The Englishman carded an opening 66 at the first Rolex Series event of the year to sit three shots off the lead and was at his brilliant best on the front nine at Yas Links, turning in 30 and adding two more birdies to get within one of the lead before recording a double-bogey on the 16th.
Poulter turned 46 last week and while he admitted he was having to adapt his schedule as he got older, he said matches with Luke were keeping him young.
"Trying to keep Luke from beating me is the biggest motivation I've got in the game," he said. "That's fun for me, the opportunities I get to play with him, which doesn't come around too often - he's busy, I'm busy.
"So you know, holding him at bay, still. He's really close. He's really close. We've tied the last few times, so it's really annoying, because now he hits it 30 past me. It's annoying him but it's actually self-motivating me.
"I think when I look back and realise from June 15 2020 we haven't stopped, really. Haven't had much of a break. We've been on the road for a long time and at 46 your body says you need a rest, so I took a rest.
"I went back to practising, went to Bahamas late December with the family and played a couple of rounds of golf there and that was it. I kind of practised early January back home and come out feeling pretty fresh."