Both blackjack and poker can be accurately described as skill-based casino games and while there are many online casino blackjack players that enjoy a game of poker and vice versa out there, there are important distinctions to be made between the two and it is often vital that a player perfects their blackjack game before transitioning to poker.
Blackjack is one of the oldest games on the planet, with it universally accepted amongst experts that the game originated in French casinos in the early 1700s. In comparison, poker and especially the Texas Hold’em variant is still arguably in its infancy, with tournaments in this style only coming into prominence since around 1970.
There are many differences between the two games, the main one being that blackjack requires the player to play against the dealer and the house whereas poker players generally compete against each other. Still, while the strategies involved in the two games couldn’t be more philosophically diverse, there are several aspects of blackjack that translate very well to most variants of poker. In that way, it’s no wonder that a good blackjack player will approach poker with useful skills even if they are new to the game, and vice versa.
Confidence is all important in any skill-based card game. Players need to have faith in their own ability to make the right decisions under pressure and equally important is the need to know when things aren’t going in their favor in order to stop and regroup. Playing blackjack, regardless of the variant you go for also helps you understand that losses are unavoidable, owing to the fact that the probable outcomes are more out of your hands in comparison to a game such as Texas Hold’em.
With regards to proof that the confidence and aptitude required for blackjack are transferable to poker, you need to look no further than Doyle Brunson or Russ Hamilton, with the latter displaying a proficiency in both of the card games. Hamilton won the 1994 WSOP, defeating Hugh Vincent and taking home $1m for his troubles as well as winning his own body weight in silver, as it was the 25th anniversary of the tournament. Hamilton is the mastermind behind the concept of Elimination Blackjack, which revolutionized the game and made it more accessible and exciting as a television spectacle. On top of this, the American founded The Ultimate Blackjack Tour in 2005, which was televised after American network CBS bought the rights to the show and became the network’s highest rated show at the time in its particular slot.
Knowledge, Tactics and Math
It follows that players need a good understanding of the rules of both blackjack and poker before taking the plunge but simply being aware of the basics isn’t enough for those wanting to excel in both arenas. However, the skills involved in both poker and blackjack are often more interchangeable than players think, with both games requiring players to mathematically work out the odds of beating the deck.
In blackjack, getting your cards to add up to 21 is obviously the primary objective but players must know what the chances of getting to this number or at least as close as possible and when to use one of many tactics available such as splitting, surrendering or even doubling down. Although there are many variants of blackjack games, the differences between them are usually subtle. Andy Bloch is another player who has made the successful transition from blackjack to poker and has been featured in the 2005 blackjack documentary The Hot Shoe, as well as starring in his own instructional blackjack DVD, Beating Blackjack. As an article by The Telegraph documents, Bloch’s rise throughout the casino world was meteoric and garnered so much worldwide attention that he was immortalized in the Sony Pictures film 21, which went straight to the top of the box office upon its release in 2008, grossing an impressive $157m worldwide.
Despite the skill factor involved in both blackjack and poker, you could make the case that psychology has just as big a part to play in determining whether players will be successful or not. Playing any game of skill in the wrong frame of mind can have disastrous effects and every decision is best calculated with both a calm and clear mind. This is especially important as otherwise you experiencing tilt, which can’t only happen in poker but in blackjack and beyond, if you think about it. This emotional state of frustration involves a player playing poorly due to emotional distress, usually caused by a bad run of cards. By widening one’s range of games and experiencing different setups, poker players can shield themselves against tilt. As in blackjack you play against the dealer, your opponent will not try to rile you up or bluff, but the experience itself is valuable in learning to focus on the game and not let emotions get the better of you.
Research carried by Dutch psychologists out into the most common mistakes blackjack players make has concluded that 44% errors relate to not taking an extra card when they should, indicating that players gamble conservatively in an attempt to stay in the game. With a more positive psychological outlook and a winning mentality, these mistakes can be eliminated by getting yourself in the right frame of mind before you sit down at the table or log onto your mobile device. Blackjack is a game which requires a full amount of focus and the psychological foundations built by playing it are sure to be stretched even further in a game of poker. Playing against other players as opposed to the dealer means that not only do you have to master and control your own facial expressions and body language, you also need to train yourself to detect changes in your opponent’s demeanor.
Patience Is Key – It Takes Time!
As is the case with any sport, activity or hobby, getting good requires massive amounts of practice and let’s face it, a certain amount of luck. Thankfully, with the advancement of technology and rising popularity of the online casino industry, there are plenty of games available where players can hone their skills at the casino without a need to bet real money, and this is probably the best way for newcomers to blackjack or even poker to gain the experienced required to sit at the top tables with the pros.
In addition to this, there are various tutorials, in particular on the popular streaming and video website YouTube, where players can learn the basics of the game and then progress through increasing levels of difficulty in order to start thinking about barging open their local casino doors, ordering a Martini (or something equally as fancy) and taking a seat at a table to ready to take on the rest of the casino.