It is the age old question. Is poker a game of chance of a skill-based game? It is usually a question that gets asked by newer players, but anyone who plays poker seriously knows that poker is a game of skill where the better players come out on top more often than not. Poker is about making decisions that are based on mathematics and psychology. And it is about outsmarting the opponent by knowing how they think about the game and making the necessary adjustments to exploit them.
There is a famous line from the movie Rounders, in which Matt Damon’s character said: “Why do you think the same five guys will make the final table of World Series every year?” Of course, this was when the World Series of Poker Main Event had smaller fields, but it’s not like solid pros haven’t made multiple deep runs in the main event once the fields got bigger.
Just look at the education backgrounds of some of the most successful poker players and it quickly becomes apparent that there are a lot of intelligent people who excel at poker.
Chris Ferguson, winner of 2000 WSOP Main Event, has a doctorate in computer science from UCLA. Two-time WSOP bracelet winner Bill Chen is a quantitative analyst, software designer and as a Ph.D. in mathematics from UC-Berkeley.
MIT and Harvard graduate Andy Bloch has forty seven WSOP cashes, including two second places. World Series of Poker bracelet winner Vanessa Selbst, US Poker Championship winner Alex Jacob and poker instructor and author Matt Matros all attended Yale.
A number of other well-known poker professionals are also Ivy League pedigree. Brothers and sisters, Howard Lederer and Annie Duke, are both graduates of Colombia. Brandon Adams, who you might know from Poker After Dark, has fourteen WSOP cashes to his name, and is a doctoral candidate at Harvard.
Those who are committed to learning basic, intermediate and advanced levels of poker strategy will make better decisions and have had more success than those who are not taught strategy, and play simply based on gut instincts. There is no denying this and the skills that can help you profit from poker can be used not only at the poker table but anywhere in life, including skills like decision making, risk assessment and money management – which can no doubt be useful in other business endeavors.
Poker is one of the “best strategic games” you can play without question, it manages to bring out the competitive person in you, and it is such a pure game. When you’re playing poker, both live/online, because the players do not see each others cards, elements such as bluffing, and the understanding of your opponent’s tendencies will go a long way to help you to become a better poker player. There are dozens of books for game theory and many other strategies that skilled poker players use to make optimal decisions on the table.
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