Poker has literally been around for centuries, and yet it still stands as one of the most well-known card games being played today. Since its creation, there have been so many variations, expanding its pool of players even more. Fast-forward to the present day, and the most popular variation worldwide is said to be Texas Hold ‘Em.
But no matter what version you prefer and whether you play to win or just for fun, the game actually carries a lot of benefits with it. This goes beyond its inherent positives, like socialization, enjoyable gameplay, and the prospect of winning actual money. Beyond that, poker has benefits that specifically improve your brain. So, what exactly does the classic card game do for your brain?
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Increases Mental Functions
Anyone who is learning the game already knows the need for patience and concentration in order to make the best moves. It requires strategy and engages the mind throughout the game. Because of this, poker has been included in countless studies for combatting dementia and other age-related afflictions that affect the mind’s functionality. A recent review in the Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine even highlights poker as an effective way to improve memory, thinking performance, and enhance reasoning ability.
It is included in a collective list of serious games for dementia care, and has been linked with studies that suggest card games as a cognitive stimulator to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Improves Emotional Intelligence
The brain taps into various mental skills in poker, a significant section of which pertains to emotional intelligence. Every game sees the ebbs and flows that build up one’s EQ – being able to call a bluff, reading an opponent’s body language, seeing through their poker face, and even having to deal with a sudden major loss against a much better hand. Calmly going through both wins and losses while continuing to focus on the task at hand takes a lot of perception and fortitude.
Mastering the art of poker also means inherently developing your EQ. If used for the betterment of one’s self, this could be applied to the more stressful situations in life and can even improve one’s empathy and discipline. Poker enthusiast Jon Sofen even notes how the best players in the game don’t reach that point without developing these mental facets.
Sharpens Analytical Response
Another important part of one’s brain that is stimulated is the analytical section in charge of understanding concepts like mathematics or data patterns. Analysis in poker is not necessarily built on just mathematical formulas or equations; instead it’s more rooted in functionality and critical dissections. The strategic capabilities of the mind can be trained through poker to identify patterns, habits, and probability. The famed mathematician John Nash, for example, called this approach the “game theory”. He believed that through poker, players could learn to see the interconnectedness of outcomes.
Many in the scientific community have even found that playing poker is a microcosm of life, and can be a great exercise in professional data scientists’ analyses. Recently, data scientists were able to see that players who approached poker with an information-driven, tactical, and cool response performed better than those who merely relied on luck. Seeing as how poker involves reading others, the perception and preparedness of more analytical players gave them a clearer picture to run successfully with. In fact, this deeply strategic and analytical response has even been said to increase gray matter in players.
With these benefits, it’s good to know the enjoyable card game is more than a guilty pleasure. For more helpful tips and info on how to improve your mind and body, read up on our other health articles here.