The King’s Pawn

In other words, I am like a chess player who knows one or two openings and never does any of the crazier openings because the game tree from there is limited, and I don’t want to handle all the possibilities of the game. – Persuadeo

The King’s pawn opening is the most popular opening in chess. It’s probably one of the first opening strategies that a beginner chess player will learn. There are certain number of moves that black should do when they see this opening and from there, the game tree doesn’t get very complicated. It’s the opening I generally use, and I have been playing chess longer than I have been playing poker. There are other openings like the Queen’s Gambit and the Spanish Game. Each with their own game tree and set of options that a player can study. Players can follow the set optimal maneuvers in the game or choose to explore alternative moves to see how they function in the game. Alternatively, players can choose to explore rarely used openings and confuse their opponents with game trees that they are unfamiliar with to try and get an advantage.

“Poker is like chess.” It’s something that I have heard many times over the years but never truly understood why. On the surface the games are completely different. One game is played on 8×8 square grid. There are 16 pieces per player. Each piece has a limitation to what they can do. Poker is played with plastic tokens that represent monetary values. It uses 52 pieces of papers that have symbols and numeric values printed on them to represent a rank. Nothing is really moved other than the tokens when placing a wager. How is poker like chess? It never made sense to me how these two games could relate. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I think I have finally started to understand why the comparison is made.

It’s crazy to think that poker has 52 factorial unique deck combinations. It’s mind boggling to think that chess has more unique games than the number of atoms in the observable universe. Yet both games are still studied heavily. In each game, scenarios that may never be seen again are analyzed. Both games have a Nash Equilibrium. There is a key difference between the two games. In chess you can see what your opponent is doing and strategize based on that knowledge, but in poker your opponent’s information is incomplete. How is it that poker is like chess?

Some days I struggle with poker, and I can’t think clearly. Sitting there becomes a chore instead of a pleasure. I make questionable plays and lose more money than I should have. The expected becomes the unexpected. I can hear the criticism from my coach and peers telling me that they know I can do better. Those are the hardest days to deal with… In the moment I seem to be completely lost but at the same time I know exactly what is happening. I can look back and easily identify my own mistakes. Deep down inside I knew that I should have not made a play. On those days, the questions I ask are more for my own sanity than to learn something.

I find that chess can get me back on track. Playing chess can be therapeutic for my poker game. It helps me slow down and look at the big picture. The clock doesn’t matter if I make the right moves; my opponent will panic. I can go back to look at the game in its entirety and explore each move. I don’t second guess my own decisions. The motive behind each move is clear and logical. There is no what if’s or what could’ve been. It’s just me, my opponent, and the board as I think through the puzzles in the game. When I go back to playing poker after chess, my mind is clear, and my thought process is not rushed.

I can paint an image in your mind with my words of how these games could be one in the same yet so very different. I can tell you that the comparison is not about the game mechanics or pieces used. It’s a state of mind, the thought process on how to come to a logical conclusion of possibilities. It took me a while to figure this out on my own. Just like chess, to be successful in poker you need to think ahead about what can happen on the next action. But instead of being able to see your opponent’s strategy laid out in front of you, the puzzle you are trying to solve is how to extract the maximum value.  

Bizzy’s 2022 Gains: -$3797.46

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One thought on “The King’s Pawn

  1. Mikail says:

    I just got back into Chess too and it certainly is therapeutic. Calms me down after some downswings in sports-betting. Today, was positive vibes winning with the 49’ers covering the spread.

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