(Photo: Jonathan Chng)

Lessons from sport can often be applied to other areas of life and vice versa. For example, game theory, which is used in chess, can often be applied to business situations where two or more companies are competing against each other. In a similar vein, there are many lessons from poker that can be applied to other areas of life, including sport. Perhaps this is why many sportspeople try their hand at poker both during their athletic careers and after retirement. Here are some of the lessons that athletes can take from poker players. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Professional poker players practice a lot before each tournament, making use of online poker websites to practice whenever and wherever is convenient for them, without the need to be physically in the same room as their opponents. This practice is important as it helps them improve their decision making skills and keeps them well versed on different poker hands. Regular practice also gives them the opportunity to try out new strategies and techniques to see which ones work best in different scenarios. 

(Photo: Edgar Chaparro)

The same is applicable to sport. Football coaches regularly have their players run different drills to practice different scenarios that may arise in upcoming games. The England national soccer team performed better in the 2018 FIFA World Cup than it had for around 2 decades, reaching the semi-finals of the competition. This was credited with the “set pieces” that the team used in the game, which required many hours of training and practice to make them successful in the tournament. 

Seek Out a Mentor

Poker is an old game, with hundreds of years of history. This has allowed skills to be passed down from generations of players, whether they be through families or from a professional mentor. Many professional poker players have mentors and coaches that can provide them with valuable tips and support that can allow them to improve their focus. Former players like Tommy Angelo are examples of successful players who have gone on to mentor the next generation; his students have included players like Phil Galfond, Jay Rosenkrantz and David Benefield.

Learning from former players is important in sport too. Many managers of soccer teams are former players, allowing them to pass on their experience to the people that they manage. Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp is a prime example of this; the former German soccer player took Liverpool to their 6th Champions League victory in 2019. In Formula 1, former drivers also coach and mentor young drivers, with former world champions like Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard working with up and coming talent. 

Be Patient

Sometimes things don’t go your way. In poker, you may end up with several hands that are not in your favour. The important thing to do in this situation is firstly, understand when you should fold (successful players fold a lot more often than they don’t), and secondly remember that things can’t always go your way. If you are patient, things will turn around, but it is important not to let a string of losses make you lose your head.

The same applies to sport. A run of poor performances can often lead to more unsatisfactory results. Athletes and poker players alike should focus on the game at hand, and not what has gone before. While we can always learn from our mistakes to ensure we do not repeat them, we must also not let negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

There are some important lessons that can be transferred from poker to other sports. Like poker players, athletes should ensure that they remain patient when things aren’t going their way, seek out people who can help them improve, and practice their techniques. By applying these techniques, athletes will be more likely to succeed.

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