Football and Poker: The Similarities Behind the Psychological Side to the Games

Within each of their spheres, football and poker are the most popular disciplines of their kind. In traditional sports, football is the national game of the US.

Poker, meanwhile, is the king of card games. It’s the first choice of many players both in online and offline casinos. They are the best in their respective fields, but what are the similarities between the two?

Using the Grey Matter

Unlike many other card games, poker games aren’t all about chance. There is a serious level of skill and strategy required, whether you’re out at a physical casino or playing poker online. While each deal and turn of a card is random, players have to think carefully about how they react.

Some think of football as being simply a physical game, but it is much more cerebral than you may realise. Players must be able to read a game and watch patterns of play develop. They will instantly know when a teammate is running into space to accept a pass.

Instinct plays a big part in both disciplines, and this is something that football and poker players can only learn with experience.

Mind Reading

Poker has a set of terms that are unique to the game. We all know about the art of bluffing, where a player goes in with big stakes, despite having a weaker hand. There’s also the classic ‘poker face’ element where each player remains as impassive as possible, trying not to give signals over the strength of their cards.

Reading your opponents is another crucial part of poker strategy, and there is a similar element within football. A perfect example comes when the Quarterback is hiding his pass selection.

Prior to the pass, the defending team will have done their research on the play. Where does he prefer to pass, to the left or right? There are similar questions to ask around the poker table when players are assessing their opponents.

Styles of play will be assessed from previous poker tournaments in an attempt to identify patterns.

The Quarterback now receives ball, and they might fake to go one way, before switching to the other. 

This element of mind games also exists in poker. Players will attempt to give out false signals, which they hope will be misinterpreted by their opponents. Elements of kidology and attempts to read the minds of opponents exist in both poker and football.

Watching On

It’s strange to think of poker as a spectator sport, but its high levels of drama make it perfect for a watching audience. This is why the game has been portrayed in many films from the start of the James Bond franchise all the way through to more modern releases such as Molly’s Game.

The biggest tournaments are broadcast live, while some TV stations show regular poker games and news updates. The thrills of the build-up and the final turn of the card mean that poker is the best card option in terms of drawing a crowd.

Football also returns the best viewing figures of any sport in the US, and the reasons are the same. It’s a thrilling game with great drama from the very first minute all the way through to the final whistle. In short, poker and football have all the qualities needed to attract audiences to watch the live action.

Quality Wins Out

Some would argue that there is too much of an element of chance within poker, while football is all about skill. Naturally, the turn of a card can determine a game, but the statistics show that the strongest poker players will generally rise to the top.

There will always be exceptions and, in 2006, amateur player Jamie Gold pulled off a shock result by scooping a $12 million prize pot at a World Championship event. In football, there are similar shocks – such as the Patriots defeating the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

In the main, the best players will enjoy more success in both poker and football. This tells us that both disciplines require high levels of skill and, while there is an element of luck involved, this is kept to a minimum.

There are some clear differences between poker and football. In the case of the card game, it’s very much down to one individual taking on a set of opponents. With football, this is a team game and one where each member of the side is relying on each other to an extent.

Overall, it’s interesting to see the similarities between the two games which, at first glance, would appear to be completely different.

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