Dan Sindelar: Between Golf and Poker

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To become a proficient poker player you need a range of skills, but one of the most overlooked attributes you have to build into your game is focus. One poker pro that knows more about this than most is recent World Series of Poker Main Event final tablist, Dan Sindelar.

Born in Nebraska but now a resident of Las Vegas, Sindelar admitted before the WSOP final table that he’d been spending more time on the golf course than at the poker table in preparation for the $10 million showdown.

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Why would someone want to spend their time golfing rather than working on their three-betting skills? Well, for those in the know, poker and golf actually have a lot in common when it comes to the mental side of things. In fact, noted poker psychologist Jared Tendler has based a lot of his recent books, The Mental Game of Poker and the Mental Game of Poker 2, on his experiences as both a golfer and sports psychologist.

From Green to Green

Learning to deal with pressure, maintaining focus and remaining positive when things go against you are all things both golfers and high level poker players need to master. Of course, the process of swinging a golf club is vastly different than check-raising on a four-flush board, but the mindset you need to adopt is very similar.

Since becoming a professional grinder, Sindelar has continually bucked the trends of his peers in an effort to become a well-rounded player. Instead of sticking to Hold’em and trying to compete with the masses, Sindelar has become somewhat of a mixed game expert by focusing on other variants of poker, including Stud, Omaha and Draw games.

Because of his willingness to think outside of the box, Sindelar not only managed to win just over $300,000 in tournaments before this year’s WSOP, but also finish 7th for $1,236,084 in one of the toughest events in the world. According to the American pro, his time on the golf course served as excellent preparation for the long grind of the WSOP Main Event.

Because the $10,000 tournament regularly attracts more than 6,000 runners, the organizers are forced to spread the initial action over the course of a week. Add to that sessions lasting around ten hours and it becomes clear that making the final table is as much of a mental grind as a physical one. Fortunately for Sindelar, his experience as a golfer proved invaluable.

So what crossover skills can we identify between golf and poker?

  • The ability to maintain focus for long periods of time.
  • Not letting emotions dictate your play.
  • Relaxation under pressure.
  • Understanding that each move is part of a larger overall strategy.
  • Assessing the right moves for the right conditions.

On the surface it might not be clear that tournament poker and golf are the same. However, when you look at the mental skills required for both it becomes obvious that there is a lot of similarities. Dan Sindelar is one player that recognized this crossover and has built it into his game. Much like his decision to focus on more poker variants than just Hold’em, Sindelar has proved that in order to become a successful poker pro you need to develop a well-rounded set of skills.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.