Poker has more mystery and mystique about it than almost any other card game. In many ways, it is this mystery that attracts so many players and makes it such a regular feature in TV and movie dramas. It has an image of being a dark, complex game, played behind closed doors for high stakes—a game that is played in smoke-filled rooms by less-than-reputable players with aces hidden up their sleeves. When you think of how a poker game ends, you probably picture the table being flipped over and a gunfight between the fortunate winner and the hard-done-by loser.
Yet, in reality, poker is none of these things. The modern game of poker is a fun game played by people from all walks of life, and with the advent of online poker, the seedy, smoky back rooms are a thing of the past. Yet, somehow there are still endless myths about the game that persist, despite all the evidence to the contrary. So, let’s take a look at some of these ideas and see what the real truth is.
Poker is a complicated game
The way it is portrayed in the movies makes poker seem like a really difficult game that would take you years to master, but, in reality, the rules are no more complex than for most card games. It only takes a few hands to get a grasp of the basics, and there are lots of resources to help you learn the strategies that will improve your play.
The hand rankings are simple enough, and the odds of getting any given hand are straightforward and easy to learn. You can even find simple strategies to help you make the right call in popular variants like Texas Hold’em, such as the Sklansky hand groups or the Chen Formula. With just a little background reading, poker can be mastered much more easily than the myths would have you believe.
Poker is all skill/no skill
Ask around and you’ll find that there are as many people who believe that poker is all skill as there are those who believe that there is no skill involved at all. Of course, neither of these is entirely true. Of course, while there is a fair degree of skill in how you play the cards you are dealt, even the most skilled player can’t turn a poor hand into a winner. That said, even if you are dealt a great hand, you still need to have the skill to play it well and make the most of the opportunity. Raise too fast or too confidently and you could easily scare off a large portion of your potential pot.
Poker is all in the eyes
The very best players, at the top tournament level, will be watching their opponents closely and looking for tell-tale signs they can read so that they can guess what hand they are holding. At its best, poker is as much about the mind games as the card game.
But for most players, this is a very small part of the game, and if you are playing online, it doesn’t feature at all. There are no twitches, ticks or tells when you are an avatar on a computer screen, and the only possible giveaway will be your betting pattern. Despite what Lady Gaga may tell you, the concept of a poker face is one of the biggest myths in the modern game.
Poker is a game for the boys
The idea that poker is a “lads’ game” is as outdated as the flipped-over table and ensuing gunfight. These days there are a host of top-class female poker pros who are taking on the boys on a level playing field and winning. From TV personality Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is a multiple tournament winner, to top female poker pro Vanessa Selbst, who has pocketed almost $12m at just 33 years old, the girls are on the rise and picking up WSPO bracelets on a regular basis.
These days, poker is more accessible than it has ever been and is hugely popular in live casinos and online. Anyone can learn to play and enjoy a few hands without going anywhere near a testosterone-soaked backroom poker game. With endless resources and player-friendly games, the myths surrounding poker are melting away fast, leaving a fun game for everyone to enjoy.