The Poker and Magic the Gathering Strategy Connection
The subject matter of the game is reflective of the popular role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, but is far more simple and only involves cards.
Each card in Magic has a value that can be used in winning the game, but must be used strategically within one’s playing deck just as a poker player needs to understand the strategy behind betting odds to decide the best course of action. Tactics are altered and so is strategy, but the critical thinking never changes.
Poker Skills Gained from Magic the Gathering
Each player is a powerful wizard and each action in the game is set upon defeating your opposing wizard, or wizards, in a duel. With the explosion of online poker over the past eight years, the game has started changing even faster. What is only becoming apparent now is that Magic helped mold many of the biggest young players in poker today. But most importantly it is card game of intense strategy and changing situations.
In an interview with ESPN back in 2009 David Williams explained that Magic “teaches the brain how to work… The only difference in poker is that the statistical probabilities that need to be quickly calculated revolve around pot odds, and hand calculations, and effective betting.. The skills gained in Magic are vast and have been absolutely applied to poker by players like Williams, Parker, and Levy.
There have been many games that have been training grounds for poker professionals. Williams and other poker pros still play Magic as an active outlet to poker. Plus it’s fun!
In Magic the Gathering each player starts with 7 cards and must use those cards to protect one’s self and most importantly, eliminate the opponent or opponents through a network of spells and changing lands. These players include World Series of Poker bracelet winner and Main Event runner-up David Williams, bracelet winner Brock Parker, and feared online players Isaac Haxton, Justin Bonomo, and Adam Levy.
Any poker professional will tell you that poker is always changing. However, backgammon is not a card game, where Magic is just a strategy based card game. One added feature of Magic the Gathering is that as new cards are introduced to the game every month with new spells and lands the game is always changing. This type of premise reflects very closely to poker, especially tournament poker, in that to win the player must think critically using the cards in hand to bust or defeat the opposing players.
While the actual calculations needed are very different the training to think critically this way is deeply instilled in all Magic players and transfers very well to playing poker at a high level. In poker nearly all actions have a possible positive and negative outcome and the same can be said for Magic. Understanding the statistical odds of putting together an effective playing deck can separate a good player from a terrible Magic player. Playing Magic the Gathering doesn’t guarantee that you will be a successful poker player, but it does create an early training ground for poker players. The poker pros who grew up playing Magic competitively had the benefit of this training when those who didn’t had to train their brains along the way.
Understanding basic statistics and probability is also a major part of playing Magic as players draw cards and construct their playing decks. One of the most popular is backgammon, which WSOP champion Gus Hansen spring boarded into poker from. For pretty much any guy who grew up in the mid to late ’90s as a teenager or brother of one either played or remember hearing about the card game Magic the Gathering. Just like any sports athlete poker pros need to train and for the new generation of poker pros, Magic the Gatherings is that training. Magic boasts players that are literally taking over as some of the most feared poker, both online and live, players. It’s problem solving, logical deduction.” This logical deduction is a major aspect of playing successful poker, as is critical thinking, and to do so in a very short period of time
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