Not Just a Game: The Cognitive Benefits of Poker

When you think of poker, chances are that you are picturing it as a gambling activity. It’s a game of chance, where players are dealt their cards and then have to hope that they are an improvement on their opponents’ cards. For generations, people that don’t play poker have considered it a game that’s based off a lot of luck and only a handful of skill.

However, recent studies have brought the cognitive benefits of poker to light. Whether you are a professional poker player or simply playing poker online with friends, you are working on your mental skills whenever you play. Playing poker online or in-person can help you to exercise your inherent cognitive skills and helps you to read your opponents — and their cards — better.

An illustration of a blue brain being hit by blue signals and hitting the front of the brain which has a red tint.

How do the mental benefits of playing poker help in ‘real life’?

Poker is a tough and mentally stimulating game that requires players to have a deep understanding of their opponents. Various studies have shown that people who regularly play poker develop ‘real-life’ skills that can benefit their everyday decision making and teaches players to better read people, strategize and think creatively.

These are just some of the ways that the skills developed playing online poker or in-person poker can benefit your everyday life:

Poker is great for your business

We can all agree that operating a startup business or getting your business off the ground is a pretty high-stakes operation. You have to assess potential risks, analyse your competition, take opportunities when they are presented to you, and control your emotions when things aren’t going your way. Ultimately, you need to understand when you can hold them, or when you should fold up and walk away.

There are a number of parallels between playing poker and running or owning a business — particularly when it comes to startups. Poker is an excellent small-scale model that can teach business owners how to train their brains to make difficult decisions and run their businesses effectively while under extreme pressure. Some of the ways in which poker benefits business owners include:

  • Confidence: Business owners and players alike rely on confidence in their own ability to identify potential opportunities or losses. Poker and business are both high-pressure environments that require the player (or owner) to make decisions when they may be lacking critical information that others may rely on. Poker helps them to build up confidence in their own judgement and forces them to put together the crucial missing pieces that they need to make important decisions.
  • Assessing risks: Taking risks is an inherent part of starting a successful business, as it is in a good game of poker. If you’ve got a two pair and your opponent is not looking great either, then going all-in could be a great bet. However, if there are four hearts on the table, then taking the bet would probably not be the best idea. Poker teaches you to assess the risks and with experience, you’ll be able to understand the signs without having to think about it too much.
  • Get through a losing streak: Not everything in business goes according to plan and often it can feel like you are just getting hit with failure after failure. In poker, we call this a losing streak. Poker is all about playing hand after hand in order to turn the tables and get back into your stride. It teaches us that in business — and often in life in general — we also need to push through the bad patches in order to succeed.
  • Emotional intelligence: Whether you own or run a company, or are just in charge of a team of people, playing poker games online or in-person will undoubtedly make you a better manager. To play a good game of poker you have to be able to read people’s physical and non-physical cues. This helps players to develop the emotional intelligence to work well with colleagues, employees and partners.
  • Practice makes perfect: Too many people think that running a business or playing poker is easy. They fail to understand that it is going to come with a lot of hard work, ups and downs, and there are going to be times when they are going to lose. Yes, poker can be about luck, but the more you play, the less luck you’ll need to win. The same goes for business: the more experience you gain, the better you will get at decision making, identifying opportunities and making your company a success.

Poker teaches you to control your emotions

Poker players are renowned for their ability to recognize when they should hold or fold. Part of being a successful poker playing is being able to control yourself at the table and it’s something that new or inexperienced players can struggle with. Self-control is a massive asset to have as a poker player and when you spend the time playing poker games online you develop an emotional self-awareness that can help you in many other facets of life.

Experienced poker players know that by chasing losses, they could lose more than they can monetarily handle. They know when to step away, take a break and reset with a fresh mind to be on top of their game for the next one. If you play poker online regularly, you can teach yourself cognitive maturity that you can apply to real-life situations. By playing smart, you will learn to identify which games are worth the effort and which ones will only end up in you losing; you can use this as an asset in stressful situations that allow you to keep a calm head and make the right decision, so that you don’t regret it later down the line.

A man in the middle wearing a shirt being shouted at by people either side of him whilst he stays calm and ignores them.

Poker benefits your concentration

One of the cognitive benefits most commonly associated with poker is concentration. Players need to be highly focused in order to win their hand. It’s a mentally stimulating activity that gives the brain a workout. Consistently performing a single activity can help your brain to rewire itself with newly created neural pathways and nerve fibers. Online poker tournaments and competitions are particularly beneficial, as they require players to concentrate and focus for long periods of time.

Playing poker helps players to develop longer concentration spans, but this isn’t the only impact it has on their concentration levels. Being a successful poker player means concentrating on your own hand, your opponent’s hand, their cues, the dealer, the bets that are called, the cards already on the table, and the players who have already folded in the game. This all means that a longer attention span is also complemented by the ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.

Poker and degenerative diseases

As you’ve seen, playing poker can help you with everyday decisions right now or in the immediate future, but what most people don’t know is that poker could actually help to delay — and in some cases prevent — degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Dr. Jeffrey Cummings produced a study which showed that people who play poker can reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50%. The mental stimulation and function required to play poker are critical when it comes to battling the fast-moving development of these diseases in the elderly.

Play poker online with Borgata

These are just some of the ways in which playing poker can benefit your mind and help you in real-life situations. Whether poker is all about luck or is more about developing a specialized skill set is a debate that could rage on for generations to come. However, we don’t think that those who truly love playing the game will pay much heed to it - they simply want to play for the joy of it and win along the way.

If you’re looking for the best free online poker site to play real poker online, Borgata Online has got you covered. Our platform is the leading site to play online poker with real money in New Jersey. With a top selection of individual games, hot tournaments, promotions and welcoming specials, you’ll find your poker skills improving rapidly — and before you know it, you’ll be confidently taking the next step up in your poker journey.

Poker chips, poker cards, spinning wheel and slot machine flying out and around a laptop.