Of all the games that you can play in the casino, poker is far and away the best.
There’s a simple reason for this. Poker has much less to do with chance and much more to do with skill than just about any other game in the casino, except possibly blackjack.
Here’s why so many professional gamblers find themselves playing poker instead of blackjack.
Most People Have the Skill to Play
When it comes to poker, even people who are totally new to the game usually have the skill to play. The main thing you need to be able to do above all else is to psych people out.
Now, there are many ways of doing this, so let’s go through some examples of different types of poker players.
First, we have the “Chatty Kathy.” This person loves to talk. They are gregarious and friendly. They’re the type of person who has never met a stranger they didn’t like. They’re always trying to engage. But when it comes to poker, they have a nefarious motive—they’re trying to psych you out.
The goal for a person who does this is simple—distract while observing. When they’re talking to you, they use their natural skill in being talkative to distract you from what you’re doing. But it’s more than just that. They’re trying to be your friend or to get you to think that they’re your friend.
And if you’re their friend, you’re going to go easy on them, right? You’re not going to play a hand the way you might against an enemy because you like them so much.
This is one method. Another method and type is the “Rude Dude.” This person’s goal is to make you angry. That’s it. That’s all they care about. They’re going to be sarcastic and insulting, and if you fall for it and go on tilt, they’re going to snicker and gloat because they know they’ve got you.
Another method is the “Stone Face.” The Stone Face is my favorite because they never engage. They are an excellent foil to the Chatty Kathy and the Rude Dude. There’s nothing you can say or do to throw them off. They’re like a mountain.
They’re tough to take down because, just like a mountain, they’re immovable. You’ll never find a tell in these people because everything is hidden. Their reactions to hands don’t exist. They can bluff their way through any hand, and people are scared of them because there’s no guessing when they’re bluffing.
One way to scare these people is to reveal your hand on a successful bluff and show them your power. This is the “Psych Doctor.” This person could be a combination of any of the above characters, but with the added aspect of being able to mess with people’s heads through actions instead of words.
They reveal cards when they win that will make you wonder what’s really going on. They’ll develop fake poker tells, then show you that the tell is fake. They don’t make you angry; they make you question yourself. They’re chameleons you can never pin down.
Many of us have these skills and can employ them. It’s not hard to learn the rest of the game if you have these innate skills.
The Odds Are Not as Important as Reading Your Opponents
While it’s true that there are many forms of poker, each of them uses basically the same hierarchy of hands (Three-Card Poker is a little different).
Because of this, and because of the fact that the other players will always have some portion of their hands hidden, it will always be easier to learn how the hands work and to focus on your hand than to focus on theirs.
You have to try to figure out what’s going on in their head because you’ll immediately know what your hand is and how it matches up, depending on the game, with any other visible cards.
For instance, in real money Texas hold’em, you’ll find that you just have to figure out how your hand, combined with the other cards on the table, compares with other potential hands that an opponent might have.
With a little work, you can memorize the hands and figure out exactly what would mess up your hand if it was played and what wouldn’t.
This differs quite a bit from a game like blackjack. While blackjack is a more straightforward system, what’s not so simple is figuring out how to play every hand. You basically need to memorize an entire table that shows you how every single hand should be played.
Now, with poker, you can certainly learn the odds and see how each hand stacks up compared to other potential hands on the board (if you’re still playing Texas Hold’em). But with a game like Five-Card Draw where you don’t see anyone’s cards, all you can do is base it on what you think people are playing.
Another reason so many people love to play poker above other games is that it’s much more interesting than just about any other game.
Poker Is Much More Interesting
One of the biggest reasons that poker is played by so many people is that it is far more interesting than many other casino games. Playing blackjack is a great and all, but it can get monotonous after a while. No one really wants to sit in front of a dealer without talking much and playing hand after hand.
There’s no real interest there because the challenges are all number-oriented. If you just love the math side of things, then yes, blackjack might be for you. But most people prefer the challenge of trying to figure out what’s going on in other people’s heads.
How often do you get to compete with people you barely know for cold-hard cash? Card games are probably the most common places in society where this happens. You’re just not going to run into it very often.
Sure, there are other types of tournaments in the world, like video game tournaments. And yes, you can play against people in other kinds of card games, like trading card games, or even in physical sports. But how often are these games exciting in terms of the psychological aspect?
Poker is one of the few games in the world where it’s mind against mind trying to mess with each other to win. You see this in sports from time to time, but it’s just not the same.
Poker Is Fun to Practice With Friends
This is the part of poker that I think sets it apart from any other casino game—the ease with which you can play with friends and the joy that you can get out of this.
I don’t know many people who get together on a Saturday night to play blackjack, unless they’re part of a gambling syndicate and their goal is to make a lot of money by Sunday morning.
Poker is such a social game. It’s so much fun to get some friends together for a home poker game, grab a few beers and a few cigars, then give it a go.
You can easily stay up all night long just playing poker and having a blast. You can practice your poker face. But usually, you’re probably pretty relaxed and just there to have a good time. When it’s just you and the crew, you don’t have to worry about the stakes.
It’s also a low-cost way of having fun with friends. You just need a poker set and a few bucks to make the game friendly yet enjoyable. Then, you’re off to the races! …Or the tables, in this case.
Do you think poker is the best game in the casino, or is there something else you prefer more? Let me know in the comments.