Special Feature: A Poker Player’s Guide to Klitschko-Fury and a Boxer’s Guide to the November 9

Special Feature: A Poker Player’s Guide to Klitschko-Fury and a Boxer’s Guide to the November 9

Wladimir Klitschko defends his title against Tyson Fury in Dusseldorf this October. A heavyweight coming together like this always brings a lot of viewers that are new to the sport, especially a heavyweight bout and even more so when a Klitschko is involved.


The same holds true for the final table of the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event, which starts in Las Vegas a week later. The final table features nine players (referred to as the November Nine) who have outlasted over 6,000 other players. Each of the final table players earns at least $1 million, and the champion will take home $7.6 million.

The two competitions have a great deal in common in terms of strategy, tactics and even terminology.


Both sports have a lot of abbreviations. In boxing, we refer to this as “alphabet soup” when referring to the various sanctioning bodies such as the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF.

Similarly, poker has the WSOP, EPT, UKIPT, PCA, NLH, PLO, and 2-7 NLSD to refer to major events and games.

In boxing you have catchers, those that block punches with their heads and usually aren’t very successful. The poker equivalent is a donkey, a player that plays badly and eventually losses his chips. Easy opponents in poker are fish, the equivalent to boxing’s palokaos.

The Tale of the Tape

Boxing rates the competitors on a number of physical factors, but what matters most to fans is the titles, records, and the fighters’ “heart.”

In Klitschko-Fury you have a WBO WBA IBF champion, who holds a doctorate, is an avid chess player, and a world recognized humanitarian versus a contender whose record is more than respectable, whose “heart” is unquestioned and whose namesake was champion Mike Tyson.

Poker rates their players in much the same way. Players are ranked by their tournament earnings and the Global Poker Index which measures results based on a variety of conditions. There are also a number of Player of the Year (POY) races sponsored by trade magazines and tournament series.


Even the most casual fan of boxing knows that training is a crucial part of preparing for a bout. In Fury’s case, events in training camp, including injuries sustained by both him and his opponents, have shaped his record.

While it is not as well known, professional poker players spend almost as much time studying and practicing poker as they do playing the game.

In the down-time before the final table, the members of the November Nine will watch video of their opponents, hire coaches, and run simulations as part of their preparation. They will also train physically, mostly through cardio workouts in order to increase their focus and stamina during long events.

A Poker Player’s Guide to Klitschko-Fury and a Boxer’s Guide to the November 9

The two disciplines even have a similar attitude toward diet and performance. Admittedly this is fairly new in poker and not quite as widespread, but is an ever growing part of the preparation by professional poker players.

Poker’s all-time money winner Daniel Negreanu, is quite a renowned vegan and credits healthy eating as an important factor in his success. World class poker players routinely discuss the role of a balanced healthy diet when they talk about what contributes to their consistent success.

The Belt vs The Bracelet

The real similarities come into sharp focus when it comes down to who will wear the belt or the bracelet.

A Poker Player’s Guide to Klitschko-Fury and a Boxer’s Guide to the November 9
Images credit: WBC and Pokerbraved.com


While there are a few historic examples of championship bouts that were over in a matter of minutes (or less), they are few and far between. Champions in both events know that it is necessary to wait for an opening that provides the best chance for success.

Taking a punch

In both events competitors will get hit hard and often this will be a shot out of the blue. In poker it is called a “bad beat” and happens when a hand that is a favorite ends up losing. How the participant deals with taking a punch is often the difference between being the champion and having to settle for second.

Champions realize that this hit is only one piece of the puzzle and a small part of the competition. They do not allow this one moment to dictate their actions for the rest of the competition. They stay focused on the moment and the ultimate goal instead of dwelling on the past.

Reading your opponent

Poker has been called a people game played with cards and boxing is the ultimate people sport. Champions in both are adept at knowing what their opponents are thinking. They understand their strategy and tactics and tailor their actions to counter them.

Making the correct move

Neither event can be won by competing in a totally straightforward manner. Boxers have to feint and poker players have to bluff. The key in both sports is to know when to do so and when your opponent is likely to be susceptible to the maneuver.

Decision making

Both competitions require the contenders to make high level situational decisions at an almost overwhelming rate. They watch their opponents and use their uncanny recall ability to decide how to react to the way their opponent acts after he drops his right or bets in a specific manner.

It is in this key area that the hours of training and study are evident. Championship caliber combatants make the correct decisions almost as second nature.

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Champions act like champions

Klitschko, actually both of the Klitschko brothers, act like champions, while Fury is certainly talking the talk. The same can be said for professional poker players like Negreanu, Joe Hachem, and Dan Harrington, to name a few.

Fans expect champions to have an ego, but when they earn their title with grace and conduct themselves as a champion outside the ring and away from the table; it makes them “deserving” or “better” champions.

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