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Poker Life: WSOP wrap, varying your strategy and games like Poker

Fri, Jul 28, 12:07pm by Poker Guru

First of all, congratulations to the new WSOP Main Event champion: Scott Blumstein, a 25-year-old professional poker player from New Jersey. As I predicted an “unknown” won again.

Blumstein seems to be a humble and sharp guy and I really liked his comments from the press conference: “Two weeks ago I was just a New Jersey online grinder and nothing’s really changed. This is just one poker tournament. It takes variance and luck and playing your best.”

Blumstein got lucky on the last hand with A-2 against A-8, catching a deuce on the river, but he seemed to have played a solid big stack at the final table and certainly deserved to win.

Chris Ferguson finished 2nd in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship and now leads the WSOP Player of the Year race after the 71 events in Las Vegas. 17 cashes and 2 final tables in Las Vegas is very impressive.

He really proved himself as a great all-round poker player, cashing in seven different poker variants. Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo is not an easy game. There are 11 more events at WSOP Europe in the Czech Republic this fall, and I am sure Chris Ferguson will come to Europe for that.

Personally, I have not played much poker lately but I have played bridge and backgammon. Even though backgammon is not even a card game, it is a game that seems to require exactly the same skills as poker.

Just look at the number of world class poker players who are (or were) also world class backgammon players. Gus Hansen, Erik Seidel, Dan Harrington and even legendary Stu Ungar have all been professional backgammon players.

I think backgammon and poker have so much in common that playing one game will improve the other game.

Your opponents’ range of possible hands in poker is equivalent to the “range of” possible outcomes of your opponent’s next dice throw in backgammon. Of course, in a dice game the probability for throwing 6-1 or 3-3 is always the same but the impact on the game isn’t.

Another similarity is that your level of aggressiveness is proportional to your variance, and you can pick a style that suits your personality or, better, a style that does not suit your opponent. I am sure Stu Ungar was a very aggressive backgammon player, for example, just as he was an aggressive poker player.

Speaking of Stu Ungar, he was also a very sharp gin rummy player. Some people even claim gin rummy was his best game. Is gin rummy also similar to poker? In a way, yes, because you need to make assumptions about your opponent’s hand in both games but to me gin rummy is more a pure card game than poker.

In gin rummy you need to have a good card memory which is not required at all in poker, except for Seven Card Stud.

In my mind gin rummy, bridge and other whist games are the best card games there is. Better than poker? Yes, and I will come back to that in a future column.

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