Having learned all of this about Micah Raskin, it came to our attention that despite his busy schedule, he also found time to become a champion level ping pong player. We asked Micah whether ping pong and poker had anything in common and what it’s like to master one and then the other.
Here’s what we learned.
Micah Raskin, Professional Poker Player on Becoming a Ping Pong Champion
To master the game of poker Micah Raskin said, you have to develop not only a specific set of skills but a specific set of attributes. They are:
Deep focus: Poker games can last several hours sometimes. Players need to be able to concentrate on the actions and mannerisms of the other players while keeping track of what has happened in the game.
Patience: Going for a dramatic win is attractive, but it rarely works out. Poker players have to wait like a lion in the bush for the right moment to strike.
Analytical thinking: Keeping track of what cards have been seen, the behavior of the other players, the poker player must develop and constantly revise a theory of the state of the game. Players with the best theory have the best chance of winning.
Emotional discipline: Players have the emotional reactions of the other players and what few cards have been seen to develop their theory of the game state. Those without emotional discipline give the other players more information with which to build a superior theory.
Understanding human psychology: Knowing how people respond to rewards and punishments is key to understanding how to interpret their tells.
How Ping Pong Compares to Poker
It wouldn’t be unreasonable, Micah Raskin says, to compare ping pong to poker. Each volley is like a hand of poker where each player has a set of material and dispositional advantages. What might be an advantage to one player could be an imposition to the other. For example, one player may be very skilled at returning the ball from a hard right angle while the other would be flummoxed by it.
Where poker and ping pong really overlap is in determining the opponent’s positional weaknesses before he displays them. Waiting until he shows a tendency for a certain type of mistake amounts to hoping for a win. Rather, you want to examine his stance and measure his confidence levels after returning certain types of shots in order to foresee specific positional weaknesses.
In this way, Micah Raskin explains, the game of ping pong is a lot like poker on overdrive.
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