Why Playing and Studying Poker is Good for You

play-pokerJeff Bercovici of Forbes has said that poker is better than business school. Is this true? Can a card game be more beneficial than a four-year stint at a premier business institution?

Well, Bercovici is clearly exaggerating (you do earn a useful diploma after studying at a business school), but it cannot be denied that playing and studying poker provides mental and cognitive benefits that transcend what most people think of the game. Unlike other gambling games, skill and experience is needed to be a good poker player.

This is the reason why poker is more similar to “cerebral” games such as chess and bridge than to pure luck-based card games such as blackjack.

Like chess, poker is a game for geniuses. It is a good exercise for the brain, and the skills that you gain during the course of your playing can also be applied to other aspects of your life, like personal organization and financial management.

Still not convinced? Here are some of the best reasons why poker is good for you:

1. It teaches you that it’s okay to lose.

If you’re a newbie, be prepared to lose a lot of games (especially if you are playing against people who are more experienced than you). This is a given- even the most popular cardsharks of today will incur lots of losses during the course of a regular play. The thing here is knowing how to “calculate” your losses in the greater scheme of things, or learning to accept defeat when it’s imminent.

2. It teaches you how to read people.

Having a background in psychology gives you a big boost in poker. It’s not enough to know the theory behind the game, you also need to know how the minds of your opponents work. You need to be able to pick up on not-so-obvious cues and the subtle nuances in how those around you play. Is this player too reckless? Do these people play too safe? Getting into your opponents’ heads and predicting their future moves are necessary skills that only those who are truly passionate about poker can develop.

3. It teaches you how to be patient.

You’re not always going to get good hands. In fact, most of the good poker players of our time have mastered the art of waiting down to a “T.” They fold when necessary and then pounce on the table when the timing is right. Sometimes, in the interest of strategy, they can fold even when they get a good hand. The trick here is to know when to play and when to hold back.

4. It teaches you how to adjust to any situation.

Good poker players vary the way they play the game. They might fold, check, bet, or raise at unexpected times just to catch their opponents off guard. A single card alone is enough to make or break someone’s winning streak. And this is a fundamental truth of poker- everything is not always by the book. Excellent players know how to be flexible enough to adapt to any kind of playing situation.

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