Poker allows players to face stressful situations in a controlled environment.
There have been various studies into the benefits of certain mind games like chess and poker over the years, to examine whether playing them can improve aspects of brain function and contribute to a healthy mind and body. The fact that the games require players to refine things, like decision-making skills in order to excel, suggests that playing them can act as exercise for the brain. Anyone looking into ways to reduce stress and enhance cognitive function could choose to turn to poker. It’s fun and easy to get the hang of, but also provides players with opportunities to take their game to higher levels.
Poker helps you Handle Stress because it prepares you for Pressure
In any game of poker, there will be situations that bring about feelings of stress. That is, unless you want to just post blinds and fold hands until your chip stack runs dry. If you want to actually succeed at the game and have the chance to win a tournament, you need to make some bold moves even when you aren’t holding the nuts. The reason why professional players manage to get to the top, isn’t because they are supremely lucky and always get dealt the best hands, it’s because they are able to force out weak opponents by making brave decisions about when to bet big.
Say, for example, you flop top pair but you see that there’s a potential straight draw in the middle. You are last to act, and the people before you have all called a fairly low bet. This is the time for you to make a raise and try to get people off their draws. There is a chance that you will get a call or even face a three-bet, but if you don’t make this move you will give the others a chance to hit the card they need. Another high-pressure situation is when you are holding the absolute nuts and you want to milk your opponents for as much as possible. You need to try to suppress your excitement levels and play it cool, even checking a couple of streets if you have to and waiting to pounce on a big payout at the end.
Poker allows players to face these feelings in a controlled scenario, where the only real danger is losing at the game. By practicing handling stressful situations such as these, poker players may be better prepared to deal with pressure in the real world.
It can Improve Self Confidence
Caption: Doug Polk is famous for dealing with high pressure situations.
Playing poker allows people to set targets for themselves and try to meet them. For instance, Doug Polk famously set himself a goal of turning a $100 bankroll into $10,000, and he posted the videos to his YouTube account to document this. In order to turn the small amount of money into the large sum, the online poker legend had to carefully stick to a plan and win games gradually. While Polk’s mission was highly ambitious and only really appropriate for an expert player, inexperienced players could do it on a smaller scale. By turning a starting amount into something more, it can really help boost confidence levels and make people believe in their own skills.
Learning how to make big moves at the right time and watching them pay off is another way to get a confidence boost. The first time you manage to take down a pot with a stone-cold bluff, you will feel an immense sense of power and feel like you can do anything. Don’t forget to wait for the best position on the table to do this, though, as you don’t want someone calling your bluff or, worse still, raising you.
Aside from the skills learned while playing, actually getting involved with live poker games can be a good way for introverts to gain more confidence. Tournament settings force players to interact with a number of strangers, and provide an opportunity for further social interaction. It’s easy to make friends at the poker table, as everyone shares a common interest. Shy people can then take the conversational skills learned through chatting to their opponents out into the real world.
Playing Enhances Decision-Making Skills
Caption: Liv Boeree explains how poker decision making can be applied in the real world.
Because of the constant requirement to make big decisions in short spaces of time within a poker tournament, it could be argued that the cognitive abilities of poker players are refined in this regard. Indecisive players simply wouldn’t be able to cut it against the professionals, as they would be able to see through them easily and spot their weakness. 888poker ambassador Liv Boeree has a World Series of Poker and a European Poker Tour title under her belt, and has used her expertise to give speeches entitled the “Three Life Lessons from the Poker Table”. In her talks, the Iron Maiden talks up the importance of using poker games as a platform to improve decision-making.
According to Jared Tendler, an expert in advising poker players on how to improve their Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi/Lo skills, poker mental strategy is the most important aspect of the game. He believes that, by playing poker and learning how to make better decisions at a time when they typically wouldn’t, players can permanently strengthen their tactical knowledge and decision-making abilities. It is crucial that players are able to learn from their mistakes and use this knowledge to make better decisions in the future. This is how artificial intelligence has managed to get so good at the game – by playing out thousands of scenarios and seeing what the optimum strategy in each of them is through trial and error.
Playing poker doesn’t just give players the chance to take down prizes, it can also be hugely beneficial for health and well being. It prepares players to deal with stressful situations in a controlled environment, and allows them to hone their decision-making skills as well.
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