Gaming – Poker and football have many similarities

PokerTalkGraphicI am a huge football fan – anytime, all the time. My teams: The Denver Broncos (lifelong – John Elway came on during my senior year in high school), The Ohio State Buckeyes (home state), and The University of Colorado Buffaloes (graduate in 1992 – yep, we won a National Championship while I was there.)

I am also a gigantic poker fan. Love to watch it, love to talk about it, and love to play it. I do find it hard to do both at the same time – I can’t watch any of teams I follow and focus on poker because it is just too distracting. I have witnessed many very strong poker players blow their bankroll by betting football while playing poker. Don’t do it.

Watching Payton Manning this year – and being privileged enough to attend the cold, cold playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens – I found there were many similarities that can be drawn between the game of poker and football.

There are also many similarities between the type of people that play poker and football. High energy (at least off the table), craving action, and high spenders are all traits that I have found in both.

If you have read my articles in the past you know I have had privilege to play with a few professional football players and in every single case they were gracious (tipped well, were talkative and oozed positive energy.)

First – ‘strategy’

Many forms of strategy are similar in both poker and football. I saw a great example of a coach’s strategy gone badly in football during the Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons playoff game last month.

Seattle was ahead 28 – 27 with a few seconds to go and Atlanta set up to kick the winning field goal. As the kicker for Atlanta kicked the ball, Seattle’s coach called a timeout with a fraction of a second left – and the kicker followed through, missing the kick / but it didn’t count because of the timeout. The coach had called timeout to “ice” the kicker – as the odds dictate, making him think about it. But, in this case when he kicked after the timeout, the kicker made it and it propelled Atlanta to victory by 2 points. Thus, the coach’s decision to play the odds and call the timeout based on his experience and knowledge cost his team the game / strategy gone bad.

These types of decisions happen all the time in poker.  Examples include when a player folds due to the odds / then their card comes, or when a player calls with the odds are against them for a feeling – and loses. The key is that playing the odds on a consistent basis is the only way to truly be a winner. As in football, a player may not win every week but hopefully will win in the long run and win consistently due to the use of hard earned strategy. While it doesn’t always work out – it does in the long run.

Second – ‘reading of your opponent’

Payton Manning is the master of this in football. He reads the defense, changes the play – based on what he observes through his reads, thus wins more than he loses.

It’s the same in poker. As a hand is developing a winning player changes their game plan based on what they see in their opponent and what is happening around them.

Third – ‘timing route’

In football a quarterback will throw to a spot on the field because the receiver is supposed to be there. In poker, a player raises on a card that is supposed to be there (flush draw, straight draw) due to odds. Both are hoping and praying the plan and the timing works – if not, in poker a player loses money, in football a catch.

While all these things are common in poker and football, the one thing that plays a major role in both is luck. A team throws a Hail Mary pass and it bouncing off two players to land in the right player’s arms to win the game is the same as a player having a one card draw and catching it to win. Luck in football happens when a player falls down allowing a big gain, if an injury happens to a key player, or if the ball is deflected and changes the game.

In football – remember the immaculate reception by Franco Harris in the Pittsburg Steeler / Oakland Raider AFC Playoff Game in 1972  – he picked it up off the shoe tops out of nowhere and ran it in. Or, in poker – remember Doyle Brunson beating the odds and pulling off 2 World Series of Poker wins with a 10 – 2 off suit. Luck or right place, right time. As I said – lots of similarities.

Remember – play your game.

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