It’s been a while since I did a game analysis and since Game #3 for 2016 is going to be a card game, I decided to take a look at one of the many card games I enjoy, one that is been around for a while and played worldwide. The game I chose is Poker, specifically the Texas Hold’em style.
How I Know the Game
I had seen some Texas Hold’em played before on TV during the World Series of Poker (WSOP, which incidentally has been going on for the past few weeks), but had never played it myself and didn’t really understand it until a couple years ago.
Some guys at work where having a little home poker tournament and a friend of mine invited me to come play. I didn’t know the rules so he taught me the basic rules and then I proceeded to watch the coverage of the prior 2 years of WSOP on Youtube before the tournament to prepare.
I didn’t do all that well. And although I lasted longer than my friend, I did not have a strategy for how to win.
About 8 months later I happened across a Twitch streamer named Jason Summerville who was streaming poker of all varieties every evening and I began to watch and listen. After a couple months of watching him and about a year after my first time playing Poker, the guys at work scheduled another tournament.
Again I watched WSOP, continued to watch Jason, and played some practice games with a Poker app or 2 on my phone. This time I ended up coming in 2nd place out of about 20 guys after some real close calls. It was often and I am smiling now just thinking about it.
On to Analysis
Many of these things will actually apply to all kinds of Poker but I am mainly looking at the Texas Hold’em, tournament style.
The goal of the game is simple, win all the chips. In a tournament, typically all the players will start with a similar number of chips and if you lose all of your chips you are out.
You play the game with a standard deck of playing cards. You can play as long or as short as you want and in a tournament this is usually until one player has all of the chips. The game is played in hands and each hands has several rounds of betting. Whoever wins the hand gets the chips that where bet by the various players.
You can find a more detailed description of the rules here.
Players have 2 basic ways to interact with each other. The most obvious is through betting. When you bet it forces your opponents to make a choice of whether to fold (let you win), call (match your bet to continue playing), or reraise (force you into this decision by putting more chips in). Also the size of your bet gives your opponents information about how strong you think your hand is, or how strong you want them to think it is.
The other less obvious methods of interaction is through table talk and nonverbal communication. Good players can read body language fairly well and can even fake body language giving their opponents false information.
One of the things about poker is that you can come from behind and win. This is usually done from “doubling up” or doubling the amount of chips you have by going “all in” and betting all of your chips that you will win. However like all catchup features, it has risk. If you lose the hand when going all in, you are out of the game.
Each hand has 2 blinds, a big blind and a small blind. These players have to bet certain amounts each hand. This responsibility rotates around the table by one seat after each hand. The blind is also usually the minimum amount of chips you have to raise by if you want to raise. Most tournaments have the blinds increase every so often to move the game towards completion.
Poker is full of surprises. This comes with any game that has randomness and hidden information. For Texas Hold’em you are surprised by the cards that are revealed each round and by the cards your opponents have.
Despite the randomness inherent in a game like poker, it is full of strategy. How else you several people consistently make a living at it? Most of the strategy comes down to playing the odds and playing the other players. There are books and websites dedicated to how to play poker well. One of the great things about poker is that it is unlikely that you will ever be able to play perfectly.
There is a ton of fun in poker. Every time you put the pieces together of whether you can beat your opponent or not based on the limited information you have it is awesome. It is like one puzzle after another and can be kinda rewarding.
This one is tough. I am not sure that poker has a flavor and that is OK.
In a word, money. This is what gets most people into any sort of gambling game to begin with. It is a powerful hook and can lead some people into spending too much money on the game.
There is actually an interesting crossover between people who play Poker and people who play Magic the Gathering (like me). And like MTG, Poker is a very fun game and there is a lot of strategy to be found in it. It has most of the elements of our 10 things list and is not surprisingly very popular. If you have never played before, I recommend giving it a shot. Although I will add that you probably should not play for real money (at least not at first and never more than you can afford to lose).
Have fun making games that stay popular like Poker.