Poker and Boxing: The Mind Games Behind Two Great Sports

What do Poker online and Boxing have in common? More than you think. While one is a card game played at a table and another is a combat sport contested in a ring, these sports are all about mentality, strategy, and in-game flexibility. Let’s explore what attributes bring these two closer together.

The Mentality in the Game

You can’t win at the table or in the ring with a good mentality but you can lose with poor mental preparation. ‘Keeping your head in the game’ is a phrase often touted by sports analysts and coaches. While often used the point is still relevant, participants and athletes can’t become distracted from the moment. Poker players have to keep their focus on the game at hand and the table. Boxers who were thinking about the next fight instead of the opponent in the ring, end up with their future world title plans dashed, starting with picking themselves off the deck. Anthony Joshua can tell you all about that when he underestimated Andy Ruiz Jr back in 2019. It's also fair to say that for the vast majority of us, if it comes down to stepping into the ring or trying to win a game of cards, then you may have better odds at winning poker online.

Strategy is Everything

Turning up at a poker table without a plan is usually a bad idea. Of course, if you’re playing with friends recreationally then it is permissible as there are few consequences involved. However, any session where you’re looking for financial reward should be planned out. Whether it’s to play aggressively with big bets or fold consistently to hoodwink your opponents, understanding what you want to spend and win will allow you to have the best experience within poker.

Boxing is very similar. Fighters spend months and sometimes the best part of a year, training for specific opponents. Training camps are led with a pre-determined goal in mind. Whether it’s to outbox an opponent and win on a points decision or to go for a knockout victory, these athletes leave nothing to chance.

There are instances when fighters have to change their plans in a quick fashion, which can go very wrong. In 1986, Tony Tubbs dropped out of his WBA title fight with Tim Witherspoon, days before the fight. Long story short, Witherspoon wasn’t prepared and didn’t have enough strategy planned to fight his replacement: James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith. The stand-in famously scored a first-round knockout win, showing the importance of a prepared strategy. Also, last-minute fights shouldn’t take place.

Ability to Read the Room and Play Accordingly

You might have the best hand at the table or the best pure punch power in the world. That’s amazing, it’ll take you far in the respective field. However, if players can’t accompany it with the ability to adapt mid-game, then they’ll end up with no chips and potentially down for the ten counts.

Poker players can’t rely solely on their cards. It’s a wide game where you must read how players react, play and gamble. Are they showing signs of a great hand? Are they bluffing far too hard? There’s no way to be exactly sure (clairvoyants and mind-readers may argue) but the best poker players can read the non-verbal signs as an indicator as to what cards the opponents are holding. Failure to read the room and build up a character profile of the others at the table will result in losses as you can’t play the game solo and expect to win.

Boxers also have to adapt to the challenges that emerge during a contest. The opponent in front of them might be favoring their right hand, so it’s important to isolate that side and show them on their left side. Or when they’re striking they could be exposing a lot of their midbody open to an attack. While they might not have practiced a lot of body shots, it's important to react and take the opportunities.

Chris Eubank Jr. Plays Poker!

Just like his dad, Chirs Eubank Jr. is a bit of a character. When Eubank isn’t in his state-of-the-art home gym in Brighton, he’s often seen playing poker. While some of his opponents like to poke jabs at Eubank that he loses some money, that doesn't deter him from playing. Nor did it stop 888poker from signing him up as a cultural ambassador for the brand. He’s not exactly short of money with his dad earning a lot of money and his career having won multiple titles. No doubt he employs all the attributes from the ring to his poker activity to help him at the table. Given he’s flirting with retirement after a loss to Liam Smith in January 2023, we might see more of Eubank Jr at the poker table if he doesn’t want to get punched in the head for a living anymore.

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