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Poker vs Chess Champion. Can They Compete at Both?

By October 6, 2022October 9th, 2022No Comments

Poker vs Chess

Chess and poker have been around for several centuries. These popular strategy games tend to be entertaining and nerve-wracking at the same time. Both require a healthy set of skills and a few strokes of luck.

Anyone willing to take up any one of these two excellent generally gets stuck with the thought of which one they should go for. Also, a standard query is about the hardness level of each of these games.

Does Poker Make You Smarter?

The general view is that poker is more challenging to master at any given time and age, and that is because it takes more skills and intelligence to win poker games than chess matches.

Poker players rely more on their intuition and situational understanding than their chess counterparts. This is because one needs to be excellent at reading people’s minds to win poker games. Whereas chess players mostly rely on their chess board skillset, poker players make their moves by their opponents’ reactions.

Where chess players compete using their understanding of the game’s rules and regulations, poker players mix skills with their overall emotional intelligence. With poker, one has to be equally sharp in dealing with specific situations that creep up during any contest duration.

How to Play Poker?

The underlying idea of poker is to beat one’s opponent with the aid of a potent mixture of mathematics, representation, and a touch of luck. In poker, the ultimate aim of any player is to make the opponent submit to the whims and strategies that one is applying to the game.

Once your competitor believes they possess the winning hand, they would be compelled to bet on their chips. This is when the game is at its best, and one false move can lead to utter defeat.

In poker, each player takes turns to opt for any of the following moves – raise, fold, check and call. Out of these, a maximum of three actions can be played simultaneously. Poker players do not get options while opting for their moves, as the choices are limited. However, it is still an elite game as it depends on the ‘general population tendency’.

In other words, in poker, one has to get inside the opponent’s mind to have a better chance of winning. The person who can do this masterfully goes on to win the game.

If your opponent thinks they are making all the correct moves and you are doing the opposite, you are halfway through to victory. 

Poker vs Chess Complexity

It is widely believed that the game of poker is a bit more complicated than chess, mainly because poker gives players more options than chess. As most poker is based on the guessing game, it automatically qualifies as the more complex of the two. Only when you start to understand how your opponent is thinking will you be able to begin your own planning.

This particular insight, however, remains unavailable to all poker players. Hence, poker automatically becomes the more complicated of the two, as it presents sufficient data to a player.

Poker depends a lot on assumptions. In chess, some rules and conventions have been in place since the modern version established itself sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. With poker, the parameters change entirely, and what was held to be the chief performance scale fifty years ago will not make a victor out of a current player. In poker, styles and conventions keep changing with time.

On the other hand, chess players will always look forward to making their best moves on the board within the boundaries of the established norms and conventions. Chess allows a player to use an array of calculations to reach the optimal movement needed in a particular situation. On the other hand, poker is much more fluid and does not rely much on set rules. The element of uncertainty is what gives poker its risky nature. For this reason, upsets are way more common in poker than in chess.

Chess Players Who Play Poker

Both chess and poker are considered games that need a tremendous amount of intelligence to master. Typically, it does not take much time to learn the rules of both these games. But to become a good player in either of them takes a long time.

Surprisingly, some individuals have been able to become seasoned chess and poker competitors in the same lifetime. Here we will share a few names of people who have defied the odds and excelled at both.

Dan Harrington

Dan Harrington is a prime example of someone who has collected laurels in a long career spanning decades in both chess and poker. Mr. Harrignton began his career playing chess and won the Massachusetts Chess State Championship in 1971.

After spending some time being a backgammon player, Harrington made headway into the poker world. He went on to dominate the game by collecting notable prizes such as the World Poker Tour (WPT) and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) titles on more than one occasion. He made headlines by winning the 1995 Main Event, widely accepted as the ‘Real World Poker Championship’!

James Obst

A child prodigy in chess, James Obst from Australia quickly rose to 2100 chess rating at only 15. He participated in a handful of chess World Youth Championships during this time. But alongside chess, Obst was also playing poker from an early age.

Even before turning 20, Obst had already won more than a million Australian dollars in online poker. His first big title came in 2017 when he topped the WSOP with AUD 265k as prize money. Cumulatively, Obst has collected over 3 million from various poker competitions.

Ylon Schwartz

Fide Master (FM) Ylon Schwartz began his professional career by competing in chess tournaments in and around the New York area in the United States. He soon made the giant leap from chess to poker in the year 200 and has not looked back ever since.

Even after going on full-on with poker, Schwartz never really said goodbye to chess and is still playing it once in a while. But his main area of interest has shifted to poker, from which he has earned a reported more than USD 5 million in prize money.

Alexander Grischuk

Super Grandmaster Alexander Grischuk is one of those rare personalities who embodies the best of both chess and poker. Rated among the best chess players of his generation, Grischuk took his love of strategy board games over to poker and nailed it.

He has amassed quite a fortune playing in poker championships. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Grischuk participated in the online version of the WSOP and won more than USD 30k.

Jennifer Shahade 

One of the greatest female chess players to have come out of the United States, Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Jennifer Shahade, took the chess circuit by storm when she emerged victorious in the US Women’s Championship in 2002 and again in 2004.

She got into poker around the same time and rapidly progressed up the ranks. In 2014, Shahade finished first in the Chinese Poker HighRoller Tournament held in Prague, Czech Republic, and was awarded an amount of EUR 100k. After that, she was made an ambassador of Pokerstars. Never shying away from displaying her skills in poker, Shahade has made more than USD 350,000 in online poker competitions.

Almira Skripchenko 

It is definitely great to be born into a chess family. Almira Skripchenko’s parents were chess coaches, and naturally, she became inclined to the game at a very early age. Almira shone brightly in one of her first significant competitions and won the U16 Girls World Championship medal.

Then, in 2001, Almira made headlines again by winning the European Championship crown. Once she became a French citizen, she started competing in the French national chess tournaments. Here, Almira Skripchenko grabbed the Women’s French Championship title six times.

Almira’s transition to poker took place in the mid-2000s. In the WPT Celebrity Invitational poker competition, Almira finished in the second position and took home a whopping USD 50k. 

Poker vs Blackjack

Both poker and blackjack are forms of gambling, and the main difference between the two lies in that blackjack is more of a team game than poker. In poker, each player plays to win a sum of money that they are allowed to take home once the game ends.

On the other hand, blackjack is a game banked by a house. So, if players competing in a blackjack game lose, the entire house also loses. In poker, an individual player must only pay a small fraction of the winning sum as a participation fee.

So, from our discussion about ‘Poker vs Chess’, we have established that several chess champions have gone on to win poker tournaments, proving the deep connection between the two strategy games.
If you want to know about chess pieces and moves, check out our blog titled, ‘Chess Pieces Names and Moves: The Complete Guide (2022)