Ask the average gamer how Street Fighter correlates to poker and chances are, you're probably going to get a puzzled stare. Before I attended Seth Killian's lecture on game design in fighting games last year, I was certain that people like Hevad 'Rainkhan' Khan, who placed sixth in the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, and online legend Randy 'Nanako' Lew were flukes. Now, I'm not so sure.
Earlier this month, I called up professional Street Fighter player Arturo Sanchez to ask him about the similarities between poker players and professional Street Fighter players. He told me that I would have to learn the game first. That's how I got here. It's 7'o clock in the morning and Arturo Sanchez, his voice nasally from a recent flu, is breaking down his after-hours match from Evo 2009 over Skype.
"We were doing it just for fun, but people decided to make bets." Arturo Sanchez is one of the rare few who can comment so flippantly on an encounter with Daigo Umehara, the current Guinness World holder for 'most successful player in major tournaments of Street Fighter'. As 'The Beast' of the competitive Street Fighter landscape appears on the screen, Sanchez grins. "I think $20, 000 USD or so exchanged hands that night."
"Street Fighter is about position and space control." Sanchez explains as he draws a line across two thirds of the screen, the characters frozen in place; Umehara is playing Ryu, Sanchez has Dhalsim."See this? This is Dhalsim's optimal range. This is my sweet spot. Daigo can't cross this line without being punished and he knows this."