Have you ever thought about playing internationally? If you’re good at your poker game, chances are you have the money to do it. If not, maybe head back to the GGPoker website to practice some more.

But can it really help you? Is there something to be said for playing internationally and playing against citizens of different cultures in order to get better at your game? We explore the concept here. Read on to find out what you can learn about poker from playing abroad.

Understand where poker came from

The mere name Texas Hold’em implies that poker came from America, where cowboys and Indians really made their Thanksgiving ritual, but Texas Hold’em and all its variations only became popular after WWII. Before the American South embraced the game in the early 19th century, poker was played in France under the name of Poque and Hoyle R.F. Foster pointed to the Persian game of As-Nas as an inspiration.

The As-Nas anecdote is disputed, but understanding the game of As-Nas and Poque can help to understand their influences on poker. The name of poker, for example, is likely to come from the German word “pochen” which means to “to bluff” or “to knock”, referring to poker players’ need to bluff to survive the game, and its last man standing nature as you knock out opponents.

These elements are quite universal, with no special relevance to the time or place where poker was played, therefore they are timeless and elements to keep in mind when you are playing in the modern day.

Learn cultural differences

Did you know that in Bulgaria, “no” means “yes”? Or rather, shaking your head means “yes” in Bulgaria. You’d be surprised how many “universal” things turn out to be solely American once you leave the states: even body language.

We already have our own stereotypes about the rest of the world and its citizens. The British are posh and old fashioned, the French are flamboyant, the Germans are angry, etc.

When you go out and play poker with these people, not only will you learn that a lot of these stereotypes are complete fabrications but that you will need to navigate the real cultural differences at the poker table. A lot of international players are winning WSOP bracelets. Could that be because they have different tells you need to understand? Or are better at reading your tells? The big stereotype about Americans is that they’re “loud” after all. Maybe your intentions are written all over your face.

Give yourself a new challenge

Any linguist will tell you just how fundamental language is to just about any part of life. There is no talking necessary in poker, and yet when you’re faced with someone, anyone, from a different culture, with a different language, you can just feel that barrier.

And as any couple who met on a flight home will tell you, it’s a barrier you can and should overcome. In terms of poker, you will have to work through differences in culture, which will mainly manifest in tells, and the occasional translation of “call and raise”, but sometimes you need that.

Didn’t online playing get a little boring? There is no in-person element, and if you were good, chances are you were winning a lot. There’s no challenge in constantly winning, and you will have to upgrade your game in other ways. One way is to enter tournaments, and another is to head into other countries to play different players.

Or you can combine the two and join the WSOP Europe Circuit.

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