Many football players like to relax with a friendly game of poker in their free time, while some have even gone on to forge strong careers at the table once their soccer days are over. The two pastimes may seem very different but as this list shows, there are necessary qualities that will help you succeed in both disciplines.
Poker requires speed of thought in assessing your hand and choosing your actions, such as your opening bet size. There’s typically no match timer like you might find in chess, but actions must be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Learning how to trust your instincts is essential to making the correct decisions without slowing down the action.
It’s the same with football: when the ball arrives at your feet you have a split second to make the right decision and to act on it. Should you pass, shoot or retain the ball to look for better options? Instinctive thinking will help you succeed in both sports.
Calmness under Pressure
On the poker felt, millions of pounds could be at stake with each decision and that’s why the world’s best players have learned to cope with the pressure. Faced with a big decision for a large pot, mere mortals might crumble, but calm level-headedness is what sets the great poker specialists apart from the casual card players.
In football you have to stay calm too. The weight of expectation that the crowd puts on their favourite team can be daunting. What if you let them down? What if you miss that open goal? Top players in both football and poker learn to thrive under pressure and for some, the adrenaline rush actually helps their game.
Assessing your opponent
Former England manager Don Revie used to compile vast dossiers on opposing teams. These days, all the work is done by computers as statistics from big games are put into software in the hope of giving one football team an advantage over its opponents.
Poker players will also assess what makes their rivals tick. Judging their style of play over several different tournaments could help predict what they will do in the future, so this is a vital factor for both sports.
Knowing when to move
Grabbing the opportunity at the right time is essential for both football and card players. On the soccer pitch, when you see an opening you have to take it with little time for thinking or weighing up the options.
Meanwhile, the world’s best poker exponents know exactly when to fold or bet big in order to scoop the pot.
Keeping a Poker face
You won’t succeed in poker if you can’t supress your delight when you are dealt a strong hand. Maintaining a poker face is perhaps the greatest skill in a player’s armoury but it can be important in football too.
Dr Paul Seager gave readers a valuable insight into the psychology of poker, and the role of the sports psychologist is becoming more prevalent in other sports. Recently, England football manager Roy Hodgson called for external help to aid his players in the event of a dreaded penalty shootout and goalkeepers are becoming adept at using wild antics and weird facial expressions to distract an opponent. In reply, the best response is to keep a blank poker face and simply drill the ball into the back of the net.