What Games Can Poker Players Play to Improve their Skillset?

By Sarah Thomas
June 06, 2019

Playing hours and hours of poker is easily the best way to get good at the card game, but it can lead to burnout and disillusionment when things aren’t going well. This is why a lot of poker professionals play other games. They can be used as a form of respite from Texas Hold’em, but they also represent a way for a player to improve their overall skillset in poker. This is because there are a number of transferable skills in other games that can be taken to the Texas Hold’em table. Here are some games that card players can enjoy as a way to boost their poker skills.

Fantasy Card Games

One of the best ways to improve heads up play is through PvP fantasy card games like Gwent and Hearthstone. A number of poker players, including Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand (ElkY) Grospellier have gone down this route. Both have been known to play Hearthstone competitively. Grospellier was actually an eSports player before he got into poker, and he found that his strategic talents were applicable in both games.

READ MORE: Interview with Daniel Negreanu

Fantasy card games have a core foundation of mathematics, just as poker does. In essence, the player with the highest value hand should win. But there are ways to incorporate strategy in order to prevail with a weaker set of cards. This is done through bluffing, deception, and trying to second-guess your opponent. Gwent and Hearthstone are fun, and they can help players refine their heads up play and make it to being the last person standing in a tournament.

Building and playing with a deck in Gwent will help increase a player’s understanding of value. Each card comes with its own provision cost, and players need to make that translate to worthwhile value when the card is played on the board. For example, if you put a 10-point provision card in your deck, you need to be getting 10 points of value out of it. So if it is worth 6 in value and deals 4 damage to an opponent’s unit, the value is achieved unless the 6-point card is then removed from the board. If the four unit card that was removed was also an engine that boosts other units, there is added inherent value because it has stopped that unit from adding value to other cards.

Online Video Poker Variations

Online video poker represents a way of playing the game which is completely different from the usual table format. Video poker games online give players a chance to refine their strategy and test out their skills in a range of exciting and innovative ways to play the classic game. These include offerings like Deuces Wild, Jacks or Better, and Bonus Poker. Each of these games has a slightly different rule set to the traditional game, so it is wise for players to familiarise themselves with the differences before they play.

Video poker shares a lot of similarities with slot games, in that there is a high level of chance involved. Where they differ from the reel-spinning games is in the fact that players are usually able to hold cards and make choices which have an effect on the outcome. For this reason, players need to have good knowledge of winning hands and their likelihood of coming in. Playing games like these, therefore, is an excellent way to improve an understanding of probability.

Probability is one of the key aspects of poker, and professionals are constantly trying to work out what the chances of their opponents having certain cards are. They need to work out their own odds of winning a hand, and decide whether it is worth playing based on the size of the pot and how much they have already invested.

Sudoku and other Puzzle Games

Mathematical and problem solving skills are extremely important for poker players. In the online world especially, there is much more focus on these attributes rather than bluffing and psychological ability. To improve these skills, puzzle games for mobile are a good option. Sudoku is one of the most popular games among mathematicians, and the increasing difficulty levels of the games exercise the mind.

Research has shown that playing puzzle games can keep the mind sharp, which is just what a poker player needs. A 2014 study found that people who play Cut the Rope on a regular basis have improved executive functions. The Zeptolab game is miles apart from poker, but could be a way for card players to help their brains in a different way.

All in all, playing a wide variety of strategy, mathematical, and puzzle-based games can be great for the mind. It can also help develop valuable skills that can then be transferred to the poker table.



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Sarah Thomas poker author
Written By.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a content writer for entertainment websites. In her free time she enjoys playing all sorts of games, both live and online.


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