Poker has an incredibly rich history and major cultural significance, but it's no longer this new, fresh and exciting thing that it used to be and it's certainly not the only kid on the block. Today, poker plays the role of a grandparent to numerous collectible card games that went beyond the confines of the old 52-card deck formula.
A quarter of a century ago, mathematician and game designer Richard Garfield created a game called Magic: the Gathering that quickly exploded in popularity, spawning countless imitators, most notable of which, a digital card game called Hearthstone, served to further legitimize the place of collectible card games in popular culture. Magic: the Gathering was a training ground for many poker professionals and Hearthstone managed to capture the attention of poker veterans like Daniel Negreanu.
Proven Track Record
For the longest time Magic: the Gathering was viewed as just another bit of escapism for people who weren't that well adjusted or - to put it bluntly - nerds. This rather hurtful interpretation eventually lost its merit, given how in XXI century, people that used to be called "nerds" are now running the world.
When it comes to poker, Magic: the Gathering was a phrase that popped up suspiciously often in bios of young successful poker pros. Isaac Haxton, David Williams, Eric Froehlich, Brock Parker, Justin Bonomo, Scott Seiver, Gabriel Nassif, the list goes on and on. It seemed like every kid with a WSOP bracelet used to play cards with dragons and goblins printed on them. The sheer magnitude of this phenomenon makes it hard to ignore.
It's pretty safe to say that there's a giant overlap between the skills necessary to become successful at poker and skills required to thrive as a collectible card player. The prize pools of Magic tournaments are minuscule when compared to poker and that's the main reason why so many young, talented professionals decided to make a transition to poker.
Combining Business with Pleasure
In accordance with the idea of training specificity, trying to become better at poker by playing Magic: the Gathering or Hearthstone is bound to be at least somewhat inefficient. If you want to get good at bluffing in a certain spot - guess what - you should study the subject and get busy bluffing!
That said, there's only a certain amount of time you can spend on poker before your mind starts to rebel. Making one of the collectible card games your hobby can be a way of including some additional poker training in your life in an alternative, highly enjoyable form. It's a way of tricking your brain, by doing something that's both relaxing and productive.
At their core, games like MTG and Hearthstone are fairly similar to poker. They are games of skill played in a player vs. player format where the luck factor has a major effect on the outcome of any given match. The fact that the variance in those games is usually considerably smaller than it is in poker, makes them very enjoyable. Furthermore, potential mistakes are far less painful given how there's no money on the line.
One important aspect of collectible card games is the ever-changing metagame. It's something that isn't talked about nearly enough in the poker context and if you become somewhat proficient at Hearthstone or Magic: the Gathering you might be able to utilize it to your advantage. Metagame in the context of a collectible card game is the cross-section of all the dominant strategies. If card A is favored by a large percentage of the player population, card B that's not very powerful in a vacuum might subsequently rise in popularity just because it matches up well against card A.
Given how poker is still ways away from situation where every poker player is playing in a game theory optimal fashion, any given limit at any given poker room is basically a collection of players utilizing a bunch of exploitative strategies. The rise and fall in popularity of those strategies is a constant process. For example, at some point in the modern history of online poker, people realized that players don't defend their blinds often enough and therefore stealing from late position with an extremely wide range became the dominant strategy.
This approach worked well until player population as a whole adjusted to the situation and the average player started defending with a wider range, effectively punishing the current dominant strategy. While this process took months or arguably even years to occur, similar metagame shifts happen in the world of collectible card games on monthly - sometimes even weekly - basis.