Chess at the Poker Table

I first got into poker by way of chess, and while I don’t play chess tournaments any more, I still teach a few chess lessons and play online – sometimes at the poker table. I’ve got an app on my phone and sometimes when the action’s a little slow…

This is problematic in all the ways you might imagine. I’ve been known to fold a marginal hand so I don’t run out of time in my chess game. It’s also possible that being distracted causes me to play worse. A friend of mine wrote an article on this topic, as he reminds me every time he walks up to the table and I’m on my phone, which is often. He’s right, of course, that it’s better to stay focused, but playing live poker is like walking along a bridge with steep drops on either side. One side is intolerable boredom and the other is playing so bad you’re not profitable. I’m not saying I’m square in the middle of the bridge, but I haven’t fallen off yet.

Once a Canadian kid named Jordan noticed me playing on my phone. We struck up a conversation about chess and pretty soon he had downloaded the app and we were about to play. As if from nowhere, Kip floated into the conversation.

“How much ya playing for?”


“Mind if I book some action?”

Kip is one of those inveterate hustlers who has made his living gambling on one thing or another for decades. He managed to book $25 of side action on me. The game wasn’t very close.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 Ng4 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4 Bb6 8.Bg5 Qe8 9.h3 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Nxg5 hxg5 12.Qxg4 exd4 13.Qxg5+ Kh7 14.Qf5+ Kg8 15.Qg6+ Kh8 16.Bf6#


2 thoughts on “Chess at the Poker Table

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nate, didn’t you tell me that you typically play 2-minute chess (for you non-chess players, that means you only have 2 minutes, cumulative, to play all the moves in your game or you lose on time regardless of the position on the board–believe it or not). As a chess player myself, I consider it crazy to play 2-minute chess to begin with, and even more so on the phone, when seeing the board clearly can be a problem, not to mention while trying to play poker when you have hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars at stake. So, the story is even crazier than your description!

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