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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Poker vs. BlackJack

There are three big similarities between BlackJack and Poker.

1. Basic Strategie & Starting Hands

BJ has a clear Basic Strategie - follow the BS or lose more money. Just that easy!
In Poker it isn't that easy but still there are the starting hands. The starting hands you choose depend on your own style but there are hands that are clearly -EV. Play hands like 72o often enough and you will lose money in the long run. Create your own Poker basic strategy with the starting hands that fit your game and you will have the best of it.

2. Card Counting and Pot Odds

To make money in BJ you have to count cards. To make money in poker you need to know pot odds. Without card counting the size of your bets is either flat (and you play a -EV game) or you have to size your bets in the blind (much more -EV). In poker you need pot odds to decide how much to bet and how much your draws are worth. If you don't know them it's just as bad as in BJ. You will fold good opportunities or play bad spots. Clearly -EV.

3. Bad Beats

Bad Beats in BJ can be cruel! You get 16 and bust, you double 11 and get an Ace. You have 20 and the dealer gets a five to his 16 ... after some years of BJ I've seen them all but it's still amazing to see all the ways a BJ dealer can beat you.
In poker you have the option to fold your hands and only invest into good opportunities - much better! Really? That's exactly what you do in card counting: betting big into good opportunities without knowing the next cards. And in poker? You think you control your destiny? Never, ever. It's the same principle as in BJ - win in the long run but be aware of the short term fluctuation.

Just happend tonight to me:

Playing Qc Jd on the button. Obeying the pot odds and bet it to the flop 8d 5s 9h and the turn Ts correctly. Betting again with a straight 8 to Queen and getting raised all-in. Hell! What does he have? Pocket Tens for Trips - I beat them. The same straight? O.K. we split. I don't find any reason not to call. He shows 5d 5c for trips. Good :-) The rivercard is a Tc! VeryBad :-((
This guy never had the pot odds top call me on the turn and no way he should have gone all-in but he did and hit one of his 7 outs. His odds were about 1:6 and he overbet 7 times but won a big pot by playing a huge -EV game.

Does this hurt? Yes awfully. Is he a winner? No!
Like the deeply dealt BJ game with DAS, resplit and surrender that just crushed you this is just a single short term event that won't affect your long term results. And still it hurts the same way.

So what's my point? BJ and poker have a lot in common. You can play it perfectly but you can't see what the next card will be. You still have a little more control about your destiny in poker but that's it. I'm amazed that most poker players (even those with good knowledge in basic concepts like pot odds) lack the knowledge about the difference of short term and long term results. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much whining about bad beats.
Being an "advantage player" in BJ really helps to understand the concepts in poker much easier. I'm happy that I learned this stuff during my BJ times and can use them to my advantage in poker.
So if you suffer a bad beat but played you A-Game don't think about it too long. Be friendly to the guy who beat you - he will contribute a bunch of money to our future winnings ;-))


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