Why Your Mental Game Is As Important as Physical
Recently an old friend of mine recommended a book for me, The Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo . Even though I don’t play poker myself, my friend promised the book will do wonders for my golf game. Apparently, the author of the book is an avid golf player as well, but more importantly, instead of talking how to play poker, Angelo explains how to stay calm and perform at your best, advice that helps every day.
It may not seem this way but poker and golf have a lot of things in common. Here’s one of most rewarded players in poker, Phil Hellmuth talking about golf and poker (but not only)
To me, there are three main similarities between these games.
Similarities between poker and golf
We live in a wild and extremely divided world where offence can be taken at virtually anything.
Someone may claim that neither golf nor poker are actual sports. But I would say that while rich, fat and lazy businessmen have given poker and golf somewhat of a bad reputation, in reality these are highly demanding activities, both physically and mentally.
Both are individual, not team sports
In a team sport, you have your teammates, your brothers to encourage you no matter what. In individual sports like chess, poker, golf, despite the fact that your coach and friends may be somewhere close, the strength, motivation, courage and execution all must come from within.
Significant peaks in stress followed by streak of boredom
Boredom may be the wrong word here but it doesn’t change the fact that unlike other sports, in poker as well as golf, there are long pauses. For example, in a live poker tournament, you may be ‘card-dead’ for hours but when the times comes, which may happen at any time, you need to be ready 110%. That’s tough.
The only individual game that doesn’t require much mental strength is video slots. But even then, if you go to one of the top slot sites for UK players and start playing, you would still have to be mentally strong to be able to quit while you’re ahead.
Mental game is key
In both poker and golf, it is easy to disregard mental game. You work on your swings and backswings, on your raising and bluffing ranges but it is easy for everything what you know to be through out of the window if you are not read mentally.
Beginners often forget that and as a result, blame their own downfalls on luck, wind, planetary movement or any of the million other irrelevant things. While the truth is as simple as it gets. You were presented with an opportunity and you failed. You weren’t ready. Tiger Woods has a mental coach , as do the greatest players in poker. It is as clear as day that in order to be at the top of your game, mental state is the most important aspect of any game.
How to stay mentally strong?
In poker, golf, or life in general, you can stay calm using pretty much the same principles. Meditating and breathing exercises will provide you with necessary training in order to prepare you for the moments of stress in the future.
There are a few tips that can work as short-term solution. One that you already know is to count backwards from 10 or 20.
Also, you can have a mantra that you repeat to yourself in the time of stress. For example, in poker sometimes you will lose hands to players of lower abilities who in fact are necessary for the game ecology. If better players would always win, beginners would dry out as a puddle on a hot summer’s day. Nevertheless, it is still frustrating to lose to an inferior hand. But what you could repeat silently is that’s exactly why you are here. Sooner or later, the beginner will punt his money away and you will be there to collect it if you remain focused and patient.
Lastly, if you going to take only one thing from this article, I ask you to take this: work on your mental game. It will pay dividends long term. More than you can imagine.