I absolutely love playing poker and the nature of tournament poker. It’s something that resonates with me as there are so many similarities between poker and cricket, especially when you have the opportunity to play at an elite level.
Taking on the best players in the world is an environment where I thrive on the challenge. I love competing on the big stage, and in poker, there are none bigger than the World Series of Poker.
The best players in the world are in Vegas every year for the WSOP, I’ve been fortunate to play in the WSOP Main Event seven times now. I feel that I have the game that can compete at the elite level. I have no fear sitting at any table and feel I have a good table image. Sure I still have a lot to learn, but my game has evolved and I feel confident in my play.
I draw many similarities between Tournament Poker and Test cricket. Each are long and grueling events that can be broken down into many smaller contests. In cricket, I’m focusing ball-by-ball, over-by-over, session-by-session, one batsman at a time. In poker, you can only play one hand at a time, one opponent at a time. If you can win more than your fair share of the smaller contests, over time, they will add up to success in both endeavors. Patience is the key.
I also love the challenge of working out my opponent’s tendencies. It’s vital in both poker and cricket. On the poker table, I’m trying to work out how my opponents play and spot their weaknesses. Sometimes it’s not as easy as just throwing down a “Flipper” to an English tailender! At the WSOP, I enjoy lobbing up a few “Wrong’uns” every now and then to see how my opponents react. Sometimes I get belted for six, but sometimes I grab a few wickets as well.
I’ve been able to use my experience from Test cricket to quickly learn to adapt my own poker play according to the play of my opponents. I must admit, I do like to play the dummy sometimes and ask stupid questions at the table to throw off my opponents. It works!
The other thing about poker that I love is the mental stamina. I thought Test cricket was pretty gruelling at five days, but the WSOP Main Event runs for nearly two weeks, playing twelve hours a day! It’s impossible to concentrate for every moment of that sort of timeframe.
During my cricket days, you may have seen my having a chuckle with Heals or Tubbs in the slip cordon in between balls. It’s equally important to relax in the downtime, so that you can be 100% focussed when the bowler runs in. In poker, it’s a little different in that you should always observe other hands. I believe you learn a lot about your opponents when not in a hand, but it’s still important to unwind in between hands or at breaks. Use your iPod or iPad to listen to some music. You need to be equally focused on the last hand of the day as you were on the first hand of the day – you never know when an edge is going to come your way! The only way you will have the mental stamina to stay switched on is to let your brain switch off occasionally.