Poker Crosstraining: Other Games to Keep You Fit3 years ago
Poker is a mind game and therefore it requires you to have your wits about you at all times. However, constant poker practice can burn out even the most dedicated of players. It might be a good idea to introduce some other games that have the potential of boosting your mental capabilities into your routine, in order to keep your mind fit. There are many options to choose from, most of them very enjoyable and entertaining. We'll discuss some of those options below to help you pick something that will suit your needs and preferences.
This digital card game developed by video game company appropriately named Blizzard (makers of StarCraft, another video game with huge impact on the poker community), took the world by storm and became the instant favorite of many poker players including the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk, Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier, and Maria Ho. So much so that have already started seeing tournaments combining poker and Hearthstone with real cash prizes. Blizzard's card game shares many similarities with poker. We have the skill element that comes from sequencing our plays correctly, constructing our decks optimally, and anticipating the plays of our opponents based on our knowledge about card pool and metagame.
There's also a luck factor associated with the fact that we're drawing cards from our deck in a random order. Lastly, Hearthstone just like Hold'em takes minutes to learn and an entire lifetime to master. The game is arguably less deep than poker, but the luck factor is also a bit lower. It's certainly easier on the players since you don't have to put money on the line in order to play the game. Hey, if Hearthstone is good enough for Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk it's probably good enough for you, and since the game is free to play you might as well try it out.
Magic: the Gathering
Speaking of card games, Magic: the Gathering is to Hearthstone what limit hold'em is to... 5 card Omaha. Suffice it to say, the former is much more complicated and depthy than the latter. This makes the game much tougher to get into, but the benefits of playing it can also be higher. Magic: the Gathering is a time-tested battlefield for developing future poker players. Think of Brock Parker, Gabriel Nassif, Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Adam Levy, Justin Bonomo, Eric Froelich, Sam Stein. All of them played Magic: the Gathering before they started winning big at the poker tables so it's rather safe to assume that there's something about this game that has the potential of making you into a better poker player.
The main problem with the game is the high barrier to entry, especially when compared to Hearthstone. Magic: the Gathering was originally designed as a paper card game so unless you're willing to join your local community of friendly neighborhood spell slinging wizards (which no doubt sounds like an incredibly daunting task for many of you) your only option is Magic Online client where the cards cost real money. While you can play the game on the cheap (entry level decks that allow you to play in some tournaments can cost just a few bucks) the 'proper experience' might cost you hundreds of dollars, which is a relatively high price to pay for some online entertainment these days. Fortunately, you can actually sell the cards and even win some money by placing high in tournaments, but even the best player's earnings aren't anywhere close to those possible to achieve at relatively low stakes tables in poker.
If you're an old soul and you're not really into those flashy, colorful card games with orcs, dragons, and gnomes, you might want to consider something elegant with a bit more gravitas. I'm speaking of course about "the game of kings" - chess. Similarly to Magic, Chess was a gateway to poker for many great players like Ylon Schwartz, Almira Skripchenko, or Jeff Sarwer. While there's no luck factor present in chess, the skill element will test even the sharpest of minds.
Becoming a great player requires a lot of discipline and training. Memorizing the strategies can take a long time and using those strategies in mind games against your opponents requires a lot of skill and experience. The decision-making processes in chess and poker are very similar and the fact that "the best move" is always possible to determine provides an interesting break from uncertainty and even money decisions so common in poker.
Lumosity and Other Brain Games
If you prefer a more direct approach to improving your mental capabilities - there's an app for that! Lumosity is the most popular tool providing users with daily mental workouts. Lumosity can boost your memory, focus, and logical reasoning by offering you games specifically designed for improving those areas. It also shows you how well you're doing compared to the entire population of players which can motivate you to become better and better.
While I wouldn't expect huge 'mental gains' from the app (science still didn't really prove how effective those types of games actually are), stimulating your brain is certainly a worthy pursuit. Lumosity can seem a bit pricey for what it provides so if you're strapped for cash you can try some free alternatives like Cambridgebrainsciences.com.
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