There are few more physically demanding sports than boxing. To achieve true greatness you need power, speed, cunning and technique, not to mention that certain X-factor that only a few are ever lucky enough to possess.
So it might seem a bit unlikely that there are any parallels to be drawn between boxing and poker. After all, the latter is a game that’s played while sitting round a table or playing some hands poker hands online that needs no physical prowess whatsoever apart from the ability to deal cards. But look a little deeper and many similarities do start to appear, some obvious and others a little more surprising.
For example, both need high levels of patience if you’re going to succeed. In boxing this means spending the first couple of rounds sparring and jabbing and generally sizing up the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. In poker this takes the form of easing yourself into the game making relatively low-risk bets while also looking at the styles and approaches of the other players round the table. It might not be information that you use straight away but there’s a good chance that it will come in very handy later.
Alongside patience, self-control is equally important for the fighter and the poker player. If this slips and either starts acting impetuously and on impulse it can be disastrous. Risks, when they’re taken, need to be coolly calculated and assessed because failing to do this will inevitably mean that your guard is down opening up the risk of giving away the advantage.
Anyone who’s ever been in the ring or round the poker table will know that every bout or game goes through different stages during which fortunes change. But even if you really are on the ropes with no escape in sight it’s vital to realise that the situation can be reversed, often in an instant. It just takes one good punch or first-rate hand of cards to change the situation entirely so maintaining a positive and “never say die” outlook is another essential in both disciplines.
Of course sometimes you also have to use deception and bluffing to achieve the desired effect. Often in boxing this will involve giving the impression that you’re more down and out than you really are while in poker the opposite will apply. You’ll need to exude confidence even if you don’t have the cards to back it up if you want to intimidate others into making mistakes.
Then it’s time for the final, and most significant, similarity between boxing and poker – the need to go for the brutal knockout. When the opportunity presents itself it’s vital to show no mercy, doubt or hesitation, because that’s what makes a true winner.
One boxer who has shown just how the skills in the ring can be transferred is LeRon Washington who won the World Poker Tour Celebrity Invitational in 2010 with a $100,000 prize, a WPT bracelet and a buy-in to the year’s WPT Tournament held at the Bellagio, Las Vegas as his reward.
It’s not known whether any professional poker players have made an equivalent move to boxing – but that would certainly be a far trickier transition to pull off!