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Clausewitz: On Poker, How Today's Leaders Can Use Poker to Better Prepare Tomorrow's Warriors

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Master's thesis

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For years, many philosophers, strategists, poets, politicians, and warriors have pointed to the similarities between playing poker and combat. Perhaps the late Colonel David Hackworth, one of Americas most decorated soldiers, said it best when he stated, Great warriors were usually great poker players -- it made sense, too, because in many ways the skills required in poker are the same ones you need on a battlefield boldness, a cool head, and the ability to bluff. It isnt just military leaders who see the power that training in poker provides. Bill Gates was an avid poker player before he went on to become the worlds most successful businessman. Richard Nixon financed his first political campaign with his poker winnings. President Truman, General Eisenhower, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson played avidly during WW-II. The list goes on, and all these men credit playing poker with aiding their life successes. What these men keyed in on is supported by almost overwhelming anecdotal evidence, but little scientific study. What exactly are the similarities between poker and combat, and more importantly, how can a modern commander use this information to better prepare for future wars The similarities between poker and combat are striking. Taking the analogy one step further, both activities stress a type of crisis action thinking and decision making in an environment filled with uncertainty and high risk. In addition, the options a player faces on a poker table closely parallel the options a commander faces on a battlefield. Poker is a unique training aid that a commander can employ to help his troops develop essential leadership traits that they can call upon in both combat and other crisis management situations. As such, competitive poker playing should be adopted into the military training regimen in the same manner as the military Physical Training PT program.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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