When you dissect the game of poker, it’s easy to think that the skills involved are fairly separate and distinct from other games. There’s the ability to bluff, understanding when to fold, and deciding with confidence which game variant to go for. These are all considerations and skills that need to be taken into account before a single card has even been picked up.
Despite the fact that many of these challenges seem fairly unique, the fact is that the skill sets they are derived from have far-reaching and diverse applications. So, during this time when poker fans and players alike are looking for activities to occupy them during the downtime post-WSOP (won, of course, by 25-year-old Scott Blumstein and earning him a massive $8,150,000), it’s worth remembering that there are other games out there suitable for honing skills necessary for the poker table.
eSports: Top Level Competition
The world of poker has been in the mainstream for quite some time now, and is so popular in fact that the Casino Royale installment of the Bond franchise featured a storyline that heavily revolved around the poker table, helping it to make a worldwide box office gross of $599,045,960.
However, when it comes to other big gaming opportunities hitting the mainstream, there is a new kid on the block: eSports.
eSports can allow poker players to see precisely the way in which top players react and respond to tough situations as a live game unfolds with a captive audience watching on. With the likes of PlayStation sponsoring tournaments, there is serious cash involved in this area, and there is an expectation that the market will make $696 million in 2017 alone. With big money comes big pressure, and watching how some of the world’s finest talent adapts to this whilst remaining ultra-competitive should be a valuable experience for any aspiring poker player.
Companies like Multiplay, Gfinity and others are already holding huge events and tournaments (tournaments that are so big that even the BBC is showing them live in the UK) so it seems clear that the high level of inter-team competition is seriously appealing to audiences. Being able to watch the top players in action as they react quickly to setbacks as well as competing one on one with other top level athletes in a group setting (something that poker often encompasses) means that there can be a great deal to learn from these upstarts in the world of gaming.
IOC President Thomas Bach: If esports makes it to the Olympics, it will be sport simulations, nothing violent. https://t.co/kx5NPKSxR9
— Ben Fischer (@BenFischerSBJ) August 29, 2017
Blackjack: Knowing When to Quit
eSports is clearly all about live action reactions and competition against other talented players, but the world of blackjack can teach aspiring poker pros the importance of mathematics in order to know when to escape a bad hand and when to double down (or, in the case of poker, go all-in). Indeed, there is a lot to compare and contrast when it comes to blackjack and poker, but the most interesting aspect is the fact that being a number-cruncher is key to both. In poker, the challenge can be working out the odds of hitting one of the cards you need for your hand to improve or gaining an insight into the hand your opponent is likely to have, whereas the battle of odds in blackjack is all about making sure you don’t underestimate the house edge and knowing when to go in big.
So much about blackjack revolves around an understanding of the odds and knowing when to walk away (after all, it’s worth remembering that in a one-deck game of blackjack, you start with odds of 1.20663% of getting a natural blackjack), skills that can also be key in poker. Blackjack is also a great example of a game where playing online rather than just face to face can be a good idea, as it helps you to focus in on the skills you’ve been developing. Another option is to combine the best of both worlds. Casino operators now offering their live blackjack offering, for example, combine online play with interactive play, allowing for online concentration while taking into account the element of social interaction both blackjack and poker demand.
Where Else to Turn Your Hand?
Blackjack and eSports are a couple of the most natural games to try that could help you improve at poker, but there are others as well. For example, chess will help you to appreciate the need for a long-term, strategic approach. This can sometimes be an unavoidable part of poker when you need to grind down your opponent (unless you end up in a four-move checkmate situation) over the course of a long cash game session or tournament.
Of course, there are plenty of other card games and board games that help you train your mind in ways that will help you with your poker game. Plus, you can always hit the books and start reading up on poker theory to brush up on the finer aspects of your game.
Whatever you decide to do, the only thing you must avoid is thinking that you can rest on your laurels and stop improving. Otherwise, you might find your opponents catching up and starting to best you at the tables. That’s an outcome no poker player ever wants.