From the Hard Court to the Tables: NBA Players and Poker

Basketball requires both psychological (focus and discipline) and physical skills (agility, coordination and stamina). Focus means coordinating your eyes, hands, legs, and feet to work together and win the game. As a physical sport, you need to be disciplined by training, doing cardiovascular workouts, strengthening your muscles, and increasing your body’s flexibility. A player, whether professional on the National Basketball League (NBA) court or an amateur shooting hoops with friends, must have the following qualities in order to win a game.

Same as the sport of basketball, the card game of poker requires skill, discipline, and focus. In fact, we’ve seen several prominent NBA players have been making the rounds at the tables lately, and even on Partypoker. Nicknamed “The Matrix”, Shawn Marion of the Dallas Maverick competed at the tables during the 2011 World Series of Poker (WSOP) hoping to win the one of the world’s most exclusive bracelets: the WSOP Championship Bracelet. Former Bolton Celtics’ small forward, Paul “The Truth” Pierce, displayed his poker skills during the 2013 WSOP 10K Pot-Limit Omaha Championship. Unfortunately, he got flushed out of the tournament. What keeps them playing poker outside the court?

Achieving Mental Toughness

Playing sports means challenging yourself both physically and mentally. First, you have to accept growth and develop your skills. Accept change and never remain static—always keep your eyes on the prize. In basketball, this means training hard, listening to criticism, and practicing. Since poker is a competitive game, it helps players to accept defeat graciously and to never give up. They learn to stay committed and control their emotions. As William Florence would say “The strong point in poker is never to lose your temper, either with those you are playing with or, more particularly, with the cards. Always keep cool. If you lose your head you will lose all your chips.” Same goes with basketball; the more you get angrier, the more you stand to lose the game.

Becoming Focused and Fearless

An arena filled with shouting and cheering fans can be really distracting. Compared to a typical poker tournament, everything is relatively quiet. Noise can really unsettle your nerves and cause you a critical match. But how can you keep your focus and become fearless on the court and the tables? Minimize distractions and stay focused on the game. Basketball players like Paul Pierce believe that playing poker helped him be a smarter NBA player. According to him “It helps me on the basketball court, to be more patient and to be more of a thinking player and to be smarter out there.” By being focused, you learn to be fearless and patient. You will never let fear come between you and your game.

Being Cheerful and Staying Positive

Basically, the point of playing basketball or poker is to have fun. Sometimes, we just need to play just for entertainment or charity. The French-raised NBA superstar, Tony Parker, hosted several poker charity events with his former wife, Eva Langoria. With players like him hosting events like these, it helps spread positive vibes on the hard court and the tables.