The World Cup And Poker

World Cup South Africa 2010

World Cup South Africa 2010

‘The beautiful game’ as Pele called football (soccer if you are a US person brought up to believe handling a ball constantly is ‘football’, and not ‘handball’…), about to go ballistic in a major festival of the game which for a long time will mean wall-2-wall football. This will be like a drunk being let loose into a liquor store.

Partners who do not like the game will fume and get bitter, politicians will jump on any bandwagon going especially if their country is doing well and UK publicans will pray that the English team will single handling resuscitate the brewing industry by getting to the final and possibly winning it!

Can I make one prediction at this point – if England win the World Cup then England will be the place to be. It could revive the economics of this nation. It has been proved by numerous study that a nation doing well in some form of sporting endeavour has a knock on effect on the economics of the country involved. That is why the former Eastern Bloc countries spent so much time and energy on sporting achievements.

I think it was George Orwell that said ‘sport was war by another name…’, and Nelson Mandela certainly used sport (1995 Rugby World Cup) to help consolidate the relatively peaceful transfer of South Africa from apartheid to democracy. It is very unlikely that South Africa can do this again as the skill level between South Africa and say Brazil or Spain is far to great for something like this.

Which brings me onto poker. The World Series of Poker 2010 will be taking a major back seat as nothing can beat the religion that is football. As Liverpool legendary manager Bill Shankly once said football was more important than life and death. Like poker football manages to be more than a simple game. It represents a philosophy – just like poker.

Football is about community and kindred spirit in a common goal. Poker is naked capitalism and capitalism as practice by an individual who has nothing more than the knowledge of the cards he or she has. Football is about teamwork and although an individual can alter a game it is on the whole about a team mastering another team. Poker deals with wealth accumulation – yes there can be collusion but this is seen as cheating.

I have always been fascinated by the fact that a large number of US Presidents have been pretty good poker players – apparently. This maybe folklore to encapsulate the nature of US culture, but, it does make sense as the US of A was always seen to be the bulwark of Western 20th Century capitalism. In fact President Nixon was supposed to have financed his first political campaign for office via the winnings he made playing poker. It was not only because of Watergate was he called ‘Tricky Dicky’.

In both of these pursuits there are other similarities in the sense that both have very simple rules. Therefore everyone can learn to play. The difficulty comes in learning to win and win consistently. Undoubtedly there will be an element of luck, but, luck overtime does even its self out. The skill in poker is not to make mistakes and give away your chips. Just as in poker you do seem to see the same names at the top on the various trophy and league tables.

The big difference is that poker encourages mis-information. Poker demands that you tell lies and make your opponent believe you have a bad hand when you have a good hand, or, that you have a good hand when you have a bad hand. In football you cannot say that Didier Drogba is injured then bring him out next day fresh as a daisy, there would be enquiry etc. However, you can use mind games to get an advantage as practice by Alex Ferguson or Jose Morinho. These guys will say things which can un-nerve opposing teams or motivate their own teams to win games, a very subtle art.

So that makes the difference between the two games which are very similar and the way online poker firms have been pushing any form of linkage between the World Cup and poker it has captured the mind and soul of the world and I for one will be loving the month of June.