Sunday, December 03, 2006

Unlike Blackjack, Poker Is a Game of Mistakes

Practically speaking, blackjack and live poker are the only two "beatable" games in the casino. But the tools you need to win at each game are different as night and day.

Winning strategy at casino blackjack is quite an exact science. When you have 14 against the dealer's 5 up, for example, you should definitely stand every time, no matter what dealer you're up against. You know proof positive that the dealer will always take a card, even if she turns up a 10 in the hole and already has you beaten with 15. Also, most blackjack bets are for even money. With such concise variables to consider, determining the optimum play is nothing more than a lengthy mathematical problem. Once that's worked out, though, blackjack's proper strategy is gospel.

Poker, on the other hand is much more complicated. Basically, that's because you play against the other players. You see, in poker, you often don't know how your opponent will play his hand. It's the equivalent of your blackjack dealer turning up that 15, looking around the board and saying, "Hmm, should I take a hit here, or should I stand?"

That's how your opponents' free will in poker creates a whole new set of problems for you. When you bet into him, sometimes he'll fold, sometimes he'll call and sometimes he'll raise. And when he does raise, he'll occasionally be bluffing. Besides that, each player has his own set of standards for when he'll do each. Combine that with continuously varying pot sizes and correct poker strategy becomes a very inexact science. Actually, it's more of a personal art.