— SHILPA SHETTY KUNDRA (@TheShilpaShetty) April 1, 2016
Shane Warne has excelled at both cricket and poker.
The fact that there is a poker scene in which top players have risen to that position by winning a high number of games and tournaments highlights how poker is far from being a game of chance. If it was simply down to the cards being dealt, anyone in the world would have an equal chance of winning the biggest competitions.
Claiming that Phil Ivey got to his position through luck is like saying that Cristiano Ronaldo was also blessed with good fortune, when, in fact, both players got to where they are by working hard and practicing. Legendary cricketer Shane Warne and other famous sports stars have found that the attributes they developed while playing sport have also helped them develop strong poker skills. For all of these reasons and more, poker is now being classified as a mind sport.
What is a Mind Sport?
As a cricketer, Warne was renowned for his exceptional ability to spin a ball. But his game was also down to psyching out batsmen and setting traps for them. He would bowl in a variety of different ways, pitch the ball here or there, put just the right amount of spin on it, and arrange the field accordingly. But Warne was far from the most athletic of players. Indeed, he is classed as one of the greatest ever players because of his supreme knowledge of the game and his mental skill. In terms of physical sports, cricket could be classed as the one which requires the most mental ability from the players; when cricketers lose their focus it can have dramatic effects on the outcome of the game.
Football also requires strong mental strength from players, especially when competing in major competitions like the World Cup. This is perhaps why the Brazilian Winger and 2002 world champion Denilson has also entered the poker scene. Not only did the one-time world’s most expensive player have to show mental rigidity on the pitch, he also needed intelligence to beat defenders down the flanks.
— The Poker Wire (@thePokerWire) June 8, 2016
Denilson is just one sports star to make the transition from the pitch to the poker table.
While all sports require some kind of mental ability, when thinking of mind sports it’s usually games like chess that spring to mind. The board game has been studied for centuries, and there are hundreds of different strategies for playing it. In the current age, the term mind sport can also encompass eSports. This covers any game that can be played competitively via a computer. Mind sports typically don’t require any physical skill, but do call on superior mental ability.
Why is Poker Defined as a Mind Sport?
In addition to becoming a world-class pundit, playing poker seemed to be a logical step for Warne after retiring from the wickets. The Australian legend has competed in many tournaments with varied success and has famously said that he compares tournament poker with cricket. He said that both trials are long and gruelling events that can be broken down into smaller contests. For example, a test match would last for five days, but the smaller contests within could represent the overs that Warne had to bowl. The World Series of Poker goes on for a similar amount of time, and players need to get past a number of personal duels with various players at different tables before progressing to the final stages. To be prepared for this, they need to have strong mental endurance.
There are other reasons why poker is defined as a mind sport. For one, it has been proven time and again by the best players in the business that the values on the cards only play a small part in deciding who will be the victor in a tournament. After developing a basic poker strategy, professionals spend years refining their skills at all varieties of poker, including No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha.
Players need to have exceptionally advanced mathematical skills in order to quickly work out their odds on winning a hand. From there, they need to assess whether it would be worth betting into a hand based on their current chip stack. In addition to this, they need to consider how many people are in the hand and how those players have acted on each street so far. These are all things to consider when playing online and in live games.
Live poker has a lot to do with looking at the other players at the table and trying to decipher their psychological cues. Daniel Negreanu has displayed an amazing ability to read the other players at the table and predict what cards they are holding. This puts him at a distinct advantage to other players who don’t have this skill. Imagine being able to play a game of poker and actually see the other hands – it would be pretty easy to win, wouldn’t it?
Daniel Negreanu is famous for his ability to read opponents.
How do the Biggest Tournaments Prove that Poker is a Mind Sport?
Going into a major poker tournament with no poker experience against professional players would be like turning up at the World Cup and asking Gareth Southgate if you can have a run out with the England team. Unexperienced players at the poker table are simply destroyed by the experts who have a variety of tricks up their sleeves.
Anyone can enter the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, but there has never been a winner who was playing for the first time in that tournament. Generally, the ones left standing have been professional poker players who play the game for a living. There have been a few unknown card sharks to have picked up the major prize, however. For instance, the 2017 winner Scott Blumstein had never appeared on television until he took down the ultimate prize. He had been playing poker online for many years in preparation, though.
Sport is defined as a competitive activity that requires physical exertion and skill. Mind sports simply replace the physical aspect of this with intellectual ability. Poker most certainly falls into the category of mind sports, because players can learn and master skills and techniques to find success in the game.