Poker VS. Round 3: Blackjack

July 13, 2008

Poker VS: Round 3 – Blackjack

Man, you’d think poker was pulling a Brett Favre for how long it’s been since toppling over spades in it’s last VS. bout, when it brought it’s record to a respectable 1-1 over Spades.  But that’s not the case, poker never retired, it just laid low for a while, and now it’s ready to return and compete against the Chicago Bears…er….Blackjack.

Here we go!  As is always the case, poker’s scoring has already been determined, so the new content you’ll see is under the blackjack sections.

 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
       

BLACKJACK: Well, it can get a bit tricky with blackjack.  Learning the game is cake, mastering the game takes real talent and some card-counting abilities, as well.  But since those would fall under another category, all I can scale this on is your ability to count to 21.  1/10       

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, you’ve already got a leg up against the competition.  3/10
        BLACKJACK: Blackjack’s understanding comes mostly from decision making and situational betting, which I’ll go into more in the next section since it more or less falls under that category.  However, there is one thing you do need to understand when sitting at a blackjack level.  It’s a universal rule that applies at the tables regardless of the stakes.  If you make a wrong move, all your former allies at the table are going to be pissed off at you, and it can go 1 of 2 ways.  Either 1, you bust yourself and everyone assumes your wrong play is going to screw up their upcoming cards (like they would’ve just magically received 21 anyway), or 2, you get the card you needed, you momentarily look like a genius, but then the next player busts and you’re on everyone’s shit list again.  However, to be fair to the game, knowing when to hit, stand, split, etc… is complicated and involved.  They don’t make cheat tables for nothing.  8/10      

   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
       

 BLACKJACK:  So far in it’s two rounds, poker has been king in this category, as it should.  In blackjack, betting matters, but it’s only for yourself and only to make money.  Isn’t that always the point you ask?  Of course, but better can become a powerful gameplay and persuasion tool in poker and other games, as well.  Not so in blackjack.  Betting falls under a couple categories here, knowing what type of increased or decreased denominations to bet, usually determined by how you win or lose.  Different players have different systems here, and I’ve personally witnessed a couple that really worked well.  The second area of betting is during double downs, where the decision isn’t even how much to bet, it’s just to accept the double down at all.  3/10       

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
      

  BLACKJACK: Well, considering you’ll see 95% of the cards that are in play during each hand, there’s not a whole lot of reading people going on.  And for that one dealer card that’s hidden, let’s just say if you’re trying to read it at any point, you can pretty much guarantee you’re leaving the casino with no money and a broken hand…and maybe a dirty look from Don Rickles.  0/10.
        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
      

  BLACKJACK:  Even with knowing how to bet, in my opinion (and I’m certainly no expert) the cards themselves play a huge role in your success.  You’re not playing against the man, you’re playing against the odds and the cards, so the luck of the draw (and the cut), and if you’re “lucky” enough to have players next to you that know when to hit or stand, is more or less the determining factor as to whether you win or lose.  Granted, you need to know how to play the game, you can have all the luck in the world but you’re still going home a chump if you keep hitting on 17, but assuming you’re well versed in the gameplay decisions involved, the only thing left for you is to get those cards you need. Minus 5.

Final Score:
POKER: 24
BLACKJACK: 7

Wow, poker cruises to a 2-1 overall record, and blackjack sets what might stand up as the all-time low in scoring.  Hell, even monopoly would beat a 7.  Sorry blackjack gurus, maybe the scoring system puts your game at an undeserved disadvantage, but when you step into the ring with poker, looks like you’re getting abused.

HIT ME!