Air traffic controllers have one of the most high pressure jobs in the world, but some of the skills you need to have to direct planes in our increasingly crowded skies overlap with those used in gaming.
The stakes may be very different, but the ability to mitigate risks and make quick and accurate decisions are as applicable to keeping the flow of aircraft in the skies smooth as it is to winning a game at the table.
Air traffic controllers must stay calm at all times to maintain control of the skies above busy airports like Heathrow, where a plane takes off and lands every 45 seconds, while poker players need to keep their calm to make the right calls and avoid showing any tells to their opponents.
In the UK, air traffic controllers take a year-long course and then have another year or more on-the-job training to help deal with the stress of the job. And then they work hour-long shifts with 30 minute breaks to maintain their concentration throughout their eight-hour work day. It similarly takes years of practice to become a professional that plays the big poker tournaments, and as any player could tell you it’s never good to let your concentration lapse by spending too long at the table without a break.
Most of the data air traffic controllers base their decisions on comes from radar, but they must also be quick to react to changing situations and use all information available to them when needed, which can include information for pilots, weather forecasts and more. Gamers tend to have less information available to them in choosing when and how much to bet, but everything from player histories to how much money they have left to play must be taken into account to have the best chance of winning.