Sports betting and poker are arguably the most popular betting games online, and they couldn’t be any more different from each other. These differences have sparked off endless debate about the skills that are needed to master each one.
In this article we try to put this question to rest. We examine and compare the different skills that are needed for sports betting and poker to find out which one involves more skill.
The skills of poker players
Although many people are quick to judge gambling games as being all about luck, a quick look at the résumes of many of the individuals who made millions at the tables or the stables would reveal that they have backgrounds in mathematics, statistics and finance.
This isn’t a fluke. Gambling requires a mind that is at ease making rapid and sometimes complex calculations on the spot. Poker is a great example of this, and an expert at poker can easily calculate the odds for any given hand mentally. This is a game that’s hugely popular online, with many sites now catering for New Zealand players as well as the European and US markets.
The world of sports betting is a lot messier and this leads to many poker players to claim that their game involves more skill.
The skills of sports bettors
Sports bettors are quick to rebut that argument.
Just because you can easily relate poker, and card games in general, to statistics doesn’t mean that sports betting involves only sheer luck.
On the contrary, it takes a whole lot of skill to be able to memorise and make sense of the enormous amount of information concerning a sporting event.
More than meets the eyes: visible and invisible skills
The complexity of the action involved during play is only one aspect of both types of gambling.
Another important factor that determines the expertise of a player is the ability to understand the different betting rules and make an intelligent decision regarding when to stake a bet. A sports bettor has to negotiate a wider variety of betting structures and enjoys greater flexibility to the amount they can bet than a poker player.
There’s no clear etiquette or norms surrounding sports betting, so the gambler is left to his own devices to manage their bankroll and create a sound strategy that maximises his or her chances of winning. This requires a lot of creativity, as well as the ability to analyse situations from multiple angles, skills which poker doesn’t call upon.
Different games, different skills
In fact, poker tends to have more rigid betting rules than sports betting. In Texas Hold’em for example, the amount you can bet depends on your position at the table and on the decisions made by the other players. You exercise very little autonomy in your choices, save for the decision to quit or raise the stakes higher.
Sports betting grants more flexibility in the betting choices you make. In games like football you can even link your bet to part or all of the game, or to specific outcomes like a particular player scoring first or the number of saves the goalkeeper makes.
Sports betting is a very nuanced form of gambling that can become as complex as the gambler can handle. Although poker is also very sophisticated, there is a limit to how deep the game can be studied since there are only so many ways a pack of cards can be played with.
So, who’s more skillful?
It seems that sports betting does indeed require more skill from gamblers than poker does. This conclusion, however, comes with an important caveat.
Sports betting is an individual game which depends completely on the knowledge and skills of the player involved. Accordingly, sports betting can be as simple or as complex as the player makes it to be.
One can bet on sporting events in a superficial manner (merely looking at the odds and choosing the best ones), or in a more thoughtful way (by considering the histories of the two teams, the latest rumours about the state of the players, the conditions of the pitch, etc.)
Poker’s difficulty is inherent in the game and any player will soon realise the skills that are needed the moment he or she faces a more experienced player. An amateur sports bettor can be blissfully unaware of the complexities of sports betting for as long as he or she chooses to.
Practice makes perfect
The differences between sports betting and poker are significant, but the greater complexity of play in sports betting means that it ultimately takes the biscuit as the game requiring most skills from its players.
However, many players enjoy both playing at the tables and at the bookies. Involving yourself in both worlds maybe the best way to get a good perspective on both and, why not, increase the ways you make money through your gambling.