Why Poker is More Like Football (And Life) Than One May Realize

With the World Series of Poker beginning soon, I’m  always curious as to how people view the game of poker. The more you know about the game, the more you realize that it’s not just a form of “gambling”. In fact, when you’ve been around the game long enough, it can often be compared to a game of chess. As I got to think about it, the game of football is arguably the closest related sport to poker that exists today. Don’t believe me? Consider this:

[Disclaimer: This post is a general comparison; because of this, many of poker’s nuances (three-betting, floating, blocker bets, etc.) are being left out. For one, any other comparison is unlikely to make sense, ESPECIALLY to those who don’t know (or care), about the finer points of either game. To further simplify the comparison,the poker game I will use for demonstration will be No-Limit Hold ‘Em.]

1) As anyone will tell you that knows about one or both games, position is everything. On the football field, your position in relation to the other teams’ goal line; in poker, it’s your position in relation to the dealer button. In both scenarios, your position dictates how conservative or aggressive you can be in choosing your plays.

2) There are also close similarities between the betting rounds in poker and the downs in football. In football, you have four downs to gain ten yards; in poker you have four betting rounds (Pre-flop, on the flop, turn, and river). In both scenarios, your objective is to beat your opponent at some point in between the first and fourth rounds/downs.

3) “Points” Matter: In the case of poker, “points” refer to the size of your chip stack. Just like position, your stack size relative to your opponents also determines how aggressive one can be. The same can be said for football; the number of points in relation to your opponents dictates the strategy. The main difference is that while in football, you’re only against one opponent, you can be against anywhere from 1-9 opponents in a poker game.

4* The Clock: I put an asterik on this one because in regards to poker, it really only applies to tournament poker. In theory, a cash poker game has no end; it can go on forever. Tournaments, however, do have an end, and the clock plays a vital role in your strategy. The only difference is that there is a fixed time in a football game, while in a poker tournament, generally speaking, the game is over when one player has all the chips.

After reading through all these similarities, I can see how the following conclusion can be drawn: “Well, yeah, there might be some skill involved, but when it boils down to it, it’s still gambling!”

If you’re someone who says that, then that means you’ve probably never competed in any sport. This comparison can be made across the board to all competition:

Sometimes you can play your best, and STILL lose.

It happens all the time. Sometimes the better player (or team) catches a bad break at a bad time, and they lose. Sometimes the underdog makes an improbable catch/play, one that defies the odds, and the favorite ends up on the wrong end of defeat. This is not just analguous to sports, this is arguably the most vital life lesson anyone can learn and apply everyday. All you can ever do is your best. You win some, you lose some.

Expansions? Clarifications? Comments? Leave them below.

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About mikeguillenblog

Nevada resident who splits time between Las Vegas and Phoenix. I'm a former professional golfer turned author, freelance writer, and blogger.
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