Feb 19 2010

It’s Confirmed, Playing Poker Makes you Smarter

written by: John under News Comments: 3

Poker Makes you SmarterPlaying poker is exciting and may be good, not just for recreational purposes, but also for maintaining levels of health. Here are some talking points for the next time you find yourself in discussion over the benefits of your favorite past time.

Adopting New Skills Is Vital for Brain Health

Learning new information produces stimuli that can promote better health. Poker does not just require expertise. It demands and develops many talents and personal qualities which are essential for making all types of decisions, such as choosing an occupation, investing money, performing a job, or buying a car. When playing cards the brain is challenged to think, solve, predict, and memorize, which provokes neurons to wire. (Neurons are the basic building block of the brain, and we have about 100 billion neurons in our heads). The more wired the brain is, the more active and alert it becomes. Poker players make and get feedback on hundreds of decisions every session, which greatly accelerates the learning process.

Research has shown that people tend to repeat rewarded actions and discontinue punished ones. Poker teaches by rewarding desirable actions such as thinking logically and understanding other people and by punishing undesirable actions such as ignoring the odds and acting impulsively. Neurologists agree that learning a new task is a healthy formula to help train the connections between brain cells. Playing poker and other games of strategy provide mental exercise, thus making poker good for your health.

Poker Improves Brain Function and Problem Solving

Rewards and punishments are valuable feedback. The faster and clearer the feedback is, the more rapidly you will learn. At the poker table, feedback comes fast. It is a game of mathematics, where you should be able to calculate the odds of either you or your opponents’ winning the hand in any situation. Most people do not enjoy mathematics, but when you want to win, you can quickly learn.

The winners understand and apply it, while the losers either don’t try or cannot perform the necessary calculations. A sound knowledge of odds can only improve your game and give you an advantage over other players who do not use them. Learning how to use mathematics in poker can be a little tough at the start, but if you seriously want to be a long-term winning poker player, you have to develop and use math skills. Like anything you do repeatedly or practice often, using math calculations in poker will soon become second nature and your understanding of pot odds and expected value will become effortless. There are poker sites, books, CDs, etc. on the subject. By cultivating these practices, you augment the power of your brain and become a more successful problem solver.

Poker Enhances the Ability to Think Logically and Concentrate More Acutely

Poker requires a lot of decision making. We are given a lot of information in poker, but we are also denied a lot of information. Also, sometimes there is more than one “correct” answer to a situation. In poker you want to come to the correct conclusion even if the correct conclusion is sometimes wrong. Logic is the science of correct reasoning. What playing poker teaches us is to respect and apply logic because it is a series of puzzles. Since you don’t know the other players’ cards, you need logic to help you figure out what they have, and then more logic to decide how put that information to good use.

The same general approach that works in poker will help you to make other important life decisions. The first step toward solving poker puzzles, making decisions, and resolving real life problems is acquiring the right information; without it you will most likely make costly errors. Poker develops information-gathering qualities, especially concentration. Every poker player has missed signals, including quite obvious ones, made mistakes, and then berated himself, “How could I have been so stupid?” This is actually the most effective way to develop concentration—a perfect fit for poker.

Poker Improves Patience and Self-Discipline

The patient person is a powerful person. Poker promotes patience in the most powerful way. If you wait patiently for the right situation, you will certainly beat all of those impatient opponents who play too many hands. In fact, the first concept a poker player should develop is the art of patience. Research shows that immediate rewards have much greater impact on people than delayed ones. This could be the reason so many people are overweight, the immediate pleasure of eating is more powerful than the long-term effect of having to buy larger size clothes.

Poker players learn that a bad play can have good results and vice versa, but that the key to success is making decisions with positive, long-term expectation. If you make enough positive plays, you are going to win. All winning poker players are extremely disciplined. Discipline affects every play they make. They fold hands they are tempted to play. They resist the urge to challenge tough players. By avoiding distractions and using the super power of self-control, they are able to play to win. Yes, we see some famous players screaming and trash talking, but this is not a common occurrence in most card rooms. If we can learn to exude patience at the poker table, perhaps we can carry that inner Zen through to our everyday lives.

Poker Maintains a Sense of Well-Being through Human Interaction and Social Skills

We are wired to be social. We get pleasure in bonding with people of shared interests. The challenges, the competitions, and the camaraderie that often come with the a good game of poker gives most a sense of well-being. A lot of people play poker for the social aspect of it. House games were always more of a social gathering than a hardcore poker match. A casual low-limit game makes ground to establishing new friendships and friendly networking.

Poker is much like life itself. We experience life and play poker with incomplete information. Unpredictable betting patterns, the way the cards fall, and other psychological ploys are not only the very things that make poker exciting, but are also the things that life is made of.

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