Ever since the Supreme Court made its historic ruling back in May 2018 overturning the ban on all forms of sports betting more and more States have started to allow the practice. Naturally, New Jersey who pressed most strongly for the change, was one of the first to permit it and now ten other States including Iowa, West Virginia and Rhode Island have joined them.
So as the sports betting bandwagon starts to gather speed it might be a good idea to see how it compares with another gambling phenomenon of recent times – online poker. Both have been made immeasurably easier due to the fact that it’s easy to take part on mobile devices, but what other similarities, and differences, do the two have?
When you watch a sport like tennis it’s pretty easy to see who the more skilful player on the court is. Yes, you can tell by the score line but beyond that you can see who is making the most effortless passing shots and firing in the most aces. But in both poker and sports betting there is undoubtedly skill involved, but it’s not that simple to see. Yes, you can see who has ended up with the biggest winnings, but the ability that’s got them to that point is far harder to witness as it’s happening. This is a particular issue for poker playersuntil you get to know the individual strengths and weaknesses of an opponent – easy to do in live games but trickier in online games. The biggest poker wins of all time all belong to players who have sat around the table rather than behind a screen, which reiterates the importance of body language and how it can help/hinder you, something which isn’t an issue when betting on sport.
In poker they say that one of the soundest strategies is not to change your strategy. It’s best to acknowledge that it’s going to work in the long run even if that involves some short-term losses. Similarly, in sports betting provided you’ve applied logic and planning to how and why you bet then you have to stick with it. Also, in both activities knowing when to sit tight and wait for a good opportunity to come along is crucial. All of the top poker players fold many more hands than they play, and the calculating sports betting fan will also be very selective about which games or teams to back.
While many people play poker just for fun, using counters or matchsticks as currency, to be really invested in a game having some cash on the table is key. It obviously means that the stakes are higher and that’s what you need to feel if you’re really going to bring your A Game to the table. In sports betting it’s a way to be even more involved in a game, even if it’s your favourite team that you’re watching. And even if you have no personal preference in terms of who you support, a small bet on the result can even make the most boring games more interesting.
This is a principle that can’t be repeated often enough – not just in poker and sports betting, but in all forms of gambling. Making sure that the amount of money you have to bet with lasts for as long as you need it to is critical. Managing this is another aspect of being patient and disciplined in your play. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be bold when it looks like the odds are heavily stacked in your favour. There is a formula, sometimes known as the Kelly Criterion, that can help you to calculate just how much of your bankroll to bet in given situations, but you can also just do it by feel.
Most people have heard of the 10,000 hours theory that it’s only after this amount of time engaged in an activity that someone becomes truly expert. While you don’t have to go quite this far in terms of experience, the more you play poker or bet on sports the more proficient you become. You see the same scenarios playing out and maybe even fall into the same traps. But by banking all this knowledge and experience it can’t but help you to become more skilled.
Often the difference between winning and losing is a very narrow margin indeed. But unless you’re always acutely aware that it there waiting to be exploited it’s possible that you’re going to miss it. In the case of sports betting it might be a question of searching thoroughly for the very best odds while in poker it can be as simple as spotting an obvious tell in another player. It’s the seizing of these opportunities that are waiting to be exploited that reallycan make a difference.
So far, we’ve talked about things that are very much in the control of the poker player or the sports betting fan. But sometimes we also just have to go with our gut, whether it’s that our opponent is bluffing with a distinctly mediocre hand or the team that no-one gives a chance of winning will come good on the day. Again, this is something that will probably come with experience and, when it does, it’s a great feeling.
In poker you can only play the cards that you’re dealt and in sports nothing you do can have any influence on the team or the player in question. The power that you do have comes in different ways. In poker you can bluff others into believing you’re in a better position than you actually are and in sports betting you can pick and choose your bets.
So, as you can see, poker and sports betting are very similar in many ways, but with quite a few key differences too.