Poker and football similarities



In honor of the recent Super Bowl, I will attempt to make a few football-poker coaching analogies.

A typical NFL team has a coach and 15 assistants for the players. Most poker players coach themselves. Football players have endurance and strength coaches. 

Part of the mental mind-set of a winning poker player, (hobbyist or pro) is game-mind preparation. Imagine a poker coach with a stopwatch cheering you on your treadmill to get you ready. Don’t laugh; it’s probably a better idea than you think. 

Football players review video with coaches. Poker students who review hands with me consistently are doing the same thing as the big guys who play on Sunday. 

This might rank as the No. 1 job as a poker coach. Noteworthy, I ask students to remember one hand per hour and this gives us plenty for review.

We usually assign the gameplan to the coach in football. The gameplan in poker can mean many things: changing gears, changing tables and making the right adjustments to situations that arise in every session. 

In football, this is calling the plays. One winning scheme at the table is to start your session tight, to focus on opponents and their tendencies. 

After your first hour or so, open up your game. Changing gears keeps opponents off-balance. A strong gameplan goes beyond which hands to play in which position; this can go a long way in increasing your hourly rate at the table.

Another interesting concept in poker is fold equity. When we raise in certain situations, we create fold equity and when applied strategically, this adds to our profit at the table. Remember, in poker the same hand will not repeat itself but similar situations occur over time. 

In football, when we throw deep on first down, whether we complete the pass or not, we create a situation whereby the defense will back off the line. 

This creates run equity and a great example of this is throwing deep if it’s second down and short. 

Every play called in football creates adjustments for future plays. This abstract concept happens at the table, too, and is part of the reason we love the game.

After a football game is over, there are lots of injuries and sprains as coaches and trainers get to work for the next game. In poker, we should do the same thing. It’s a great idea to write a blurb about your session. Profile some opponents. Record hands to review. Now, you’re ready for the next session. I’ll bet you never thought football and poker had so much in common.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at

Chris Cosenza

Chris Cosenza