
Yet the Bible says God "rules in the kingdoms of men" (Daniel 4:17, KJV). Perhaps He is the one intervening in certain situations -- perhaps to bless people, or possibly to punish them:
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. - Proverbs 16:33
So what's a believer (or even a poker player) to do? We think the answer lies in doing the best you can with what you have, based on what you know.
...The wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him. - Ecclesiastes 8:5-6
The "wise" way may not always be the winning way. But the Bible shows in the long run, it's the way that's best -- especially when that wisdom is based on the ways of God:
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright.... - Proverbs 2:6-7