When you walk up to the blackjack table, or into the poker room, do you have a plan as to how you are going to conduct yourself? Do you ever think about how you will react to a given situation before it happens? You should! Is your demeanor the same in both games?
There may be times in poker that you might want to project an image of “knowing the game,” to obtain psychological superiority over opponents. I really can’t think of anytime this image would do anything but be harmful to you at the blackjack table. Poker players have lots of choices to make as to how they are going to play their hand, or react to the way you have played yours, but the blackjack player has no such decisions to make. A world class poker player might wear his satin “World Series of Poker” jacket to the game, but you would never see a professional blackjack player wearing his “I Love Lawrence Revere” tee shirt to the casino.
In the past, as I am now, I have referred to the players of these games as two separate people. My objective is not to sway your thinking to playing one or the other, but both. What a lethal combination you’d have if you were competent in both games.
Just think, after your arrival at the casino, the blackjack game with excellent rules and deep penetration that you heard so much about, has been replaced with a game that is either unbeatable or a time-waster. What do you do? If you are a competent poker player, you go to the poker room. This is especially true if they have the only game in town, and you have traveled some distance and planned to stay awhile. Everyone is not blessed with having 10 or 12 casinos at their disposal.
“In poker, just as in blackjack,
there is normally only one
correct decision to make
in a certain situation.”
I have a few suggestions about becoming a competent poker player. Even though you will probably find yourself playing in a lot more private games than in the casino, I recommend that you learn casino poker first. You find many different rules in the private game, but you’ll be better off learning the casino version, and then adjusting your strategy for the private game. Remember, casinos don’t play games like hi-low split with a declaration. All casinos play “cards speak.” Rules like this require changes in strategy.You need to build a good foundation of basic poker knowledge, even before learning the different poker games offered in most casinos. A good place to start, would be to read The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky.1)David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker was written with “limit” games in mind but in 2019, the book was updated to reflect “no-limit” games. I have read this text from cover to cover at least three times. I refer to it quite often.
“…you would never see a
professional blackjack player
wearing his ‘I Love Lawrence
Revere’ tee shirt to the casino.“
The next purchase I would make, would be Super System by Doyle Brunson. There may be some outdated information in this text, but Brunson’s hand-picked world class experts teach each game thoroughly. After that I would buy Hold’em Poker by Sklansky, Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players by Sklansky and Malmuth, Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players by Sklansky, Malmuth and Zee, High-Low Split, 7 Card Stud & Omaha 8-or-better for Advanced Players by Ray Zee, and Sklansky on Poker by David Sklansky. Some of these books may be available from the Blackjack Review’s catalog. I also would purchase Poker Essays by Malmuth.2)Of course, since this article was written there have been many changes in the poker world including other excellent books on the subject. The biggest change, however, is the predominance of cash and tournament No-Limit Holdem.
I spend a lot of time thinking about both games even when I am away from the table. It helps to think of certain situations, and how you would act or react to them, and what the rewards or consequences would be. Thinking about the game will keep you better prepared. By reading the Theory of Poker first, you will build that solid foundation of knowledge by thinking in the right sequence of events. Remember what I said in the first article about reading the wrong information. This is just a waste of time and money.
In poker, just as in blackjack, there is normally only one correct decision to make in a certain situation. If you make the wrong decision, you are going to lose money. There will be enough times that you make the right decision, and still lose the hand. There will be other times that you will make the wrong decision and win the hand, but this will cost you money in the long run just as it does when you violate basic strategy in blackjack.
Your primary objective is to win money. You will enable yourself to do so by being properly prepared. Hopefully, this series of articles will get you headed on the right track.
EDITOR NOTE: Yancy Howard is a dear friend of mine and the individual most responsible for leading me on the right path to winning poker. Like blackjack, poker is a casino game that can be beaten with skill. I find the combination of blackjack and poker a powerful weapon to bring home the money. Although both games take considerable time and effort to master I highly recommend all blackjack players consider adding poker to their arsenal of weapons.
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[ This article was originally published in the Summer 1995 issue of Blackjack Review magazine. ]
|David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker was written with “limit” games in mind but in 2019, the book was updated to reflect “no-limit” games.
|Of course, since this article was written there have been many changes in the poker world including other excellent books on the subject. The biggest change, however, is the predominance of cash and tournament No-Limit Holdem.