Can playing Poker help your Golf game or vice versa?

This is an interesting question; can playing poker help your golf game and vice versa… I believe golf and poker complement each whilst still retaining unique characteristics. Actually, as an aware person, you can find similarities between many sports and life in general. So, as a massive fan of both poker and golf, I would like to explore both these sports. Funnily enough, they are both very addictive and those who haven’t played either often question what the attraction is at all. And yet, both poker and golf mirror many aspects of life.

Both sports rely on ability, a little… maybe even a lot of luck and, in my belief, a bucket load of mental toughness. Ability depends on the individual and varies as a result of experience, talent and knowledge. As opposed to luck which is less predictable. However, whether you hit one of two outs on the river to make your straight or get an amazing kick of a tree back into the middle of the fairway, luck will always play a part in any sport. Obviously the greater your ability, the less you need to rely on luck. Nevertheless, I believe the most important aspects of both these wonderful sports is the mental toughness required; the concentration, the focus and the mind control.

When playing poker and golf you will encounter countless thought provoking dilemmas. You will face decisions that require all your mental strength, knowledge and experience. In other words, one slight hiccup could cost you a tournament or, it may only slightly damage your game. The question is can you rely on your state of mind to return you to regular thought patterns?

In golf you may be faced with laying up against taking a fairway wood on a par 5 from 200 out or in poker, calling a bet with a set of Jacks with a 3 card flush on the board. You will make each decision, right or wrong, based on what you believe is best at the time. You will calculate the odds, do the math and importantly, work out your current position in either tournament. However, what a lot of players of both sports don’t consider is how they will react after the event. If you hit the green or your set holds up, it tends to be simple to manage, however what if neither comes off?

Will you go on tilt?

Will you throw a club (we hope not)?

Will you lose focus?

Can you regain your mental focus?

Of course there are differences between the sports, not just that their played indoors and outdoors, but also the focus or direction of your mental strength. When mastering poker it is important to focus on your opponents as much as your own game. However in golf your own game matters most. Obviously, mental discipline is needed in both sports and, if you have the ability to maintain your concentration and focus, you will improve dramatically in both games.

How often (in either game) do you hear people blame their surroundings or others for their mistakes?

Golfers say, “You moved in my back swing” or “the wind picked up before I hit the ball…”

Poker players say, “that donkey had no right to call” or “that player is such a luck box…”

The players who maintain their ‘cool’ tend to be the ones who ‘stick’ to their game plans, remain focused and play to the best of their abilities. Sure there are factors in both games that cannot be controlled, however there are methods to extend and control your mental strength and focus which will evidently improve your results.

So, I believe playing golf and poker complement each other in terms of the mental attributes required for successful play. You need to control your temper in both sports and you need to focus. If you don’t pay attention to betting patterns, body language, your back swing or even wind direction, you may make some serious mistakes.

It’s no coincidence that many professional poker players enjoy playing golf. It may be tempting to believe they see it as an opportunity to get away from poker, which it can be. However, I believe the attraction for these poker players is the similarities in the mental applications and personal discipline required to play both sports. If you haven’t played either sport, I strongly suggest doing so. I would compare the satisfaction of bluffing a strong opponent with hitting that perfect shot. The personal enjoyment of success in either is immense. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Remember, the power is in your hands!

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