Powerlifting is a sport that is all about displaying just how much raw strength the human body has.
There’s no bigger example of the extremes it puts the human form through than Danny Grisby who performed the heaviest deadlift in history. Contrast that with poker, a game where participants remain sedentary for several hours at a time; they have cards dealt to them, and their biggest stresses come in the form of decisions to play or not depending on the cards in their hand. There’s no demand on their physical ability, so, how on earth can lifters possibly learn a thing from people sitting at the poker table?
Former powerlifter Konrad Swinarski has certainly realized the benefits the two disciplines have in common. His skills have been shown on the rubber mat and on the green felt after he won at the International Poker Open in 2015, and went on to achieve a career cash out of around $50,000. If he can find attributes that combine both disciplines, then we shall too!
Let’s see how new lifters can raise the stakes by examining some of the qualities that they can learn from the poker table.
Never stop pushing yourself
Former World Series of Poker main event champion, Martin Jacobson, has been able to stay at the peak of his powers as he uses the mindset he’s learned at the table to maintain his fitness away from tournament play. Jacobson says that he never thinks he’s got to the point where he’s achieved everything; he’s always looking to up the ante with his fitness and in every stint at the table. Jacobson said: “Poker, as an individual sport will naturally attract competitive individuals who are more driven and motivated to improve their health as they realize it will benefit their ability to perform at their best.”
Terms across both activities
There are a lot of similarities between both activities in terms of the language used too. When it comes to lifting, it’s not uncommon to hear that someone has upped the ante (as already demonstrated by Jacobson). This is a phrase that is often used to announce incremental increases in weight, and it’s similar to its use in poker terms, when players raise the stakes. But there are also more crossovers. A split in lifting is the motion of bending the legs, one forward of the bar, one behind equally to distribute weight and aid balance, and in poker, split is the word that is used when the pot is divided equally between two people. While those already mentioned have a correlation in terms of their use, there are many other words which are commonly used in both disciplines which you may hear, although their meanings aren’t linked, such as hole, openers and rack.
There are bluffs and mind games across both sports, and in poker, some of the biggest successes have come from these actions. It’s not uncommon for a player to throw in a large chip stack and give the impression they have a good hand: it either forces the opponent to push on or give in. Think of this like a lifter raising their targeted weight ahead of the competition, and it is displayed for all to see. Your rival sees it, and then they raise their weight first, only to fail. Then, you lower your target weight as you’re lifting after them. Of course, no hard and fast rule says you have to do this in lifting or poker because, in both disciplines, it can be just as effective to keep your mind on your own game and not be affected by the tricks played by others.
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