40 Poker Tips From Sun Tzu’s Art of War

Posted on Oct 11, 2009 by Gugel in Psychology

Sun Tzu and The Art of Poker

Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese military tacitian.  His military strategy masterpiece, Art of War ($6.16), has some pretty solid advice for poker players.  Here are 40 great poker tips from Sun Tzu:


  1. All warfare is based on deception.
  2. When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
  3. Hold out baits to entice the enemy.  Feign disorder and crush him.
  4. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.
  5. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline; simulated fear postulates courage simulated weakness postulates strength.
  6. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards, emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you.

Table Selection

  1. Attack him where is unprepared; appear where you are not expected.
  2. Take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by the unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
  3. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.  If he is in superior strength, evade him.
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
  5. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  6. The rule is not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.
  7. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  8. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
  9. A clever general avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish.
  10. No ruler should put his troops in the field to gratify his own spleen.
  11. When it was to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still.
  12. Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

Psychology & Tilt

  1. If your opponent is hot-tempered, seek to irritate him.  Pretend to be weak and he may grow arrogant.
  2. The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
  3. If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move.
  4. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst th enemy – this is the art of retaining self-discipline.
  5. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
  6. Tactical maneuvering consists of turning the devious into the direct, and the misfortune into gain.
  7. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit; a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence of mind.
  8. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished – this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.
  9. Dangerous faults which may affect a general: Recklessness, cowardice, hasty temper, delicacy of honor (which is sensitive to shame).
  10. It is only if one is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that care thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
  11. When a fire breaks out inside to enemy’s camp, respond at once with an attack from without.


  1. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
  3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
  4. He wins the battle by making no mistakes.  Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
  5. Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts.  Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.
  6. A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

General Poker Strategy

  1. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
  2. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shauai-jan.  Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the ChUng mountains.  Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.


  1. By consistently hanging on the enemy’s flank, we shall succeed in the long run in the killing the commander-in-chief.
  2. The general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not what what to defend; and he is skillful in defense who opponent does not know what to attack.
  3. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in.

You thought the competition was horrible in 2004?  If poker was around, I bet Sun Tzu would crush souls in 544 B.C.

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One Response to “40 Poker Tips From Sun Tzu’s Art of War”

  1. Nate de la Piedra

    12. Nov, 2009