Comparisons of poker to sports are quite common. The recent efforts of the new Global Poker League with its city-based teams and frequent mentioning of “sportifying” the game have kept that discussion alive.
Even so, there are many characteristics of poker that make it different from most sports. The lack of an athletic component is probably the most obvious. There’s another difference, however, one that was well illustrated, in fact, during one of the GPL heads-up matches this week.
Winning By a Little = Winning Big
In most sports, individuals or teams strive to score as much as possible, wanting to build big, comfortable leads over their opponents in order to increase the chance of victory. But in a hand of poker, it is often preferable not to make hands that are overwhelmingly better than those your opponents hold, but rather just slightly ahead so as to improve your chances of getting more value from those hands by winning bigger pots.
In other words — speaking mainly of hands that go to showdown — it is often better in poker to win by a little, so to speak, because your opponent is more apt to pay off more with strong second-best hands than with hands that are obviously crushed.
We can’t control what cards are dealt, of course, and so we can’t really force the issue when it comes to managing our hand strength. But recognizing this fact about poker — that the value of our hand is directly affected by the value of what our opponent’s have — can help us recognize what cards are good for us, what are not so good, and how to play our hands going forward.
A Good-Bad Flop for Kurganov
The GPL hand that brought up this difference between a poker hand and, say, a game of basketball, came during the first heads-up contest between George Danzer (representing the Paris Aviators) and Igor Kurganov (of the London Royals). It was the first hand of the match — and, as it turned out, the only hand of the match, as it ended with Danzer managing to claim all of Kurganov’s stack. Read More: Pokernews