21st January 2012

I got to chatting to an elderly boxing coach in a private poker game in East London I play in, and for whatever reason the conversation moved onto the areas that really separate mediocre boxers from great ones.

Although this is a very complex subject, something he said really stuck in my mind as being a great example of the small lines between success and failure in areas of extreme competition.

This coach explaining that in boxing, most high level boxers can hit with roughly the same power, with the true difference lying not in the power they produce, but in the energy they use in punching.
A riffle shuffle being performed during a game...A bad boxer will throw just as hard punches, but will expend vastly more energy doing so through a lack of good technique and solid balance.

This pretty quickly adds up to a huge difference, with the fresh fighter easily able to take advantage of as the weak boxer runs out of steam and energy as the rounds go on.

This is very similar to poker, where most players face very similar decisions (after all, we all get dealt the same cards over the long run), but good players play them much more efficiently. Take bet sizing in big bet poker as an example. Weak poker players will tend to blunder with bet sizing, either just hitting the ‘pot’ button over and over, or just throwing out tiny bets that price everyone in.

Poker at its core is a game of very fine margins. Small differences can soon add up to huge sums, and just like in boxing, the winner will usually be the individual with the most streamlined, balanced, and efficient game.

It is crucial that you try and analyse your game in these terms – each and every area of your game needs to be as sharp as possible when you sit down at the tables, and the small edges you need to win in poker come from being better than your opponent’s in as many of these small areas as possible. 

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