It’s the most popular card game on the planet (even animals like to play it), but did you know that aside from the opportunity to make some cash, there are some pretty great benefits to playing poker? We’re talking straight-up proper mental health benefits that you can bring into your everyday life. And yes, we’ve gone ahead and listed them below.
Perfecting your math skills
Okay so let’s go with the most obvious one right off the bat. There’s no doubt that poker improves your math skills, but not in the standard 1+1=2 way. Play regularly and you quickly learn to determine the odds of the game in your head. We’re talking percentages here, and how they stack up with regards to the cards in your hand. You see a card on the table and immediately start to calculate the probability that the card you need is still available. It might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but in truth, working out the odds in this way is a pretty useful skill, especially when it comes to making big decisions.
Learning to be a good loser
Yes, you read that right. Learning to be a good loser is something that is hugely important in poker and life in general. You see, a poker player knows that they will lose a great deal of the hands they play. They also know that this is absolutely necessary if they are to improve their skills. They see every loss as an opportunity to learn and therefore reduce the chances of it happening again. So yes, learning to be a good loser really does have its benefits.
When we play poker, it’s all about the decisions we make (more on that later). This means that if you play regularly, you quickly learn to have confidence in your abilities. Those who don’t, lose interest in the game very quickly indeed. Of course, you will still need to practice a great deal but, if you follow a strategy and base your decisions on your game plan, you will inevitably grow more confident in your decisions as time goes by. And in case you hadn’t noticed, self-confidence is kind of important as far as life skills are concerned.
Improving decision-making skills
While Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, poker is not about trusting your gut nor following your heart. In fact, one of the fundamentals of every poker strategy guide is to base all of your decisions on logic, removing all emotion from the game. Poker teaches you to analyze all the possible outcomes and then make your decisions based on this. As you may have guessed, this is an invaluable skill to have in life, as well as one that a poker player must have in their locker if they hope to have any chance of success.
Controlling your emotions
Your emotions are often the cause of unnecessary trouble and that’s why poker players work so hard to keep them in check. You might be thinking we’re talking about keeping a poker face so as to not give away your intentions. While this is certainly a good skill to have, it’s also not the only reason for controlling your emotions at the table. As we mentioned earlier, making decisions based on gut feeling is bad, and so too is making a decision based on how you feel about a situation or an opponent (or your “favourite” hand). The poker player learns very quickly that if you want to be successful, you need to keep those emotions under control.
There’s no escaping the fact that poker is a money game. Whether you’re playing for chips or actual cash, it’s all about bringing home the proverbial bacon, right? But winning money at poker requires great money management skills so you can protect your bankroll and not make any rash decisions that threaten your place in the game. In fact, poker players often enter a game with a budget in mind and set themselves betting limits. They do this knowing that no matter how attractive a pot may look, there’s no need for unnecessary risks that put your bankroll in danger. There’s really no need to explain why this is a pretty good life skill to have.
We can tie this one in with our previously mentioned skills of money management and the control of your emotions. Maintaining self-discipline can be one of the skills that separates a good player from a truly great one. While a good player will take a few risks from time to time, a great player is in it for the long haul. They think about the long game and, as such, are in a better position to set rules and stick to them no matter what. Whether their limit is time or budget, they maintain the type of rigid self-discipline that would make Bruce Lee proud!
Boosting memory skills
No, we’re not talking about memorizing the order of cards or anything else that you may have seen in a movie. We’re talking about the skill of remembering the value of poker hands, the various strategies that you may have studied in the past, and any other information you might have learned along the way, as well as betting patterns during the hand. It’s not quite the same as playing a game dedicated to memory skills, but it does help keep the mind sharp, which leads us to our next point.
Keeping the mind active
According to studies, keeping the mind active can play a huge role in preventing the onset of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Playing games is said to be one of the best ways to do so and, as you may have guessed, brain games such as chess, poker, and other card games are said to be the most beneficial. So if you want to remain active as you grow older, taking up poker now might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.
More social activity
By its very nature, poker is a social game. It requires a group of people to sit and talk and play for hours at a time. Of course, this isn’t always the case now with the ever-growing popularity of online poker. Nevertheless, for those who play the game in a live setting, the social benefits are plain to see. This is why a lot of retirement homes actively encourage their residents to get involved with card games. Not only does it keep their minds active, but it gets people talking and interacting.
There you have it. Ten unexpected, yet quite significant benefits to playing the game of poker. Now all you need is someone to play with.