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Poker strategy essays

Sun Tzu's Art of War

By Bud Kelly
October 2016

"Poker is a game of people, played with cards."
Doyle Brunson

Every poker expert says it: "Poker is war." So it occurred to me to re-read the ancient Chinese classic on warfare, Sun Tzu's Art of War, but this time with an eye toward what it could teach me about poker. And teach me it did.

The Art of War, written sometime around the 5th century BC, is still used today as a guiding reference, not only in warfare but in business, law, politics, sports, and personal relations. It has been translated into every major language, and you can find various versions of it online or on the bookshelves. It is a small book, but very deep and full of wisdom. It is written in a somewhat poetic style, so though you may read it over and over again you will continue to gain new inspirations and insights from it.

Here are a few quotations from Sun Tzu's Art of War that make me think the old guy must have been quite a poker player:

"Warfare is the art of deception."

"A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear incompetent. Though effective, appear ineffective."

"If your enemy is of choleric temperament, irritate him."

"If your enemy is arrogant, pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance."

"Opportunities multiply as they are seized."

"Know thyself, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories."

"Tactics without strategy is the slowest route to victory. Strategy without tactics is the noise before defeat."

"What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."

"To know your enemy, you must become your enemy."

"If fighting is certain to result in victory, then you must fight."

"One defends when one's strength is inadequate. One attacks when one's strength is abundant."

"The quality of a decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon, which enables it to strike and destroy its prey."

"Swift as the wind. Quiet as the forest. Conquer like the fire. Steady as the mountain."

And finally, my favorite:

"Become mysterious, and you will be the master of your enemy's fate."

Pretty heady stuff, eh? It sounds like what the legendary Doyle Brunson seems to have learned from a lifetime of playing poker, must have been thinking to himself inwardly for years, but perhaps was never unable to put to words with such elegance as Sun Tzu.

Take a close look at The Art of War, I think you will find that it will become an important source of guidance for your poker playing, and for all the other areas of your life.


Note: Bud Kelly is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, news columns, poetry, songs, music, and jokes. You can see some of his work on Nook and Kindle. If there's anything you would like written for your website, contact us via the link on the menu and we will put you in touch with Bud.



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