Being a good poker player isn’t about what you know about the game. Granted, you need to know the rules and expertise in odds theory is certainly going to help you to win games, the magic element which splits the professionals from the amateurs is strict control over emotions and typical mental responses to certain outcomes.
Whether you’re a strong and silent type with an unbelievable poker face like Phil Ivey or a loud, brash bully who is actually cool and calculated under the surface like Phil Hellmuth, everyone has their approach to winning games. One thing that won’t get you anywhere however is a lack of tact or control over how you react to situations good and bad.
We wouldn’t be able to write about an MMA trash-talking article without mentioning the most high-profile fighter of all time, Conor McGregor. His feuds with Nate Diaz in the UFC were child’s play compared to the vitriolic campaign when he switched disciplines to box the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., but his mind games weren’t undone even though he lost respectably to Mayweather. His ability to give out endless amounts of put downs, aggression and trash talk is certainly backed up when he gets into the ring or octagon, with the Irishman certainly putting on a show both in and out of the ring.
Keeping cool when it matters
This kind of composure when it matters is key in many sports, but it is especially critical in poker. Being able to get the upper hand on opponents through mind games or all-out-aggression is a popular tactic, so McGregor’s mix of explosive energy and good timing and control are ideal tools when it comes to winning a game of poker. There are however some fighters out there who just don’t have what it takes if they were to swap gloves for a hand of cards.
Take Ultimate Fighting star Uriah Hall. Undoubtedly a great fighter, the big Jamaican isn’t afraid to show his emotions, frequently kicking off in the reality TV style show and letting his competitors get him fired up. Although his unbridled power and aggression can work in the ring, his inability to keep a lid on his feelings could be damaging in a game of Poker, especially if someone like Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow started bragging or generally winding him up. We’d love to see Mike reacting to an angry Uriah Hall however.
Poker is a game that requires players to have a large mental capacity, not just for remembering the rules, but to be able to constantly analyse. Getting a read on opponents, the game, the possible outcomes and whether to bet or not involves lots of split second decisions and constant maths. It’s usually the case that most world class poker players are either emotionally intelligent or have a high IQ, so much so that people are worried about the next big poker personality.
A lack of brain power
One former MMA fighter who doesn’t have a chance in this department is Russian Viascheslav Datsik. Popular on the Russian MMA scene, the heavyweight has turned to crime and developed some pretty questionable beliefs since retiring from cage fighting. He has carried out armed robbery, vigilante raids on brothels, declared himself a racist and the son of a Pagan God. This level of stupidity and controversy won’t win him any poker games anytime soon. At least you could argue that he’d terrify a few players into submission.
Stick to what you’re good at
In the other direction, pro poker players don’t always make good MMA fighters either. American Olivier Busquet and Mexican JC Alvarado decided to have an MMA bout to settle a $150,000 bet instigated by Alvarado. Although he has a cage fighting background, Alvarado’s bravado and belief that technique would in over the heavier Busquet (the difference was about 20 pounds), Busquet proceeded to pummel Alvarado into the ground to win by technical knockout.
Although not as violent (most of the time) as MMA, poker is still a competitive, aggressive game that sees tempers flaring and grudges started regularly. Hopefully the game will continue to be the exciting rollercoaster that it is with some many big personalities clashing at the table, and let’s hope some MMA fighters and boxers get more involved. Our money is on Floyd Mayweather to come and collect some heads with his background in casino gaming.