How Testing Software is a Lot Like Playing Poker

From Omaha Hi-Lo to No-Limit Texas Hold'Em, poker can take hours, be entertaining and at times, nail-biting fun. Poker is a popular, high-stakes game and every hand can be different. There's a mental strategy in poker that's required to tell different hands, recognize a bluff and read the actions of every player. While it might not look like it, testing out new software is similar to playing a hand of poker. 
Poker games and software testing both require math, probability and intuition.
"If you can't learn from your experiences, you just aren't going to win," John Cernuto 
Play a hand of poker and you can easily find yourself calculating the risks and rewards. It's similar to any business or investment strategy and parallels software testing. 

Bill Gates probably summed it up best, "A player collects different pieces of information—who's betting boldly, what cards are showing, what this guy's pattern of betting and bluffing is—and then crunches all that data together to devise a plan for his own hand." This is a step often seen with processing different types of information. 
Poker games require a plan of attack and players need to analyze the actions of others.
"May the flop be with you," Doyle Brunson
Another similarity between poker and testing software is the initial analysis. In poker, the players need to assess how all the other players are playing each hand. Are they all playing a big pot? It might be a tell that they have a big hand. Likewise, if they play loosely with small pots, it's usually an indication they have small hands. 
Similarly, when analyzing software, questions may arise like what is the security concern here? Or, what are the performance considerations? Tackling these questions can help outline appropriate courses of action in both software testing and poker.
Poker players develop an intuition similar to mathematical intuitions.
"Limit poker is a science, but no-limit is an art. In Limit, you are shooting at a target. In No-Limit, the target comes alive and shoots back at YOU," Jack Strauss
Some poker players never speak. However, the brief conversations players have can be tells. The novice might be mouthy when he has a good hand which is an obvious tell. 
There are players who are quiet the entire hand because they're busy reading the body language of other players. Similarly, developers will run quality assurance tests on their software to ensure not just functionality but accuracy. Poker players will also run tests. They want to ensure they maintain pot control so they only have small pots with small hands and save the big pots for their best hands.
Final Thoughts
There are a lot of similarities when it comes to poker and testing software. They both take time to master and can lead to several frustrations. However, when a player masters a particular aspect of poker like pot control or knowing how to read tells, it can help him improve confidence. Similarly, while testing software may have different objectives, having a well-tested and reliable, working product is the goal. It's not just finding faults but achieving the desired effect. 
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About Debasis Pradhan

Debasis has over a decade worth of exclusive experience in the field of Software Quality Assurance, Software Development and Testing. He writes here to share some of his interesting experiences with fellow testers.


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