Cross-Training: Mixing Sports and Poker to Build a Stronger Mindset

Leo Margets

A lot of players like to take on poker challenges in order to play better and/or more.

I like to take on sports challenges because they’re the ones that allow me to get in the right mindset.

Ever since I started playing poker professionally I have always played sports on the side.

Sports have always been a part of my life, ever since I was a little girl. But there is a difference between playing a little game of football with your friends or staying in shape and training for a specific goal.

A challenge is something that requires giving the best of yourself. It has to be realistic, but it also has to require effort, dedication and perseverance.

A challenge is something that requires a long preparation, many sacrifices and a lot of focus.

Be Motivated Before You Start

Leo Margets
You have to be motivated before you even think about getting started.

It's something that takes up not only most of your time but also most of your thoughts.

That’s why you have to be motivated before you even think about getting started.

I have realized that sports challenges do me a lot of good in poker because it’s essentially like cross-training: I mix poker and sports to get better thanks to the specific characteristics and skills required in that particular sport.

These challenges force me to “take a break” from poker which, even though it’s my passion, can be very stressful - particularly at a professional level where you have to play even when you don’t necessarily feel like it.

The fact that these challenges require physical effort, regularity and discipline but have nothing to do with poker allows me to develop the perfect mindset to play poker better.

Marathons Also Have Luck

Ever since 2006 my challenges have been marathons.

They’re perfect for me because I like long-distance races and because marathons, despite having all the characteristics of a sports challenge, also have that element of luck.

Leo Margets
No matter how well you are prepared you can’t choose how you feel on the day of the race

 and you have to learn how to make the best of it.

Understanding that discipline and variance are perfectly compatible is essential both as a marathon runner and a poker player.

In the short/medium term, as poker players we are used to the fact that results do not always mirror the efforts, dedication and commitment put into the game.

Generally speaking this does not happen in sports. In sports you fight every day for something, you train, and you see yourself getting better day after day.

This if very comforting. I find it incredibly satisfying to see the concrete results of the time I put in my training.

However, not everything is as mathematical when talking about a race -- particularly one as long as a marathon where a lot of things can happen.

Better Preparation = Less Variance

Luck does have a part to play.

When you’re training there are some days when nothing can stop you, and some days when you feel you can’t put one foot in front of the other.

Either way at the end of the week you will have completed your training and ultimately got better.

But on the day of the race you could well be having one of these amazing days or one of those terrible ones.

The better prepared you are the less importance variance is, but it never completely disappears.

For me, the most important thing is to feel that I have done everything I can to reach my goal and to be able to manage variance (or maximize my luck if it’s a good day).

Even Sports Aren't Completely Predictable

Leo Margets2
In the perfect mindset to grind.

This is something crucial for poker players -- especially considering how much more importance variance is in poker.

Being able to have this mindset for a marathon has helped me to focus more in life in general and in poker in particular.

When you commit to a sports challenge you develop mental skills that you can easily transfer from one area to another.

You get better at overcoming bad spells and you’re in the perfect mindset to grind. On the one hand you have a clear mind, thanks to the release of endorphins during sports.

On the other hand you’re conscious of the mere fact that you have to work hard and long to reach your goals but that you can never control everything.

It’s a fact that you accept and live with, without giving it too much importance, since even something as scientific as sports isn’t completely predictable.

That’s why it’s the perfect addition to your poker player routine and it will help you get better and stronger and be more prepared.

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