More Chess Masters Playing Poker

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Pokerstars held a chess-poker challenge to mark the start of the Douglas Open on the Isle of Man but what has draw these two together?

At first glance the worlds of chess and poker might not seem to be all that similar. The world of chess grand masters brings to mind the summit style tournaments between the big names of the cold war era, their silent cold calculating gameplay a million miles from the glitz, glamor and table banter common to most games of poker. But amongst the patrons of the best casinos for US players can be found an increasing number of chess players and aficionados.

Poker Playing Chess Players

• Many chess champions play poker in casinos

• Some use mobile casinos to play

• Professional chess and poker are both quite nerdy

With big money and notoriety at stake in the world of poker some chess champions have looked on it as a way to raise their profiles and the amount in their pocket books utilizing the skills of strategic play and probable outcome to win in US poker rooms and casinos. This has obviously culminated with the increased number of chess players that have turned up in the World Series Of Poker finals since their founding in 2005.

It is perhaps the World Series Of Poker that become the face of the wave of change that has facilitated this interchange of skills and profile. At professional levels poker and chess both share one common trait above all others; they’re both incredibly nerdy. Certainly poker makes up for it with massive amounts of money available, but neither one was ever the apex of cool, and that has been something modern technology has done much to combat.

Media interest in poker, the rise of the internet poker site and indeed “pokies” (video poker machines) in public spaces has given the game a boost in publicity and the resultant public awareness that has increasingly seen poker near the acceptability of sports, especially as so many sports now hinge upon the internet betting in the US and elsewhere that offers live opportunities to do wager on them. Poker then is quite attractive to the slightly more dour world of chess and its players.

Poker Interesting Challenge For Chess Players

“You don’t have to be from a hotbed of chess or poker activity and you can become one of the best players in the world. That is very true in both fields. Magnus Carlsen is the number one (chess) player in the world, and he’s from Norway.” says Jennifer Shahade, chess champion and avid poker player, pointing out the role that new technology has played in opening up both sports to amateurs who might otherwise not have had the opportunity.

“That’s not really something that could have happened 15 years ago before computers and databases made it so easy for anybody to work really hard on their own.” She continued adding, of chess, “There’s also becoming a bit more money, prestige, and glamor. It’s shedding that un-cool reputation.” Although she does admit it isn’t happening as fast with chess as it did with poker, not, to be frank that poker has yet to completely throw off the spreadsheet anorak connotations.

At the PokerStars Open at Douglas, on the beautifully picturesque Isle of Man, Jennifer who was twice US Women’s Chess Champion played simultaneously against three chess opponents and three poker opponents as part of the opening ceremonies. Unfazed by this seemingly unfair contest Mz. Shahade took a gracious victory beating five of her six opponents and leading the way for a grand contest to follow.

The tournament on the Isle of Man has the top players from Britain and France and a healthy contingent from around the world with the field aiming to grab that prize at the end. The opening ceremonies however has a tournament that combined five founds of blitz chess with a poker session as these chess-poker events become ever more popular. The rise of internet gambling in the US and elsewhere has provided the framework to allow for them to flourish.

Chess Players Enjoy Poker Success

“Life isn’t only about success in chess!” says Alexander Grischuk jovially fending off questions as to whether his love of, and success at Poker, can really have beneficial effects on his chess playing. His performances for the Russian team have often swung the spotlight onto this enjoyable master of both games. “Action Dan” Harrington is another who has made it big in both worlds being both US chess master and undisputed poker genius.

There are, of course, financial concerns behind the increasing pairing up of poker and chess. The commercial interests are obvious and in a multi-media day and age where online coverage of niche events can draw audiences of hundreds of thousands, advertisers and sponsors are less inclined to shy away from backing events of this nature. These include online gambling entities that themselves now have the revenue streams that allow them to do so.

There are also the benefits that come from Poker associating itself with the respectable world of Chess and Chess associating itself with the glamorous world of Poker. Neither one stands to lose and the nature of both games means that they do have an attraction for people of similar drives. It takes a huge quantity of lonely hours to become good at either one and to be good at both takes even more time and energy.

“I think they think of it as more glamorous than chess,” said Mz. Shahade of her fellow chess players view of poker, “and they’ve seen a lot of chess players achieve success in poker. So, it’s a little bit of like a fantasy land.” A fantasy land to which we are likely to see ever more chess players drawn as the bright lights and big wins of the poker table attract the best minds and most strategic thinkers to where the money is.

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