Why you should not play tennis like Boris Becker and play poker like Andre Agassi

Deepak Dhayanithy in his book “Strategy Huddle” talks about a very interesting event to understand behavioral strategy .

This is about Andre Agassi telling the world how he had an important “tell” when he faced his great rival, Boris Becker.   The “tell” was that Boris tended to stick his tongue out, pointing towards the direction of where he was going to serve.  So, if Becker was serving at deuce and he was going to serve wide of the court, his tongue would point towards left and so on. Agassi picked up on this “tell” and won a significant majority of his matches against Becker.   Also, Agassi only used this “tell” selectively in big matches only.

Andra Agassi talking about the Tell

Game theory Optimal Vs Exploitative

Well, today the poker world is increasingly debating between GTO vs Exploitative play.  What Agassi was doing was exploitative play and he used it optimally to ensure Boris Becker did not adjust his game accordingly and not allowing him the Game theory optimal play.  While, Boris Becker picked up poker after Tennis and was a celebrity Pro at PokerStars, given he had to declare bankruptcy, he was not likely good at it.  And given Agassi’s observational skills, I am pretty sure he could have been a great poker player.

The book “Strategy huddle” is a goldmine of many such incidents from the world of sports.  For a football fan, the book is a must read, given the number of examples of game changing strategies in the world of football listed in the books.  The book covers 27 different sports phenomena across 9 chapters and with each chapter themed on a strategic management topic.


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