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Checkmate or Bluff: Chess vs. Poker – 21 Compelling Things to Consider

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

When you ask someone to list a few games similar to chess, poker is probably one of the last options they will think of. In our modern society, chess is viewed as an intellectual game, while poker is often played in age-restricted places like casinos and bars. Yet it’s interesting how similar they can be, and we think you might be surprised as we compare them.

Chess and poker are both games of strategy that require planning, sacrifices, reading your opponent’s intentions, and adapting to changing circumstances. The main difference is in how people perceive the games since one is often taught in schools, while the other involves gambling in restricted areas.

Most of the “differences” between how we see poker and chess are often misconceptions, and chess was once regarded in the same way that many people look at poker today. Let’s go into that in more detail.

These are 21 things to consider about chess vs. poker:

1. Poker And Chess Both Involve Chance

How chance is involved is different. With poker, you have the uncertainty of a purely random hand of cards vs. other random hands of cards. 

With chess, chance involves an unpredictable human making moves you may not be prepared for. But there is unpredictability in both, as there is in most games and sports.

2. Chess Is A Game With Perfect Information; Poker Isn’t

In chess, nothing is hidden except your opponent’s strategy. Both players can see the entire board. This means chess has perfect information. 

Poker has imperfect information since only certain things are revealed to other players when someone plays. The rest of their hand is still hidden, leading to much guesswork. 

3. The Information Has Strange Implications For Poker And Chess

In chess, you usually want the next move as quickly as possible since nothing is hidden. In poker, the longer it takes before it’s your turn, the more pieces of information you will get from other players, so you want to delay your play as long as possible.

4. Chess Can Be More Predictable Than Poker

Because of the way that chance differs between the two games, chess is often more predictable than poker. A particular move from your opponent will usually have a limited number of countermoves from you. 

Poker involves so many variables that it becomes difficult to predict someone’s actions, which is why it’s so popular to look out for someone’s subconscious “tells.”

5. Chess Is Often Viewed As More “Intellectual” Than Poker 

Some people would scoff at the idea that the two games can be compared. Chess has long been an established part of education, with some players playing from a very young age to perfect their game, while some regard poker as a “casino game of chance”.

6. Chess Was Once Viewed As Poker Is Today

Chess was once so strongly associated with underground gambling that many countries banned it throughout the previous millennium. Some of these countries include Egypt, France, Poland, and, surprisingly, Russia. These bans occurred as recently as 1994 in Iran.

7. Some Religious Groups Regard Both In The Same Light

Some religious countries still ban chess today, as they do with poker, because of gambling ties. This happens because these places disapprove of gambling-related games.

8. Chess And Poker Are Both Centered Around Strategy

Apart from the apparent uncertainty and chance involved, players of chess and poker both have to strategize and think ahead to win.

9. It’s Easier To Make Money In Poker Than In Chess

Due to poker’s gambling nature, there’s a good possibility that most skilled players will turn a decent profit over time. In chess, the only way to make money is by practicing and playing for many years so you can participate in formal tournaments, which only happens once you’ve become a top player and have reached the level of grandmaster. 

10. Poker Is Often Associated With IQ As Chess

Everyone knows that chess players need calculating and logical minds, but few realize that poker players need the same thing. Luck can help you win at poker in the short term, but you need to plan and calculate to succeed long-term, as you do in chess.

11. Chess And Poker Require Copious Amounts Of Practice

Despite the ties with IQ and chance, chess and poker players improve most when they practice and play. In any sport or game, natural talent will only get you so far; you must supplement that with as much practice as possible.

12. Poker And Chess Both Require Sacrifice

Chess often requires you to sacrifice some of your pieces to gain another advantage. Poker also involves sacrifice because sometimes the best thing to do is fold and cut your losses. As Kenny Rogers said, “you got to know when to fold ‘em.”

13. Poker And Chess Share Many Of The Same Great Players

Many chess players have crossed over to poker, and vice versa, and many of them are notable names in both. They include Dan Harrington, Ylon Schwartz, Almira Skripchenko, and Jeff Sarwer.

14. Money Is A Motivator For Chess Players To Take On Poker

As mentioned, making money in poker is easier than in chess. Because of this, many great chess minds start playing poker to earn more money until they reach high-earning levels in chess. Some never go back.

15. Multiplayer Poker Vs. Two-player Chess

Chess is a two-player game, which means a mistake on your opponent’s part is of immediate benefit to you. Multiplayer poker games are different, as a mistake by one player could affect the game in unpredictable ways, so you have to adapt your strategy.

16. Players Must Be Adaptable In Both Games

Having a strategy is excellent, but there’s no such thing as an unbeatable strategy in chess or poker. In both games, where things can change in the blink of an eye, players must be ready to adapt their strategy and game style instantly or face the possibility of losing.

17. A Great Poker Player Can Lose Against A Novice

Chess is a game that takes many years to master, but once you have some solid experience, you can become a decent player. Poker is different due to the nature of its reliance on luck. You can be a seasoned poker player and lose to someone who’s never placed a bet or played the game. In the long term, this is different, but luck is always a substantial variable.

18. Patience Is A Virtue Of Both Chess And Poker

People know that chess requires patience, as moves can be slow and your progress up the career charts even slower. Poker also requires patience. You can be dealt bad hands for multiple rounds, which leads impatient players to play mediocre cards, which only leads to disaster. Patient poker players know to wait it out.

19. Both Chess And Poker Have Been Impacted By AI

Both games have been highly influenced by the rise of artificial intelligence and computer technology in the gaming industry. Interestingly, this might have indirectly started back in the 18th century with the fake chess-playing automaton, The Turk (a fraudulent playing machine).

Today, numerous AI algorithms have been developed and applied in both chess and poker, revolutionizing the way these games are played and understood.

20. More People Play Chess For Self-Improvement Than Poker

People often play chess as a form of self-improvement, which doesn’t happen much with poker. There are two reasons: chess’s association with academia and intelligence and the fact that fewer people are willing to lose the money necessary to grow through poker.

21. It’s Easier To Play Big Poker Than Big Chess

Entering chess tournaments requires years of playing to get the necessary skill points to participate in tournaments and world championships. Poker is different. If you can afford the buy-in to play a tournament, nobody will question your skill level.

Last Words

In some ways, poker and chess seem to be polar opposites. But when you examine them closely, you will find that they are perhaps some of the most strategy-focused popular games. 

Both games require many of the same skills and attributes, and many players who are good at one will probably be good at the other. We shouldn’t let cultural bias cloud our view of a game that could benefit us greatly.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.