Super Bowl LV is this Sunday. This year’s National Football League title game will feature the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are tons of subplots in this one. The Chiefs and their star quarterback Patrick Mahomes are seeking a second straight title. Meanwhile after nine Super Bowls and six wins with New England, Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady has reached a 10th title game in his first year with a new team.
Football and poker overlap in endless ways. If you think about it, certain plays in football (some common, some less so) seem quite readily to evoke poker-like situations (some common, some less so).
Scoring plays can obviously be compared to winning pots. A touchdown is a big pot, a field goal a small one, and kicking an extra point is like picking up the blinds and antes.
You can compare other positive plays similarly. A long gain on offense or a tackle for a loss on defense might be likened to winning a medium-sized pot, especially after having played a hand well.
In those situations — both in football and in poker — it feels like the positive outcome was somehow “deserved.”
There are luckier “victories” that happen in both games, too, of course.
Running back a punt or kickoff for a touchdown usually requires a moment or two of good fortune during the return. Sort of like winning a preflop all-in with A-K vs. Q-Q
In that case, hitting an ace on the flop is like hitting a hole and finding yourself suddenly in the clear. Dodging your opponent’s outs thereafter is like avoiding further trouble as you sprint down the sideline into the endzone.
Meanwhile getting a “pick six” or returning a fumble for a touchdown, that’s even luckier — like winning with K-K vs. A-A.
Successfully pulling off a multi-stage bluff might be compared to a trick play working in football. You know, like a flea flicker. Or that “Philly Special” TD play the Eagles pulled off in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.
Of course, when the bluff fails to work, that can be like a trick play not coming off, too. It can be mostly harmless, resulting in just an incomplete pass or small pot lost. Or it can be crushing, ending up in a game-deciding turnover or the loss of one’s whole stack.
Missing an extra point? That feels like misreading the board or your hand.
A big fumble or interception? That’s like a bad and costly river call.
Kansas City is the favorite this weekend, although most believe the game will be competitive and that Tampa Bay has a chance as well.
As the game moves into the last part of the fourth quarter, the leading team might start playing “prevent defense,” which could be compared to folding hands on the bubble.
Once they get down to the final plays, though, the game could end a couple of different ways.
If the leading team has the ball and their opponent is out of timeouts, we might well be watching the quarterback take a knee and run out the clock. If that happens, the losing team will be drawing dead.
Or the outcome might not be decided until the final play. There might be a “Hail Mary” pass to end it, the chance of it working being like a player hoping to hit a two-outer on the river.
That would be the most entertaining finish. However it winds up, there will be no rebuys.
In any case, we’ll all find out soon which way the ball bounced… and how the chips fell.