What Can Chess Learn From Poker

As a reformed poker player I wasn’t good at it but I believe that simply learning to manage your emotions during competition is extremely beneficial.
Chess is probably a little easier than poker because there is little to no variance.  In chess, perfect play is rewarded, whereas in poker, even the best play can lose if the wrong card turns or poker hand rankings is not on their side.   Handling such frustrations without succumbing to self-doubt would be a very valuable lesson to learn from good poker players.
I also believe that the mindset of “scared money loses” would be beneficial.  If you’re a timid player who is hesitant to take the initiative or take risks (for example, by facing off against an intimidating opponent), putting too much emphasis on the outcome or simply being unable to handle the pressure of the situation) there is a proclivity to lose and play blind in poker.  Sometimes you have to make big bets or sacrifice material with no regard for what you’re potentially giving up in order to keep the lead and win.
Reading or watching classic games repeatedly demonstrates that the great masters were willing to take calculated risks, sacrifice material when necessary and frequently took the initiative early in the game.
I’m not a club-level player, unless you consider the worst person in the room to be so.  But I used to play a lot of poker before I started playing chess and this concept has stuck with me and pushed my rating up a couple hundred points.
In poker, a good general strategy for me (and many successful players) is to keep betting – not too much and only in the right POSITION – until the other player folds or shows enough strength that it’s time to fold.  You make money if you do this correctly, get ten smaller wins and DON’T lose it all on one big bluff.


When I’m playing chess, I make a lot of timid and positional moves that end up crushing me slowly.  When I’m at my best, maybe a couple rounds in, I play blind in poker really aggressive and possibly dubious moves, not always having calculated it all the way through, just on the feeling that for better or worse, this is about to put pressure on you.
Half of the time, this turns out to be a brilliant tactic that I didn’t notice until my opponent made the forced/obvious move and I was in the blind in poker.  The rest of the time, as long as I’m not being ridiculous, it works out pretty well and I’ve got them on edge and playing passively now. You can’t punch if you’re blocking with both hands.  Then I use my poker hand rankings to be the one to squish them.
At higher levels, initiative and tempo are such important concepts in chess, with the old rule of thumb that a pawn is worth three tempi and all that, that I believe someone who is actually competent at chess could apply this concept better and really dominate if they tend to play a “weak-tight” game rather than a “loose-aggressive” one.

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