On Poker - sample column

Finding Poker Through Gateway Gaming

Gateway games and activities that attract people to poker come in a variety of forms, but they all share a theme: They taught a player how to think quickly, how to think logically and how to use information.

Hevad Khan is best known for his sixth-place finish at the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, which made him an instant millionaire, but he earned his poker chops playing in thousands of online tournaments.

Khan often would play as many as 20 games at a time, and once he even played 40 at once, minimizing the screens into a grid system that put every pixel of his monitor to good use.

Normally, such a habit would be poker bankroll suicide, but Khan's previous experience playing Starcraft, a real-time computer combat strategy game that has a notorious way of making players uncomfortable because of the speed of the game, came into play.

"These games required you to be able to handle a lot of things going on around you, a lot of it hidden from view. You really had to balance your time and pick up strategies that would make things more efficient. I found (that) these skills directly translated to poker."

Others have credited games like "Diablo II," a game that was fast due to the high volume of clicks needed to beat the game. Sadly, the ever-popular "Candy Crush" probably won't be of any help.

A sizable portion of the poker universe came to the game through longtime high-level strategy games, like chess and backgammon.

Chess provides learning opportunities for just about everything in life. Backgammon isn't the first thing that comes to mind as a gambling activity, but East Coast players can earn a living from the game, feasting on the inexperienced in underground club settings.

Like poker, backgammon is played with many variants, and the true pros learned them all because they never knew what the dead money preferred.

Backgammon has elements of luck. Everything that requires a roll of the dice does, but proper strategy can make a player a long-term winner. The game also has an increased gambling element, as the stakes can be raised throughout the course of a game.

And if you need an example of the thorough processes needed to make it in backgammon, consider "Simborg's Law," a principle that encourages players to look at the game through their opponents' eyes and force decisions that would cause them the most mental pain. Sounds a lot like moving your stack all-in in a poker game, doesn't it?

Stu Ungar, a three-time WSOP Main Event champ who was one of poker's most dominating and tragic figures, bridged to poker via gin rummy. He was so good at the game that it became impossible for him to find an opponent.

Major players in the stock market, such as hedge-fund managers, brokers and other financial whiz types, gravitate to poker for obvious reasons. They often have the money to jump into bigger games, but they also have the profoundly useful skill of analyzing numbers and getting value for their money.

The poker table is the perfect environment for gauging risk and reward.

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Got a poker question or have a comment? Email Chuck at cblount@express-news.net.

© 2013 San Antonio Express-News.

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