StarCraft II vs. Poker - Introduction

You might have wondered at one point: how come StarCraft players switch to poker? Is it because of the money? This certainly has something to do with their decision to make the switch, but there’s another reason: the games of StarCraft II and poker have a lot more in common than one might think. Let’s go through the basics of each game:


1. StarCraft II

This is a real time strategy (RTS) game based on the ever popular StarCraft: Brood War released in 1998. The premise is similar to its predecessor: you control one of three armies (the humans, also known as Terrans, the beast-like Zerg or the technologically-advanced Protoss) and you have to use it to destroy your enemies.

Overall, the way you play the game doesn’t seem to separate it from other RTS games: harvest resources -> train units -> destroy your enemy. However, what does make it stand out is the fact that the three races are significantly different from one another in terms of strengths and weaknesses, making the games exciting and fun to watch. The last player standing is the one declared victorious.


2. Poker

Poker itself is a group of card games, where players are dealt cards and they wager money in the form of poker chips across several betting rounds. The total amount of money wagered during that hand (aka “pot”) is awarded to the player who either shows the better hand or is last standing.
The most popular type of poker is No Limit Texas Hold’em, where, as the name suggests, players can wager their entire stack of chips at any given point during the game. This makes for some interesting and creative strategies that players can use to win the pot.


How are StarCraft II and poker similar?

These two games take a very similar approach: defeat your enemy by employing different tactics. In StarCraft II, you can be passive or you can take the aggressive stance: both options are effective if used properly, it's just up to you to know which way will work under which circumstances. There are several main areas where similarities between games shine through – we will go through them in detail later on, but let's have a quick look:


Incomplete information.

While in StarCraft II the map is covered in fog of war and you don't know what your opponent is doing, in poker you don't know what your opponent's cards are.
Therefore, scouting for information is an important aspect in both games, as this will help you defeat your opponents.


Position matters

The way you arrange your army in the battlefield can be crucial to winning decisive battles – you don't want to expose your weak and high damage dealing units and you also don’t want to necessarily be the first to attack. Knowing how your opponent will react is going to make your decisions easier and much more effective. Same goes for poker: you don't want to be the first to act; you want to see what the others do before you make your move.


Build orders are like starting hands

The strategies you employ in StarCraft II rely on build orders – the sequence in which you train units and construct buildings; the more efficient it is, the higher your chances of success. In poker, the cards you choose to play at the start of each round have a major impact on the outcome, so choosing the most effective combinations of cards pays off big time.


Cheesing is like bluffing

You don’t always need a massive army to take down your opponent; sometimes, even six Zerglings can get the job done, but if you’re scouted in time, you will be punished for your risky move. Poker is no different: you don't need to wait for aces to win a pot; you can money by playing weak hands at the right time.


Be flexible

If you play against someone who is always teching to Carriers, chances are you'll figure them out fairly quickly. Don't be that player, be dynamic. Adapt your game according to the map, your opponent and your past games against them. This is a good advice in poker as well, since you will eventually be able to exploit players who have particular betting tendencies – maybe they fold too much, or on the contrary, they are too aggressive. An unpredictable player is an unexploitable player. In Bruce Lee's words, "be water, my friend".