Kevin Spacey’s Netflix hit can teach a lot of lessons about the online poker industry
How many of you watched the absolutely brilliant first season of House of Cards last year? As the show aired only on Netflix we don’t know the exact ratings. What we do know is that it enjoyed high popularity and even higher ratings. If you didn’t watch it, this trailer will certainly make you want to:
The subject matter is politics, and not how American gambling laws are made. But it portrayed the cut-throat world of Washington D.C. as essentially a deadly poker game.
Poker is a cliché metaphor for high drama, but it is usually applicable. Players attempt to manipulate, maneuver and eliminate opponents on their way to the final prize. Often seemingly incompetent or unambitious players reveal themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Does it sound like politics in D.C.? It sounds a lot like the hyper-charged version of DC occupied by Kevin Spacey’s masterful Frank Underwood.
What did House of Cards teach us?
Never trust anyone. Not your best friend, not your wife, no one. Anyone who can use you to get what they want will do so. Most people who offer to help you are just trying to turn you into a pawn. This line of reasoning applies perfectly to the world of poker. Put yourself into the mentality of a card shark in an American poker room.
Sure, the end game is known to all players: win the pot. But everyone is concealing their strategy on how to achieve that end. Think about bluffing. You pretend to be a harmless dud when actually you have a hand filled with gold, ready to pounce on unsuspecting opponents as soon as the time is right. Some poker players make a career out of playing dumb.
That is exactly what Frank Underwood does throughout the first season. He’s a charming but humble Southern congressman who has the entire city of Washington wrapped around his sweet little finger. Who would fear him? He’s absolutely harmless. He has no designs on bigger things, he just wants to do his job effectively and go home to his wife. Yeah, right. That’s the epitome of bluffing.
Double the deception online
• Bluffing is easier in online poker, as players cannot read each other’s facial expressions
• While random number generators are inspected by third-parties, some online poker players don’t trust them
• Live dealer online poker allows players to watch a human dealer issue cards via live stream
Online poker games ramp up the potential deception even more, but in a different way. Players miss out on some of the authenticity of a live poker game, and you aren’t sitting across from opponents, attempting to manipulate your mannerisms to fool your counterparts. Your are in front of a computer screen, very likely still in your pajamas, playing against people in front of computer screens in France, Belarus or wherever else on Earth online poker is played.
Bluffing is even easier in this situation because opponents can’t observe your facial expressions. Some players can’t conceal their excitement while bluffing, and it’s a dead giveaway. Well, that guy over in France can’t see you, so he has no idea. The lack of personal contact wouldn’t do much to help Frank Underwood, who gets by as much on wit as the ability to charm others face-to-face. But it may be helpful to you.
Online poker sites in the UK and Europe have the added dimension that cards are dealt by random number generators (RNGs), not human dealers. Of course they are supposedly programmed to deal from a theoretical 52-card deck and are inspected by third parties. Sure, that all sounds fine. But what did we learn from House of Cards? Nothing is as it seems. You can’t trust your grandma, let alone a computer program! (okay this isn’t about the Matrix or The Terminator, but you get the idea).
Play live dealer
While Underwood’s foes seemingly have no hope of thwarting his diabolical plans, there is one way to avoid being a pawn in the game of an RNG. Play live dealer poker games. For those of you new to the concept, many British online casinos offer games in which a real human being deals the cards. Players watch the dealer via live stream and make wagering decisions using their mouse or keyboard.
Live dealer versions are not only offered for poker but also blackjack, baccarat and other games. As technology improves they are becoming increasingly popular. These games provide the best of both worlds. You are still playing against other players, so if you are skilled enough, you can bend them to your will. We already established that bluffing is easier while playing online poker.
If you aren’t very good, you may be twisted around by better, more experienced players. But this would happen on any poker platform. Get better, and you’ll have more success. The best part is that you don’t run the risk of getting worked over by an RNG. You are watching the live dealer physically pull cards from a real deck. So the level of deception doesn’t come close to what you see in traditional online poker games.
Ok, no poker game on earth is as intense as Washington D.C. as portrayed in House of Cards. But the game is all about deception. And if you’re not the trustworthy type, playing with RNGs runs the risk of being deceived by a computer program (for the record, we don’t think that there’s anything to worry about, but some players do). Playing live dealer games online removes the cloak of uncertainty. You watch a human dealer pull from a physical deck of cards, so you know it’s legitimate. Or at least, as legitimate as online poker can possibly get.