Why do top athletes play professional poker? If you’ve watched any poker games on television, you’re aware that gifted athletes can often be found on the felt, competing and sometimes even holding their own with poker’s best. Why is that? What attracts top athletes to poker, and why are many of them, like baseball’s Orel Hershiser or hockey’s Greg Mueller, so good at it?
Top Athletes in Poker: Competition
Probably the most critical factor that draws athletes to poker is their spirit of competition. Professional sports are highly competitive. In order to win consistently, you need to have the drive to win all the time. Losing must be unacceptable. We find something similar in poker. Poker may be the most highly competitive game there is. You win by collecting chips from everyone else at the table over and over again. Athletes who no longer have the physical ability to compete at the highest level in their sport often find a satisfaction of their competitive urges at the poker table.
Top Athletes in Poker: Strategy
While most professional athletes do not have a reputation for great intelligence, the fact is, to succeed in sports you generally need to have some measure of strategic thought and tactical ability. You need to be able to anticipate where your opponent will move, so you’ll know where to throw that punch or smash that return. You need to know whether the pitcher is thinking fastball or curveball. Whatever the sport, the most successful players are usually thinking players who can accurately project their opponents’ next moves and counter them. This is exactly the kind of ability needed for successful poker.
Top Athletes in Poker: Endurance
Most athletes need to be in top shape and to be able to push their bodies to the limit for hours at a time. Poker clearly does not require the same level of physical endurance. However, to win a major tournament often requires playing poker for 3,4 or 5 twelve-hour days. This can take its toll, especially when you need to play your best all the time. But playing at their best all the time is what the highest level athletes do.