StarCraft II skillsets similar to online poker, says Playhem

Also, Playhem co-founder Keith Swan talks e-sports as the next major sports league

Poker is a huge competitive sport right now, and StarCraft II is becoming more popular every day. To Playhem co-founder Keith Swan, he sees synergies between poker played online and competitive online StarCraft II.

"A big initiative that we're currently working on is bringing poker into the e-sports world and changing the way online poker is experienced," said Swan. "We think of online poker as much closer to a real-time strategy video game than we do to a physical game of table poker. To be good at online poker you need strong quantitative skills, be able to process information about your opponents, think quickly, employ calculated risk taking. The skin may be very different, but the skillsets are very similar to a game like StarCraft II or League of Legends. And not surprisingly there are a bunch of StarCraft players who are also online poker pros. We think there are some very cool ways to create new types of e-sports style competitions around online poker, and we'll be rolling out some of those features in the coming months."

Poker has transformed itself from a game mostly played in private rooms to a worldwide competition with tournaments broadcasted on television. Competitive sports leagues like MLG are making competitive games a more compelling offering for people to watch online and Swan thinks the sky might be the limit when it comes to e-sports' mainstream appeal.

"If you talk to David Ting from IGN or some other people in the space, they'll tell you that e-sports can be the next major sports league," said Swan. "The prior generation played football and baseball and that certainly wont go away, but the current generation spends as much time playing video games as they do on an athletic field. CBS Interactive had some amazing statistics that the average concurrent viewership for the first round of last year's march madness was 650,000. MLG Anaheim last month was 450,000, so these e-sports events are approaching traditional sports at a rapid pace."

Read the full interview on [a]list.

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Latest comments (4)

Pier Castonguay Programmer 7 years ago
Hence why TeamLiquid and LiquidPoker come from the same people. My friend always been a high-ranked Starcraft (1) player and got talking into playing online poker by these guys. It's now his main job.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
- You can put the audience in a position where they know more about the game than the actual players.
- The audience can then observe the pros arriving at decisions.
- Flop, turn and river introduce a "twist of fate" element.
- The game resets very often to a default state (shuffle & deal) making it easy to understand, easy to tune in (compare to Chess vs. Basketball)
- There is a single focus of attention, all the action happens in one camera angle, if need be.
- If something happens, the audience sees it coming, clear arc of suspense

- One long match with escalating complexity, no reset to an easy to understand default state.
- Audience hat less information about the game than any of the pros playing, hence hard to follow, impossible to observe decision making.
- No random elements, underdogs will always be crushed.
- Multiple points of interest at any time. Too much happening in every corner. Often no arc of suspense.

You do not need to play poker actively to understand or enjoy watching Poker on TV. The same cannot be said for games at the moment.
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Dirk van Wijk Student - Computer Science (Master) 7 years ago
@Klaus: You're wrong on a few points.

Audience has more information than the players. They have vision over both players, can see their resources, can see what everyone is building etc. So viewers can actually see if a player makes a huge mistake, without the player himself knowing)

There are (some say even too many) random elements in Starcraft (or at least SC2), underdogs have a good chance to win. Think about 1 build order beating another one in rock-paper-scissor fashion. (I'm slightly exaggerating, though)

You're right on the other points, you need to at least have played to game to understand and enjoy watching it. Although casters can do a good job on explaining the game.

(Yes, I'm biased because I play Starcraft myself)
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Show all comments (4)
The skin may be very different, but the skillsets are very similar to a game like StarCraft II or League of Legends.
That's it. We can clearly see trhough this statement that Swan obviously don't know anything about RTS or MOBA that makes these games worth for e-sports.

Poker VS RTS: Although there is a heavy thoughprocess in-game for making a critical decision, the execution is much harder in SC2. In this game it's all about how a player balance Micro-managing (controling every single unit) VS Macro-managing (developping his economy/defenses/production lines). All of this when trying to elaborate a strategy. On top of that, there is that "WOW !" moment when he manages to get the upper hand when the spectator think that all is lost for him.

Poker VS MOBA: Here it isn't much about individual skills as it is about team-coordination. When you see a team chain their stuns and shutting down dangerous ennemy players first, setting traps/ambush, you are amazed by how much coordination and pratice it needed.

So all-in-all, I can't see poker becoming some major e-sports category, simply because its lacks one could call "epicness" that RTS and MOBA games have.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Aurélien Dussalve on 5th August 2012 7:52pm

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