Musings about poker and tennis

leech

Semi-Pro
My two passions at the moment are poker and tennis. I’ve recently been focusing more on tennis than poker, but realize that many important concepts I’ve learned from poker are applicable to tennis.

Importance of position

In poker, a winning player is always aware of position. You should try to avoid playing out of position when possible. Being in position allows you more options and more ways of winning pots.

Similarly, you should avoid being out of position in a tennis match. You should constantly be moving to position yourself in the most optimal spot to hit any number of possible shots. Being out of position limits your options and oftentimes puts you on the defensive during the point.

Expand your range, expand your game

Many losing poker players and marginal winners stick to one style of play and avoid deviating from their predictable strategy. The most dangerous poker players can play any two cards, given the right situation (taking into account the opponents’ tendencies, position, stack size, table image, etc.). In other words, because the best poker players cannot be put on a limited range of hands, it makes it difficult for their opponents to play against them.

I’ve found that varying my game, or expanding my range, has been a useful strategy in tennis as well. I employ a lot of drop shots, funky spins, and sharp angles to keep my opponents off guard. In a vacuum, such a shot may not be the “textbook” or preferred shot, but I feel it’s important to mix in a variety of strokes (many of which are unconventional) to keep my opponent from getting into a groove. If we’re merely trading baseline blows, I rarely have an advantage. But if my opponent needs to worry about covering every inch of the court, rather than setting up on the baseline and waiting to pound me into submission, I feel like I’m at an advantage.

Semi-bluffing opportunities

There are multiple ways for a poker player to win a pot. One way is to start out with a better hand, another way is to draw out versus a better hand, and you can also bluff to get better hands to fold to your bet. One of the more powerful plays in poker is the semi-bluff, which combines elements of the latter two options. By betting or raising with a semi-bluffing hand, you hope to take down the pot with no resistance. For example, say you have QsJs and see a flop of Ts9s5c versus three other players. One opponent makes a pot-sized bet of $100 on the flop. You know with 100% certainty that she holds AdTd (perhaps you peeked at her cards while you were trying to get a peek at her low-cut blouse). You are next to act and decide to raise all-in for $500. Because you have a Q-high hand at the moment, you prefer all to fold to your bet and collect the $200 risk-free. You think there is a 40 percent chance that the initial bettor will fold her top pair, top kicker hand, rather than risking $400 more. You estimate that there is a 60 percent chance that she will be stubborn and make the call. If so, you know that you are still a 69 percent favorite to win the hand by drawing out. It’s clearly a very profitable play to semi-bluff all-in in this situation.

In tennis, there are similar semi-bluffing opportunities. Many of the opponents I have faced thus far in my limited experience have not developed reliable passing shots or lobs to counter opponents who rush the net. Players that can consistently stroke forehands and backhands from the baseline during warm-ups often shank and spray balls all over the court as soon as some pressure is applied to them. Even though I do not possess polished volleys, I learned early on that it was still very much to my advantage to approach the net as often as I can until the opponent has shown he is capable of consistently passing or lobbing me. For some opponents, I would say there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the mere thought of having to hit a passing shot forces them into an error. I could even be at the net without a racquet and I think forcing them to hit a passing shot would still be a winning play. If such an opponent does manage to get the ball over to my side, I am able to put away for a winner a significant percentage of those weak replies. So by approaching the net versus some players (even though my net game is not solid), I am giving myself two ways to win a point – by forcing an outright error, or by poaching a weak return.

Tilt control

Most winning poker players have the discipline not to go “on tilt” if the cards don’t break their way or if an opponent has somehow benefited from an ill-advised play. Cash game poker can be viewed as one, long session – one or two lucky hands should not put you on tilt. Over time, lucky breaks will even out. Less-disciplined poker players will get flustered by seeing someone they view as an inferior player constantly “get lucky” by playing hands they themselves would never play. It’s fun putting these types of players on tilt by playing rags and cracking their big pocket pair-type hands, because when they do go on tilt, their entire stack is available for the taking.

I’ve encountered more than a couple of opponents in my tennis ladder or in my USTA league go on tilt. I’ve had an opponent throw his racquet into the chain link fence during the second game of the first set! He proceeded to throw his racquet or assault the top of the net with his racquet a dozen times during the two-set match. Instead of focusing his energy on improving his game, he was becoming unraveled and flustered by my unconventional game. Which made me want to drop shot and slice him more. Had he more tilt control, he could’ve thought about how to counter my strategy or change his game so I wouldn’t be in a position to hit these annoying shots.
 
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r2473

Talk Tennis Guru
Does anyone play anything anymore besides Texas Hold 'em?

I used to play a lot of poker in high school (over 20 years ago). Now if you mention poker, the only game anyone means is texas hold 'em. It's an OK game, but christ, can't anyone learn to play anything else?

........Anyway, on topic, the other similarity for you seems to be that you are "All In".
 

Dags

Hall of Fame
^^ Omaha has picked up a little popularity. It's mainly because there's so much training material for Texas Hold 'em now, and some players have branched out looking to gain an edge.

Mixed games are also found, which can be comical at times. First time I played one, I didn't even know the rules of Razz or Stud. :) Not sure I do now, to be honest...

NL Hold 'em is by far the most popular though. Even Limit Hold 'em is dying out.

And when equating to tennis... I think I'll be playing No Fold 'em Hold 'em!
 

oragne lovre

New User
My two passions at the moment are poker and tennis. I’ve recently been focusing more on tennis than poker, but realize that many important concepts I’ve learned from poker are applicable to tennis.

Importance of position

In poker, a winning player is always aware of position. You should try to avoid playing out of position when possible. Being in position allows you more options and more ways of winning pots.

Similarly, you should avoid being out of position in a tennis match. You should constantly be moving to position yourself in the most optimal spot to hit any number of possible shots. Being out of position limits your options and oftentimes puts you on the defensive during the point.

Expand your range, expand your game

Many losing poker players and marginal winners stick to one style of play and avoid deviating from their predictable strategy. The most dangerous poker players can play any two cards, given the right situation (taking into account the opponents’ tendencies, position, stack size, table image, etc.). In other words, because the best poker players cannot be put on a limited range of hands, it makes it difficult for their opponents to play against them.

I’ve found that varying my game, or expanding my range, has been a useful strategy in tennis as well. I employ a lot of drop shots, funky spins, and sharp angles to keep my opponents off guard. In a vacuum, such a shot may not be the “textbook” or preferred shot, but I feel it’s important to mix in a variety of strokes (many of which are unconventional) to keep my opponent from getting into a groove. If we’re merely trading baseline blows, I rarely have an advantage. But if my opponent needs to worry about covering every inch of the court, rather than setting up on the baseline and waiting to pound me into submission, I feel like I’m at an advantage.

Semi-bluffing opportunities

There are multiple ways for a poker player to win a pot. One way is to start out with a better hand, another way is to draw out versus a better hand, and you can also bluff to get better hands to fold to your bet. One of the more powerful plays in poker is the semi-bluff, which combines elements of the latter two options. By betting or raising with a semi-bluffing hand, you hope to take down the pot with no resistance. For example, say you have QsJs and see a flop of Ts9s5c versus three other players. One opponent makes a pot-sized bet of $100 on the flop. You know with 100% certainty that she holds AdTd (perhaps you peeked at her cards while you were trying to get a peek at her low-cut blouse). You are next to act and decide to raise all-in for $500. Because you have a Q-high hand at the moment, you prefer all to fold to your bet and collect the $200 risk-free. You think there is a 40 percent chance that the initial bettor will fold her top pair, top kicker hand, rather than risking $400 more. You estimate that there is a 60 percent chance that she will be stubborn and make the call. If so, you know that you are still a 69 percent favorite to win the hand by drawing out. It’s clearly a very profitable play to semi-bluff all-in in this situation.

In tennis, there are similar semi-bluffing opportunities. Many of the opponents I have faced thus far in my limited experience have not developed reliable passing shots or lobs to counter opponents who rush the net. Players that can consistently stroke forehands and backhands from the baseline during warm-ups often shank and spray balls all over the court as soon as some pressure is applied to them. Even though I do not possess polished volleys, I learned early on that it was still very much to my advantage to approach the next as often as I can until the opponent has shown he is capable of consistently passing or lobbing me. For some opponents, I would say there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the mere thought of having to hit a passing shot forces them into an error. I could even be at the net without a racquet and I think forcing them to hit a passing shot would still be a winning play. If such an opponent does manage to get the ball over to my side, I am able to put away for a winner a significant percentage of those weak replies. So by approaching the net versus some players (even though my net game is not solid), I am giving myself two ways to win a point – by forcing an outright error, or by poaching a weak return.

Tilt control

Most winning poker players have the discipline not to go “on tilt” if the cards don’t break their way or if an opponent has somehow benefited from an ill-advised play. Cash game poker can be viewed as one, long session – one or two lucky hands should not put you on tilt. Over time, lucky breaks will even out. Less-disciplined poker players will get flustered by seeing someone they view as an inferior player constantly “get lucky” by playing hands they themselves would never play. It’s fun putting these types of players on tilt by playing rags and cracking their big pocket pair-type hands, because when they do go on tilt, their entire stack is available for the taking.

I’ve encountered more than a couple of opponents in my tennis ladder or in my USTA league go on tilt. I’ve had an opponent throw his racquet into the chain link fence during the second game of the first set! He proceeded to throw his racquet or assault the top of the net with his racquet a dozen times during the two-set match. Instead of focusing his energy on improving his game, he was becoming unraveled by flustered by my unconventional game. Which made me want to drop shot and slice him more. Had he more tilt control, he could’ve thought about how to counter my strategy or change his game so I wouldn’t be in a position to hit these annoying shots.
Having read your "semi-bluffing opportunities" in tennis, I'm more fueled to master strong passing shots :)

Very interesting analogy between poker and tennis.
 

LuckyR

Legend
One major difference: if you play no limit, the element of luck is magnified, however no one has ever lost a tennis match they should have won, solely because of bad luck.
 

leech

Semi-Pro
One major difference: if you play no limit, the element of luck is magnified, however no one has ever lost a tennis match they should have won, solely because of bad luck.
True, if you're talking about one tournament, or one session, or even a series of sessions. But if you are talking about NLHE cash games, I think the best players will always come out on top over an extended sample of hands. That is, luck evens out over time.

In tennis, a worse player can easily win a game, and maybe even a set, but will be hard-pressed to win a tournament. (By worst, I'm including those with good-looking strokes who fail to adjust to situations/styles.)
 

LuckyR

Legend
True, if you're talking about one tournament, or one session, or even a series of sessions. But if you are talking about NLHE cash games, I think the best players will always come out on top over an extended sample of hands. That is, luck evens out over time.

In tennis, a worse player can easily win a game, and maybe even a set, but will be hard-pressed to win a tournament. (By worst, I'm including those with good-looking strokes who fail to adjust to situations/styles.)
True, that's why I never play no limit.
 
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