Blackjack is a fun, fast-paced game but can it help you become a better poker pro?
The games are vastly different and the strategies involved could not be any more philosophically diverse.
However, several aspects translate well to poker and vice versa.
What are some of the benefits?
You get to play against the house, make easier decisions, absorb losses better, have a higher edge over the house versus other casino games, and most importantly the higher frequency of hands played per hour means more action.
And more action means increased fun.
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ANDY AND ERICA
Many former pros have made the successful transition across the felt to poker.
The two most notable are Andy Bloch and Erica Schoenberg. Andy Bloch was a member of the infamous MIT Blackjack Team that was made famous from the film “21.” Meanwhile, Erica Schoenberg made the jump from women’s volleyball to competitive poker.
BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
The most significant benefit is that you will be playing for house money.
Even though there are other players at the table, you play heads-up against the dealer in an attempt to make 21.
You are playing against the house, whereas in poker you’re beating up on your fellow poker players, many of whom are trying to bluff their way into winning pots.
blackjack: AUTOMATIC DECISIONS
Blackjack requires much easier decisions, however depending on which variant of the game you are playing, the betting options and table rules will need a little bit more thinking.
Poker requires a series of complex decisions on different betting streets in a single hand. Choices are automatic. You know what do every single time.
EMBRACE THE LOSS
Playing blackjack helps you understand that losses cannot be avoided. Bad beats happen in both poker and blackjack, but losing hands frequently happen in blackjack.
In a single session, you are exposed to more blackjack hands; thereby, you’re also exposed to more losing hands.
You get used to the feeling, so it gets to a point when a losing hand does not faze you.
NO MORE ANALYSIS PARALYSIS
Decisions in blackjack are cut and dry.
You either follow the optimal strategy, or you do not. If you have a losing session and play optimally, then there’s nothing you can do about it, except to accept the variance and move forward.
One of the more important aspects of poker is revisiting your hands and studying your online hand history. Poker players tend to overanalyze hands and overthinking can get you into trouble because it could destroy your confidence.
Sometimes players will overthink a situation to their detriment, particularly in the middle of a hand when they get lost in their over-analysis. That’s why you often see poker players go into the tank and take several minutes to come to a decision.
At the blackjack tables, the action progresses at a much swifter pace because the decisions are automatic.
HIGH LIMITS, SAME MATH
The skill required to play a $1 hand of blackjack and a $100 hand (or even a $1,000 hand) is the same.
The math is the same no matter what the stakes. In blackjack, the dealer’s skill does not grow as the stakes increase. As a blackjack player, the decisions are still the same no matter the stakes. Poker is the complete opposite.
The higher up the food chain you go, the better the competition. That means you need to step up your own game and have a certain level of skill if you want to move up in stakes, where the opponents are more dangerous and the decisions become more complicated.
Poker is 99% boredom and 1% exhilaration. Sure, that 1% feels incredible, but if you are playing poker the right way, then you are folding a significant amount of hands and waiting for playable hands, or picking the right spots to make a move.
Blackjack happens so fast that you can blink and miss a round. You get your best bang for the buck playing blackjack because you get to wager on every hand. In poker, you often fold the majority of your hands, but you have to wait until the hand is complete until you get another one.
Casino VIP hosts in Las Vegas and throughout the casino industry treat blackjack high-rollers much better than high roller poker players.
It’s nothing personal, it’ simply a dollar and cents thing because blackjack tables, especially high roller tables, bring in much more revenue than the rake from the “Big Game” inside Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio.
If you play blackjack in a live casino, you can rack up a significant amount of comps in a relatively short amount of time. Brick-and-mortar poker room comps are not very lucrative (typically $1 per hour much to the chagrin of middle-stakes players), even for high rollers.
But blackjack is often the fastest way to earn points. You can grind it out all day in a poker room and barely earn enough for a breakfast buffet comp.
However, you can play a couple of hours of blackjack and earn a comped dinner at the steak joint and a free room for the weekend.
HAVE FUN, BEAT THE HOUSE
Some blackjack players were able to become professional poker players, but the average poker player can learn a lot by playing blackjack.
The wonderful world of blackjack is a lot more fun; it requires a significantly lesser amount of deep thinking. All of your decisions are automatic in blackjack; so there’s less stress involved. The more enjoyment you have often means you are more relaxed.
So playing a fun session put you in better head space to play poker. At the same time, blackjack requires discipline and patience, so it helps keep your mind sharp.
Poker players are ultra-competitive; so playing against the house gives them a chance to get their competitive fix; while trying to win money off the casino; instead of fleecing a fellow member of the poker community.
After all, you always want to beat the house.