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Basketball and Poker: Analyzing the Similarities in Strategy and Mindset

For elite athletes, it is just as essential to have a world-class work ethic as it is to have a natural ability. There are dozens of examples of players who had all the ability in the world and could have easily gone on to perform to the same standards as some of the top NBA stars of their era. Still, they didn't have the mentality or the ability to push that extra 10%. In high-level competition, this mentality is unanimous across all elite participants, regardless of the sport or game. Individuals who operate at the highest echelons all have a work ethic and a desire to win that few others do.

Therefore, there's significant crossover in certain aspects of professional games, and the intersection of strategies and mindset between professional basketball and poker is more substantial than you might think.

Tournament Length
The NBA playoffs and elite-level poker tournaments have a lot in common as they challenge the endurance of the game's top players. After the completion of the NBA season, the NBA playoffs decide which team will go on to lift the championship trophy. It can occur over two dozen games, with two games consisting of up to seven games each. It's simply not just a case of winning one big game or match on that day, the likes of which you see in soccer or boxing, where all roads lead to one big grandstand event.

Poker and basketball share this common trait, as the World Series Of Poker takes place over a month, so players need to have the ability, endurance, and mental stamina to stay ahead of their opponents over a much longer time than in most other competitions. This trickles down to the lower end of poker too, and although there's usually less money on the line, endurance, and mental aptitude are often the deciding variables for those skilled and lucky enough to finish in the winning places during online poker tournaments.

Poker tournament sessions can last for hours at a time, and weighing up the possibility of what your opponent has, whether they're bluffing, and being mentally solid enough to make critical decisions in the heat of a high-intensity game are all game-deciding variables. To be able to do this consistently, for weeks at a time, draws a raft of similarities with the NBA, particularly the business end of the season, where the playoffs decide the eventual champions.

Reading Body Language
In poker, even the slightest twitch, scratch of an eyelid, or hand movement can signal a fumble that another poker player can capitalize on. Although online poker relies on more specific card knowledge and the probability of your opponent's hand being strong, in a physical game, the ability to read body language can separate extremely competent players from professionals. If we go one level higher, this minuscule difference can also separate professionals from the elite.

Although a contact sport, basketball comprises faints, misdirection, and using your body to maneuver yourself into a position where you can get a free aim at the basket. Being able to read body language at the highest level of basketball will also give you an inkling of whether your opponent is missing half a step or if their head isn't in the game.

One of the mentally strongest players in the history of the NBA is the irreplaceable Michael Jordan, widely considered one of the greatest players in the history of basketball, with an elite winning mentality, and it's no coincidence that Jordan is also a keen gambler and poker player.

While on paper, poker and basketball are two totally separate entities, as you can see in our article today, there's a lot of crossover between the two, especially when you take a closer look at the similarities in the mindset of top NBA players, and the strategies that are required to succeed at the highest level of each game.

Players with great talent but exceptional work ethic and dedication to their craft often come out on top in any field. Persistence and drive are imperative for those who want to end up at the elite level of their craft. Michael Jordan is an enigma. He had an elite winning mentality, was willing to win at any cost, and was willing to drag up the mindset of his fellow teammates. He combined this with a precocious natural ability, which is why many perceive him as the greatest player of all time.

His ability to know when to take risks and when to bring out his best performance at the most crucial and opportune moment are things that adhered him to fans and inspired a whole generation of basketball talent that grew up watching him play. Poker players also know when to go in, when it matters, and they have to have the conviction to place six or seven-figure bets when they believe they're in a favorable position to win the game. There are not many people with the mentality to do that.