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The importance of keeping fighting fit

Someone was asking me the other day if I'd been doing much kickboxing since the big match with ElkY. It's hard to believe that was almost a year ago.

That fight was a pretty intense experience, really. For the couple of months leading up to it my profession essentially changed entirely from poker player to kickboxer. Not only did it take up all of my time preparing for the fight, but it took a lot of strength out of my body. During the training I would sometimes just be laying on the couch shivering because my immune system was all busted up, if you can believe that.


Lex and ElkY

It also took a lot out of me mentally -- it was really the only thing I was focusing on for a long time. And so for the past year I've continued to train but I haven't really done anything quite as intense as far as kickboxing is concerned. After all, I am a professional poker player, and want to be able to continue what is my real profession.

I have been keeping active, though. I actually started playing tennis a lot, four or five times a week. I used to play tennis quite a bit when I was younger, and so it's kind of a passion of mine. Perhaps eventually I'll find someone who is on a similar level to me and we'll stage some kind of side bet there.

Others have pointed out how keeping physically active helps with your mental edge, which is obviously great for poker. That's something I really underestimated in the past, to be honest. I played sports a lot as a kid and as a teenager, and probably took for granted how good playing sports and being active can make you feel. I just didn't know any better. I'd play football and tennis and basketball and other sports for at least a couple of hours every day, and I always felt really good. It kind of creates this really big buffer or reserve of energy, which is useful when you aren't playing sports.


Veldhuis fighting fit on the set of The Big Game

I started to realize the benefits of physical activity after I began playing poker full-time. It took a while, but I eventually understood how during the long sessions of playing I was depleting my energy and getting tired and burned out. And the connection is obvious -- you're a lot more sharp and focused, and even calmer because the physical activity helps lessen stress, too.

Tennis is like poker in some ways. You're playing heads-up a lot of the time. It's a physical game, but it's also a mental game that involves lots of choices. Tennis is also like poker in the way it is really kind of an ageless game -- you can play it well into your older years. I see these guys who are in their 60s and retired playing doubles every day.

It's definitely one of those activities you can continue into your later years -- more so than kickbocking, haha!

Lex Veldhuis is a member of Team PokerStars Pro. You can read his bio here.

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