Golf is a game of skill in which endurance and application will help you see through a course. It’s a sport where you must understand the complexities of the scoring system, aim to better an opponent, and even adjust to changing conditions as you go. In that respect, it has a lot in common with poker. Poker might not be as physically demanding, but it still requires you to remain calm under pressure, adapt to an ever-changing table, and aim to be better than those you’re playing against. Some golfers have even found success on the felt after putting away their clubs. Major winner Sergio Garcia is a keen poker player, winning more than $35,000 in a single tournament.
“Patience, strategy, focus… there are many elements the two games have in common,” said the 11-time PGA Tour winner. “So, I started playing poker and enjoyed it a lot.”
The two don’t even have to be mutually exclusive. If you are out on the course this weekend and are looking to add a little more competition to your play outside of the regular game rules, you could introduce your fellow golfers to Golf Poker.
Crossing from golf to poker
To understand Golf Poker, you must understand the critical elements of both games. In golf, you get a score for each hole. Players usually hope for a 1 or 2, but may usually get a 5 or 6. In Golf Poker, each of those holes acts as a card in your hand. You are dealt cards with which you have to make a full hand. Usually, you’re dealt a couple of cards to hide, while 5 are dealt for everyone to use. In Golf Poker, your hand is exclusive to you and is made up of all of the holes you compete.
The hand rankings are also a little different, so you should have a firm understanding of poker hand rankings to play this particular game. The best hand is five-of-a-kind. This is followed by four-of-a-kind and a full house, which is a poker term for a hand that consists of a three-of-a-kind and a pair. This aims to promote a certain consistency, especially if you hit a par three, five times out of nine. Fourth in the Golf Poker rankings charts is a straight, followed by a three-of-a-kind, two pairs, and a single pair.
Playing the game
If you are playing 18 holes, you will have one round of Golf Poker each for the front and back nine. At the end of the front nine, you will have nine scores or nine cards to play with. Let’s assume your front nine scorecard looks like this: 2,3,4,3,6,5,3,4 and 3. Those are your cards. From that, you must make the best poker hand that you can. You can use as many or as few of the ‘cards’ as you like. However, the more you use, the more likely you are to win. Also, it is vital to remember that low is better than high. Having three 2’s would be better than three 6’s, which is the reverse of real poker.
For our hand above, your best score would be a four-of-a-kind made up of 3’s. If someone else has the same score, then the next best card would come into play, as it does in real poker. For the hand above, that would be a two, as lower is better. You will soon be working on putting drills if there is something at stake on the ninth hole, even if the actual game of golf has already got away from you. At the end of the nine holes, work out who has the best hand and maybe even have a side pot on it, such as the first round of refreshments when you arrive at the nineteenth hole!
As this quick guide shows, Golf Poker is a great mix of both sports. It brings to the table poker’s fast-paced nature while enhancing the strategy needed to win the game with golf’s own rules. If you want to stay posted on everything interesting in the sports world, check out our other sports articles here on Crying While Eating.