Whether you live to immerse yourself in the action or prefer to watch from a distance, sports can offer a wealth of lessons regardless of how you choose to experience them. Poker, in particular, covers several areas and many who play the sport are able to apply valuable lessons that they’ve learned within their personal lives when off the felt.
While not widely considered to a team sport, poker is a unique game that is actually able to offer a lot of helpful lessons to ice hockey players. Let’s take a look below at five of the most valuable success tips ice hockey players can learn from poker:
#1 “Size Them Up”
Sometimes the most aggressive and head-on strategy will not always work to get you closer to your goal. In poker, in order to win the pot as fast as possible, some players may bet aggressively in hopes of intimidating their opponents to fold. However, if the aggressive player isn’t paying attention to their opponents, this method may very well just blow up in their face.
In hockey, in order to prevent an offense from moving the puck past the neutral zone, the teams will typically play an effective trap defense and employ the “dump and chase” offense. In this play, the offense forces the puck to travel over the heads of the defense team, and then raced after to regain control over the puck. Knowing how the opposing team operates is key to using their strengths against them.
#2 Get a Poker Face
Regardless of what a player may have in his or her hand, it’s crucial to avoid revealing any tells about what they’re holding. Good poker players will study their opponents in order to understand their perception of their hand strength. Anyone who is playing the game should understand the poker hand rankings, but they might not understand how to value them. To some players, pocket nines are an amazing hand, while others might think it is a weak holding. Therefore, professional players not only understand how to read their opponents’ expressions and body language, but also how to evaluate what the expression means in terms of how they value their hands.
In hockey, players must play the entire 60 minutes of the game. If they let up during any point, or let the opposing team know they are feeling weak, it could very well be used against them. Take the Vancouver Canucks, for example. Comfortable with their 3-0 lead against the lower-ranked New York Islanders in the third period, the leading team decided to take a break. However, that mistake cost them the game when the Islanders found their second win and ended up scoring 7 goals in the third period. This further goes to prove that no matter how well or poorly you think you may be doing as a team, you need to continue working hard and not let the opponents know what you’re up to.
#3 Practice Good Sportsmanship
Whether it’s in an online poker room or live on the felt, showing respect for other players is extremely important. Practicing proper poker etiquette, win or lose, always serves as a sign of respect towards other players and even the smallest amount can go a long way. Not every hand is a winning hand, and every player has experienced loss at one point or another.
For many players and fans alike, a 60-minute bout between two teams is not enough, but as soon as one team wins without mercy, the flying pucks and crushing of bodies comes to a halt. At the end of the day, players on both the winning side and losing side show respect for one another by shaking hands, validating their sportsmanship.
#4 Know When to Hold’em or Fold’em
In poker, there is an age-old axiom that states “aggression wins”. When you call the last bet, your only chance of winning is to have the best hand. However, if you instead lead the betting or raise, you can then win by having the best hand or by convincing your opponent to fold.
When on the ice, it’s sometimes easier for a player to be more aggressive than to take the time to think clearly about what he/she is going to do next. Making the effort to react to every opportunity that comes along may limit the team’s chances of making a game-changing move.
Hockey is a team sport, it relies on the synergy of the team and it’s imperative that each individual comes together to create this effect in order to achieve their goals. Each player needs to understand their role as well as how it impacts their team’s plans. When everyone on the ice is on the same page, nothing is better than seeing a perfect, clean passing between a few players that leads to a tic-tac-toe goal.
#5 “You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don’t Take”
This is a famous quote that can never be repeated enough. Wayne Gretzky didn’t become the leading point-scorer in NHL history because he preferred to warm the bench. Though it’s been years since Gretzky has played, the world still takes many lessons from “The Great One” to heart. His famous jersey number 99 will live on forever in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as the poker table, as the starting hand 9-9 in Texas Hold’em is also referred to as a “Wayne Gretzky.”
Hockey, like many other sports, is able to offer players of all ages lessons that they can apply to their daily life. How do you make sure you reach your goals?