Everyone wants to become a better poker player, but it’s not easy to stand among the greats such as Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu. In fact, becoming a more skilled poker player is a complex process that requires time, dedication, and a logical approach to the game.
Fortunately, however, there are many routes to the top and that means you can utilize a variety of strategies in order to increase your EV. One such tactic is to use some skills from a different betting arena and apply them at the poker table.
When you log into an online poker site and scroll through the lobby you’ll now find a plethora of gaming options. Although you won’t be able to learn something from every casino game on offer, there is one game that aspiring players can learn a thing or two from, and that’s blackjack. In fact, over the last few years a number of blackjack players have successfully transferred their skills to the poker arena and used them to boost their long-term EV.
From Blackjack to Poker
Probably the most notable blackjack-to-poker player is Andy Bloch. During his time in college, Bloch was a keen blackjack player and used his penchant for mathematics to successfully bank millions of dollars at casinos around the world.
Later in his career, Bloch would successfully compete in a variety of poker tournaments such as the EPT and the WSOP, and one of the main skills he used to achieve success was his ability to understand statistics. Bloch, as a master of percentages, could analyze pre-flop odds better than many of his peers, just like he did when he was a blackjack player.
For an aspiring player, the process of comparing starting hands from a statistical standpoint is crucial. For example, pocket aces versus a pair of deuces is an 80/20 match up. Taking this information into account, you can then compare dozens of potential match-ups (your opponents’ range) to your own hand and see whether you’re in a strong position to make a move. Bloch’s affinity for looking at the odds of certain cards occurring at the blackjack table allowed him to grasp this concept extremely quickly and that gave him a huge head start during the earlier part of his poker career.
Blackjack Skills You Can Use
If Bloch was able to use this blackjack skill to kick-start his poker career, it begs the question: what other skills can you use to help augment your game? Let’s take a look at some elements of blackjack and see if we can prize out some more useful nuggets of information:
Watch Those Around You
A crucial skill at the blackjack table is the ability to check the dealer’s up card before you make a move. For example, if the dealer is weak (showing a 4, 5 or 6), you can stand on weaker totals than you normally would. Applying this concept to poker, it’s crucial to look at those around you before you make a play (something the brilliant Phil Ivey does). If you can pick up on strength or weakness, it can turn a fold into a bet and a bet into a fold.
Become a Shadow
Poker players like Phil Hellmuth enjoy the attention their skills have brought them; however, becoming well-known puts a target on your back. If you want to play like the pros, take a leaf from the blackjack pros that attend the highly secretive Blackjack Ball each year and remain anonymous. One of the most significant events on blackjack’s cultural calendar, Max Rubin’s Blackjack Ball is a chance for the top players in the world to meet under a cloak of darkness and swap ideas, much like online poker players can do across the industry’s largest forums.
Read a Book
Reading the latest strategy is crucial. Blackjack players still refer to classic literature from the likes of Edward O. Thorp when they want to improve their skills, just as poker players will still read Doyle Brunson’s Super/System. Naturally, however, to stay in touch with the modern game, it’s important to read tips on relevant blogs, forums and, of course, here on Cardplayer Lifestyle.
Learn to Negotiate
To make it deep in any tournament, it is crucial to learn how to negotiate, and that’s something one of blackjack’s most important cultural figures, Don Johnson – who interestingly works in computer horseracing systems and received one of the biggest payouts in blackjack history – has proved time and time again. Between 2010 and 2011, Johnson was able to negotiate favorable conditions at the top casinos in the US simply because of his willingness to bet big and his skill edge. Having confidence in your own skills in order to take the lion’s share of a final table deal could net you a lot of extra cash depending on the stakes you’re playing for.
Take a Shot (But Do So Responsibly)
The biggest bettor and blackjack player in the world is Zeljko Ranogajec and, according to reports, his annual wagers total $1 billion each year. Although you should always stick to the limits of your bankroll, it’s important to take calculated risks in poker. For example, very few poker players could actually afford to play the $1 million One Drop event. Even the legendary Daniel Negreanu, who could afford a buy in that large, realized that selling a little action made financial sense in order to hedge the potential risk. In fact, many of the world’s top poker players sold pieces of their action and that’s something you can do to take your game to the next level.
Learn When to Bet
When you play online blackjack, it’s important to know when you should adjust your bets. For example, through a process of analysis, skilled blackjack players can determine when the deck is in their favor (contains more high value cards) and when it isn’t (when it contains low value cards).
Although it’s not possible to do the same in a game such as Texas Hold’em, you can use a similar process of deduction in games such as Seven Card Stud. By looking at your own cards and the up cards of your opponents, you can get a better idea of how many cards are left in the deck that could be drawn to help your hand.
Treat Your Game like a Business
There are plenty of well-known authors who have written blackjack books about strategy as well as the history of the game in pop culture; Lawrence Revere is one of the most important. Revere was the author of Playing Blackjack as a Business in 1969 and this book changed the way people thought of the game. Instead of seeing blackjack as a way to make a quick buck, Revere’s work showed that through a combination of skill and discipline you could make a steady profit. This is also true of poker, and if you’re able to appreciate the concept of long-term EV, you can use your skills to make a consistent amount of money.
It’s not a skill that will help you make more money at the poker table, but it will certainly enhance your overall experience of the game. When you look at the roots of blackjack and its place in popular culture, a fundamental aspect of the game is entertainment. Whether you’re in a live setting such as the Bellagio in Las Vegas or playing at an online site, the game is designed to be fast-paced and fun. The same is true of poker and each time you sit down you should be enjoying your time on the felt and, if you’re not, you should take a break and refocus before you start betting again.