Golf’s Ryder Cup took place last month, an event that pitted the best in the world from Europe and America over four days of unique competition. The European team, although underdogs at the off, were well-deserved winners. Actually, they thrashed the Americans. And to hear the Europeans talk about it, I was reminded that the golf and poker worlds are not so dissimilar.
The unique thing about the Ryder Cup is how it transforms a sport for individuals into a team sport. Players who have spent their careers competing for themselves alone are suddenly put into situations in which they have to rely on and perform for teammates rather than themselves. And with the European golfers winning four out of the last five Ryder Cups despite being outclassed on paper, these results have shown that the ability to perform as an individual does not necessarily transfer over to team play.
What if a “poker” Ryder Cup was organized? Would European team spirit be enough to overcome a perceived American advantage in individual skills? I’d like to bet on it, but first there needs to be a format created to transform poker into a team game rather than an individual one. I have an idea, using golf’s Ryder Cup as a model, whereby players compete over three days in three disciplines — Fourballs, Foursomes, and Singles. Here’s a poker equivalent of these disciplines:
In golf Fourballs, players play in groups of four, two from each team. Although each player plays his own ball, only a team’s best score counts on each hole. A poker equivalent of this would be to pit two from each team against each other in two head-up matches — playing the same cards! While Player A on one team played Player B from another team, the other two players would be playing a simultaneous head-up match using the same cards as the opponents of their partners. The majority of these matches could end in ties, with one win and one defeat per team. But wouldn’t it be exciting (and educational) to watch one player win with the same cards with which another player lost?
In golf Foursomes, players again play two from a team in a group of four. But they play only one ball per team, with players alternating shots. For the Poker Ryder Cup, two players on a team could play a match as a tag team, alternating actions without the ability of consulting each other. One player raises the pot, and when the action comes back around, it’ll be up to his partner to decide what to do on the flop. Imagine finding out that your partner has stuck half your stack into the pot on a 7 high, and now it’s your turn to decide whether to carry on the bluff or surrender. It could make for some exciting poker as well as healthy arguments about different styles.
The singles matches would translate from golf to poker without a hitch, 12 one-on-one matches in which the likes of Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Ivey will be comparable to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Davis Love III. But as far as a team event is concerned, I still like the European team. When British golfer Lee Westwood was asked why the European golfers seemed to have such a better team spirit than the Americans, he offered, “Well, we mix week in and week out. It’s not like we all come together for this week. We go out to dinner … quite regularly out on tour. So, you know, this week, we’re not in a different kind of environment than we normally would be. We are all very comfortable with each other’s presence and there’s a lot of laughing and joking.” Funny, he might as well be talking about the poker world.
In Europe, it’s not that poker is more fun, it’s that people have more fun playing it with each other. The large majority of European poker professionals are hardy travelers, well used to the road. And when they are at a Poker Online Pkv tournament and away from the poker table, European players usually spend that time together. In Las Vegas, for example, the horseshoe-shaped bar at Binion’s was for many years the fixed watering spot of all European players, known as the Irish Bar on one side and the English Bar on the other. But the plain fact was that every European would end up laughing there after the day’s play, regardless, while the American pros were spread out between 100 hotels and cliques. Beating the Americans in a Ryder Cup of poker might not be easy, but it sure would be fun.