By: Paul Hewson
Terrence Chan is one of the better poker players ever to come out of Hong Kong. Now based in Vancouver, Chan has over $1.2 million in tournament earnings to his name, including four cashes at the 2016 World Series of Poker. Oh, and he’s 3-1 lifetime in mixed martial arts. Officially, Chan is listed at 3-0, but he lost via decision in the first round of a WMMAA (World Mixed Martial Arts Association) tournament back in November.
Chan isn’t the only poker player to enter the cage. Last April, Olivier Busquet pummelled JC Alvarado at the Syndicate MMA gym in Las Vegas, winning a six-figure prop bet for his efforts. MMA fighters love crossing over to the felt, too – remember Tito Ortiz in Season 2 of the Shark Cage? Or how about Martin Kampmann making a deep run at the 2014 WSOP Main Event? It’s as if these two sports were meant for each other.
The Sweet Science
In a way, they are. Brains will take you a long way in just about any endeavour; when Holly Holm upset Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title in 2015, coach Greg Jackson, arguably the most respected figure in MMA, said figuring out Rousey was “just a math problem.” Math is the direct route to solving poker, as well. If you haven’t read The Mathematics of Poker yet, you’re leaving money on the table.
Brawn is also a useful attribute at the poker table. Many top pros use combat sports as a way to improve their fitness level, be it MMA, boxing, or martial arts in general. Your brain is part of your body, so if you want to make smarter decisions, get in better shape. Martial arts will improve your mental game in turn by helping you develop the right psychology for battle.
However, as Mike Tyson once said, everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth. Stepping in the cage, or the ring, or the Octagon, means putting yourself at risk to severe brain trauma. None of the benefits you gain from MMA will do you much good at poker if you can’t think straight. So if you’re interested in making the leap like Terrence Chan, remember the first rule of self-defense: Avoid getting into fights. The stack you save could be your own.