Can poker improve your game?

There are certain side hobbies and activities that are known to be common among successful athletes across a range of sports. For instance, figures ranging from NBA star Stephen Curry to ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo are known to excel in golf. A growing number of sports stars are also known to practice meditation, which for that matter, yoga is a rising trend as well. And the reason that activities like these seem to catch on across sports is that they’re more than hobbies. In most cases, athletes see aspects of these hobbies that can help them to improve on the field (or court) of play.

Along those lines, poker represents another interesting hobby that is known to be popular among all kinds of successful athletes. From European football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, to retired NBA pros like Paul Pierce and Charles Barkley. There are countless prominent sports figures known to enjoy some time at the tables.

This particular athlete side hobby is a little bit more subtle, because unlike golf or yoga there’s no physical component to it. However, poker does teach valuable lessons to athletes, that some that competitive field hockey players can certainly benefit from as well.

Accepting Highs & Lows

There are many rules, tactics, and even mathematical considerations that go into this game. However, learning how to win poker games tends to mean mastering psychology as much as strategy. Players learn how to master their emotions during games. This crucially means coming to understand how to move on after a defeat, and stay focused later a victory. Any athlete can take this kind of training to heart, even within a single game. In a certain sense, sport is a never-ending series of small successes and failures. Athletes who can move past them and stay calm and balanced are often the ones who thrive.

Using poker for strategy in field hockey

Calculating Risk & Reward

Poker also teaches players to calculate risk and reward on the move. And by extension, to determine when to be aggressive, or when to take a more conservative, patient, or defensive approach. These lessons don’t always translate to team sports, because an individual athlete still needs to work within a team strategy. However, there is something to be said for training one’s competitive instinct. Through poker, a field hockey player or any other athlete can gain a sense of when to be aggressive and when to wait for the right moment in competition. It’s an invaluable skill to be able to judge these things on the fly, and it can turn even an average athlete into a more effective field hockey player.

Concentration in sport

Sharpening Concentration Under Pressure

Among all of the life lessons of poker, for athletics or otherwise, that of learning to concentrate under pressure is perhaps the most significant. Poker players simply cannot thrive unless they train themselves to maintain concentration. No matter what other players may be doing, no matter what the stakes may be, and no matter what cards are dealt. Concentration should be a constant, and this is very much the case in sports as well. No experienced field hockey player would argue against better concentration under pressure as being a vital skill to master.

Naturally, none of these poker-related lessons tell you anything about field hockey strategy specifically, nor do they have anything to do with how to hit a ball. They won’t hone you physically or make you better at passing or scoring. But from an emotional and psychological standpoint, they can make you a more complete athlete. This is one reason so many stars in so many sports make a habit of playing poker, and it’s why we believe field hockey players have a lot to learn from the game as well. 

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