Poker vs…. (Round 2 – Spades)

January 20, 2008

All right, after some well-deserved time off to heal its wounds from the nasty beating it took from hearts a few weeks ago, poker is back with a vengeance to take on a new challenger in spades.

Spades is a formidable opponent, weighing in at 265 lbs.

Let’s start the fight!

LEARING THE GAME
POKER: At the most surface level, it’s fairly easy once you know the different poker hands. Two from your hand, three community cards totals your best 5-card poker hand. Grading scale 5/10

SPADES: Fairly simple, depending on whose rules you’re playing with. The basics of playing a card, following suit, and the trump cards are about as easy as it gets, but the different variations of nil, what the points are worth, who leads with what card, etc…, bump the difficulty of learning the game up just a bit. Still, doesn’t take a genius. 5/10

UNDERSTANDING THE GAME
POKER: Hold ‘em games, much moreso than draw games, rely mostly on odds and statistics, instead of knowing what the keep and what to drop. So, really, under this category of the skill, if you understand what hands are more difficult to achieve in a hold ‘em game on FullTilt , you’ve already got a leg up against the competition. 3/10

SPADES: While it may seem remedial and restricted in terms of how one can understand and interpret different card play combinations in spades, it actually takes some experience to understand why certain cards are played, led or dumped. There are complicated decisions to make during game play that require keen observations skills throughout the entire hand, every hand. Managing bags (and doing it with a partner whose hand you cannot see) is a whole other issue, altogether. 6/10 BETTING/PLAYING SKILL:
POKER: Poker’s playing skill is dominated by intelligent betting, which is why these two different areas are combined into one. Taking control of the table with a power bet, throwing others a curve with a curious check, etc… (the list goes on and on) take talent, experience and balls (I sat here for 2 minutes trying to think of a better word to use, but I really couldn’t…sad). Aside from betting, poker players must be able to figure how their hidden hand plays not only against the community cards, but also against what other might be holding (of which betting from them can be a reveal to the contents of these hands, as well). 9/10

SPADES: Bidding is key here, as you’re usually not playing spades for money, you’re playing for points. Of course, there’s nothing against spicing a game up (we usually do), by putting a cash reward at the end of the climb to 500 points for the winning team, but that’s up to you. As veterans of bridge and spades will undoubtedly tell you, bidding in these games is a science, and requires a comfortable, unspoken relationship with your partner. You need to know if he/she tends to bid heavy. Is he/she known for risky nils? Should you underbid to even things out? If the other team bids low with no nils, do you overbid if you’re sitting on high suited cards to avoid a plethora of bags? How many tricks can you make if you only have 2 of one suit? Should you count on that king of diamonds as a trick if you have 5 diamonds? As you can see, plenty to work through. 8/10

READING PEOPLE
POKER: Well, this is pretty much what the game is famous for after the gold bracelets and sunglasses. If you got it, you got it…and oh boy does it make a difference. 10/10

SPADES: In spades you need to not only be able to read your opponents, but your partner, as well. However, you’re doing so primarily through the cards that are played, not the ticks or tells of the person himself (although talented card players can decipher certain card-playing decisions as a tell in and of itself.) Certain cards led can mean that person wants the suit led back. If a nil leads a suit, it probably means he’s safe there and wants it led back to either duck under or sluff a different suit. Does hesitation to play a card mean he’s debating which card to play? Or is he messing with you and only has one suited card left he’d be forced to play anyway? It matters, because if you choose to believe the former and lead back, you could be setting yourself up to be trumped. That said, reading people in the grand scheme of spades isn’t a major part of the game, but it does matter. 6/10.
LUCK
POKER: Luck? LUCK??? Blasphemy, you say. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Even the champs will tell you, there is SOME luck in poker. No more evident that the cruel, cruel river. Luck detracts from skill, so poker gets a -3 here. Minus 3

SPADES: In all honesty, you have to be skilled to be a good spades player. You need to not only be able to handle your own decisions, but be able to cooperate with your partner to make sure your team goals are met. If spades were hiring you for a job and asked on your resume that annoying questions, “Do you work better individually or as a team?” You’d have to say both. But, keeping the theme of honesty going…the cards do most of the walking here. You can be the spades master of the world, and if you get zero spades, virtually zero no high cards, but are stuck with the solo king of diamonds, you’re bidding 1. Even if your partner puts up a 6 or 7 bid…unless you’re down by 200 points, you’re not risking it. And on the other side of the table, if you’re dealt 6 spades, it’d be pretty hard for you to screw up a 4 or 5 bid regardless of how new you are to the game. Minus 4.

Final Score:
POKER: 24
SPADES: 21

And in a not-as-close-as-it-may-seem sloberknocker….poker redeems itself in it’s early career and climbs to a respectable 1-1 record.