Thoughts on poker and weight-lifting

Recently at the gym I saw one of the personal trainers, a man who had been a weight-lifter, a man who could crush you like a fly, sitting demurely on the couch reading a book. A book about poker. He had only recently started playing poker and, in a recent tournament, had come third. He began to imagine how much better he could do if he'd had a little more knowledge.

The book he had with him was Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen. In the book, apparently, Hansen analyses every hand he played during the 2007 Aussie Millions tournament. Hansen was victorious in that tournament and the theory behind reading the book is that by getting inside the mind of a champion and understanding his decision process, a regular joe can also be a champion poker player.

The thing that strikes me, though, is that it's not really about the decisions Hansen made. It's more about the discipline he uses to record every hand he plays. It's his discipline that got him to be the great poker player he is today.

I have no doubt that JD, the weight-lifting personal trainer, has a similar discipline. After all, you can't just jump into weight-lifting one day. For him, sitting there and studying Gus Hansen's book was part of his regime and it might help, but it's not enough.

Discipline comes not from the study but the practice. I've never seen two professional poker players with exactly the same style. It takes a lot of practice to develop strategies for parting people from their money. It takes the guts to make mistakes, live with those mistakes and continue on.