Why Great Blackjack Players make Great Poker Players – and Vice Versa

blackjack3Poker and blackjack are two very popular games that are played by millions of people in casinos and online. In blackjack you are playing the dealer, sticking to actions that depend on your cards. In poker you are playing against other opponents without the same set rules of action. Considering this, why would a poker player make a good blackjack player? And vice versa? Despite their differences, there are many skills that each player shares, which makes changing games a successful move.


Blackjack is the most widely played casino game in the world, but it doesn’t come with the glitz and glam of the poker tables. In blackjack you play the dealer, not other players; the aim of the game is to beat the dealer by reaching a final score higher than the dealer without exceeding 21, or allowing the dealer to draw additional cards until their hand exceeds 21 (called “busting”). Professional blackjack players tend to be characters who are problem solvers who work to set solutions; they are mathematical and methodical players.


Poker has increased in popularity over the last several years, with many people now enjoying a casual game, or taking it more seriously if they put in the effort to work on their game. Unlike blackjack, in poker you are playing against other opponents and betting on your odds of having either the winning hand or that you can get other players to fold. Unsurprisingly, professional poker players tend to be calm and hard to read. A recent study in to the personality of poker players found that there is a direct correlation between lower scores of emotionality and high levels of poker experience.

With so many differences, what traits and skills make these two games interchangeable for players?


In both games, blackjack and poker, there are strategies you can employ to improve your game, and having an understanding of these strategies will make you a better player. A great blackjack player should study and know basic blackjack strategy, which essentially tells them every move they should make to every possible deal. As long as they memorize the basic strategies of when to hit, stand and double down, and stick to them, their game will be greatly improved. However, not many people have the will power to memorize the optimal plays, as there are many different blackjack game play options and countless possible hand combinations (depending on how many decks are being used).

Poker strategies are not quite so clear cut, but they still exist and it takes time and dedication to learn them. The basics of any solid poker strategy will include many different concepts such as tight play, aggressive play, random play and taking advantage of opponents’ mistakes.


Poker and blackjack are both mathematical games; you don’t have to be a math genius to play them, but it certainly helps.

In blackjack the need for math skills is perhaps more obvious. In the simplest way, you need to be able to add, but more importantly you need to understand something about probability. Blackjack is a game that is based on dependent events, meaning each event in the game is influenced by another. What this means for the player is that they can plan their game around the events that take place, and apply mathematical reasoning to make their next move. For example, if you draw a 4 of diamonds in single deck blackjack, you know, firstly, that this card will not come up in your game again, and secondly, the other cards that have not been drawn now have a higher probability of being drawn. When you understand this you can calculate your moves.

In poker, the math that great players use is calculating odds. You need to be able to calculate the odds of either you, or your opponent, winning the hand in any situation. Poker players will probably be using math in their poker play without realizing it, assessing the situation and their odds before they move forward. While poker is both a people and a math game, if you want to improve your game, you should definitely familiarize yourself with poker odds.


In blackjack, good decision making is important so you don’t bust. In poker, good decision making is important so you don’t give your opponents an advantage. Both games can become very stressful, especially when money is involved, but both players, who are good at their game, will keep calm under pressure to weigh up their situation, think about their strategy and make the best possible decisions.


Even the best poker and blackjack players can lose their concentration, and when they do they will drop their game. Both of these games demand that the players demonstrate high levels of concentration. In poker, players need to keep evaluating their position, the position of the other players and their odds of winning. In blackjack, players need to keep an eye on their hand and the probability of them winning or going bust depending on the cards that are drawn, and cards that have be drawn before.


Both games, poker and blackjack, require a level of dedication to play at the highest level. Players need dedication to learn the rules of both games, dedication to stick to their strategies and dedication to stay with their game even when they may be having a losing streak- and everyone gets a losing streak from time to time. What both players have the ability to do is to put themselves back in to the game. Poker players may analyse their moves and those of their players to see where they went wrong, and blackjack players will look at their strategy to see if they made any mistakes along the way.

For many people they will have picked their game, poker or blackjack, and will decide to stick with it. However, for variety, or to improve your skills in each game, consider applying what you know from one and using it to play the other.


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