The unusual link between MMA and Poker

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MMA and poker go hand in hand. At first it may not seem it; after all you’re unlikely to witness a knee bar on the green velvet, but the amount of skills which go into both share some very similar patterns.

One man who knows this particularly well is Lex Veldhuis. The 30-year-old Dutchman has become a star on the PokerStars pro over the last few years, transferring the temperament he used during his time in MMA into tournaments where he’s picked up an impressive $676,000.

The tactics and patience of being in the ring has been integral in giving him the right mentality on the tables, joining the likes of Martin Kampmann and Terrence Chan who both have been masters of both cards and mixed martial arts.

Although the man from just outside Rotterdam didn’t become a poker star until a chance meeting with French World Series of Poker bracelet winner Bertrand Grospellier.

Lex in fact began his gaming career on military science fiction strategy game StarCraft, where he was – alongside Grospellier – one of the more notable players on the scene. Grospellier then introduced Veldhuis to the poker scene, even depositing his first $10 on PokerStars, beginning his love story with the sport, on the site where he would later become an ambassador.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the end of martial arts for the man. In 2011 the two friends fought in a kickboxing match as part of a prop bet in Marbella, Spain.

Velhuis boxed for around two years as well as picking up kickboxing, and that kickboxing prowess proved to be the deciding factor when Lex let fly a pair of kicks that would put Grospellier on the mat, and RaSZi to the top of the MMA poker pros.

And on the felt 2011 was a good year too. Picking up 11th place in the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em in Las Vegas for $28,500, he followed that up with a $30,000 win in San Remo during the European Poker Tour just months later.

His biggest win however came two years earlier when he picked up $277,939 in a 40th anniversary WSOP event that attracted some of the world’s best players.

He’s perhaps most well-known however from his playing online. Playing under the name L. Veldhuis, he’s become one of PokerStars best online players, putting in the same determination as when he was a young boxer and kick boxer.

It’s no real surprise that he’s seen success in both sports. The mental toughness of MMA means you need be prepared for all eventualities – just as in poker. Former UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin said, “training for a fight is about 90% physical and 10% mental, yet when you enter the octagon it becomes about 90% mental and 10% physical because all of the physical preparation is done.”

Which is a similar thing in poker, once you know how to play poker that’s it. You can know all the odds of cards coming out, but once you’re at the table it’s about playing the opponent mentally both online and off.

Both Veldhuis and Terrence Chan have made big money on the tables, and as poker continues to rise in popularity as it is doing, we could see even more MMA fighters take to the tables to pack a few catch opponents flush outside of the ring.

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