Similarities in how we analyse competitors in football and poker

Poker and football may not be games that you would instantly put together, however the two have more in common than you may think.

Firstly, both represent some of the world’s most popular forms of betting. Last year, the revenue generated by football betting amounted to around £1.3 billion, while revenue from online poker has reached as high as £1.5 billion per annum.

Both the football industry and the poker industry are highly profitable. Much of the revenue from poker comes from online player participation and fees and promotional deals during tournaments. In football, money can be made from sponsorship deals and ticket sales.

There are many ways in which football fans can place wagers on games. They might bet on the first goal scorer or the last goal scorer, do an accumulator, a no draw bet, or a half time result, to name just a few.

Betting in poker comes in several forms. Players bet during gameplay by putting chips in. Anytime someone calls an existing bet, opens, or raises, they are betting. Standard bets may include:

  • Continuation bet - when a player raises pre-flop, then continues by betting again on the flop. Also, a delayed continuation bet is when they raise pre-flop, the action then checks through, and they go on to bet on the turn.
  • Probe bet - in this case, the caller of the pre-flop bets first on the turn
  • Donk bet - the player ends an action but goes on to lead into the aggressor on the following street.

Like football, poker is a game that is learned through practice. Those interested in learning the game can start off by looking online at the great many resources on how to play poker.

There are a number of characteristics that make these games similar. Betting in football and in poker both require the skills to make educated bets.

There is much debate other the extent to which poker is a game of skill or chance. Research has been carried out to determine this and was based on observations of over 450m player hands, more specifically, it looked at the consistency of their performance.

The results of the research strongly suggested that skill was important, with most of the top 10 percent of players in the first six months, remaining top players in the second half of the year.

This goes to show that like football, poker is a game of skill. Of course, there is still some element of chance or luck in both. In football, there is an element of luck in a young player being discovered by a club and making their way into a professional league.

The way in which we analyse competitors in football and poker share many similarities. One such characteristic that applies to both is how a player copes under pressure.In poker, we can analyse a players tells. A tell is a sign or mannerism that can give an opponent a clue to what the player has in their hand.

Players can act differently under pressure. For example, when an opponent has a weak hand and is trying to be deceptive, they might raise and then try to stare you down.

Analysing their reactions in high pressure moments can help you to decide when to raise or fold. When playing with the same opponents on multiple occasions, you can start to build a better picture of how they generally act under pressure and spot their tells more accurately.

In football, there are also many high-pressure situations from which we can learn about players. Penalty shootouts are just one example of this.

Take the Drogba penalty win against Bayern Munich in 2012. In the championship league final in Munich, the then Chelsea player beat Manuel Neuer and scored the match winning result.

With all eyes on him, Drogba had to analyse where the goalkeeper would dive. His first instinct was to attempt a highly risky Panenka penalty. However, at the last second, he saw the keeper edging to the right and scored on the left side of the net.

Like a tell in poker, the Chelsea player looked at the signs and mannerisms of the keeper and acted accordingly in a high-pressure moment. A moment that has defined his career ever since.

This leads on to another way in which we analyse competitors in football and poker. The past performance / previous history of a player or opponent can be a very useful indicator to help predict future outcomes.

While this won’t really be relevant in poker if you are playing online against the computer or against complete strangers, knowing a player’s previous moves is useful in tournaments.

For example, tracking who is a tight player and who tends to be a loose player can be an effective strategy. A player can track how often another player has put money into the pot before they flop.

Tight players will tend to play fewer hands, whereas loose players will play a lot of hands. Knowing who is which type will help you make decisions when they become your opponent at the table.

In football, past performance is everything. It is the deciding factor in what team will sign you, the league you’ll be in and what position you will play.

So, all of this goes to show that poker and football are much more similar than you may have first thought.