What “The Queen’s Gambit” Teaches us about Poker

The weekend it premiered, “The Queen’s Gambit” summited Netflix’s most watched shows, amassing 4.3% of all view time across every streaming platform.

brunette woman cups hands with chess board

(Warning: contains spoilers)

The weekend it premiered, “The Queen’s Gambit” summited Netflix’s most watched shows, amassing 4.3% of all view time across every streaming platform. Now that a month has passed and so many have gotten a chance to finish the miniseries, we can collectively reflect on Beth’s journey and draw parallels between chess and poker.

1. Making good decisions requires a healthy mind

A turning point in Beth’s adventure was when her ally Benny forced her to sober up and study in New York. While Beth’s struggle with drugs and alcohol was a central theme in the show, her greatest achievement was only possible with a clear head. At the elite level, poker has witnessed a monumental shift towards healthy lifestyles. On the Poker Life Podcast, Kristen Bicknell explained how regimented a poker pro’s life should be: eight hours of sleep, one to two hours of cardio, most of the day spent on poker, lean protein for meals, and an hour dedicated to self-care.

In the late nineties, you could get away with playing drunk or playing 40 hours straight. These days the competition is simply too tough to beat without a sharp mind.

2. Confidence is of great consequence

In episode three, Beth loses a game that costs her the outright victory of a US Open Championship due to a loss of confidence. You might find it perplexing that confidence would affect a situation Beth is so in control of, but confidence has tremendous value in a number of unintuitive areas. For example, standardized test takers score far better when they’re primed to feel more confident. Something as simple as power poses in the mirror two minutes before you take the SAT can have non-trivial benefits.

Poker, particularly for inexperienced players, is as much a game about courage as anything else. The first time I played poker, I was afraid of getting caught bluffing and looking stupid so I just didn’t bluff. It was only when I played with friends in a comfortable setting that I could take risks and grow as a player. Keeping your cool when things go wrong may be the most talked about poker virtue, but coming to the table with a strategy you’re confident in is arguably the most important.

3. Prodigies are made, not born 

Clearly Beth was born with a generational chess mind, but her ultimate victory was aided by the support of a whole community in her corner. World champions of chess become more skilled year after year because they learn from the strategic breakthroughs of their predecessors. Likewise, great poker players stand on the shoulders of giants.

To reinvent the wheel in a game as complex as Chess or No-Limit Hold’ em would be a shortsighted display of arrogance. Simply put, there is too much depth to the strategy of either game for an individual to play optimally without consulting outside resources. There are powerful tools available for the modern player, but the value of knowledgeable peers will remain timeless. Having people to work with on poker strategy will allow you to divide and conquer your studying, correct mistakes you didn’t think to question, and animate you with a contagious passion for the game.

If you want to make friends who love poker as much as you do, sign up for our four-week lessons or our collegiate bootcamp (both free of charge!) Join us and discover the power of poker.

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