Not Just a Game: The Cognitive Benefits of Poker


Not Just a Game: The Cognitive Benefits of Poker


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

Not Just a Game: The Cognitive Benefits of Poker


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

When you think of poker, you might see it mainly as a gambling activity. To you, it’s a game of chance, where players are dealt their cards and then have to hope that theirs are better than their opponents’ cards. For generations, people who didn’t play poker have also considered it a game based on a lot of luck and only a bit of skill. But today, that thinking has started to change; many people have begun accepting that, while poker requires luck, there is a very strong element of skill needed in order to win.

This makes even more sense when you consider that recent studies have brought the cognitive benefits of poker to light. Whether you’re a professional poker player or simply enjoy playing online poker with friends, you’re working on your mental skills whenever you play (whether you know it or not.) Playing poker online or in person can help you exercise your inherent cognitive skills, as well as allow you to read your opponents — and their cards — better.

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. It teaches players to read people more effectively, strategize and think creatively.

Below are just some of the skills you can develop by playing virtual or in-person poker and how they can benefit your everyday life (and you can also find out more here about three specific mental habits that help poker players).

Playing Poker Is Great for Honing Your Business Sense

We can all agree that operating a startup or getting your business off the ground is a pretty high-stakes operation. You have to assess potential risks, analyze your competition, take opportunities when they are presented and control your emotions when things aren’t going your way. 

As you may have guessed, several parallels exist between being a poker player and being a business owner or manager — particularly with startups. Poker is an excellent small-scale model that can teach business owners how to train their brains to make difficult decisions, weigh risks and run their businesses effectively under extreme pressure. 

Some ways in which poker benefits business owners include:


Business owners and players alike rely on confidence in their own ability to identify potential opportunities or losses, as well as knowing that they’ll be able to manage regardless of the final outcome. Poker and business are both examples of high-pressure environments that require the player (or owner) to make decisions when they may lack critical information that others may rely on. Poker helps them build up confidence in their own judgment and forces them to combine the crucial missing pieces 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, taking the bet is probably not the best idea if four hearts are on the table. Poker teaches you to look at what’s in front of you and assess the risks. With experience, you’ll understand the signs without having to think about it too much.

Get Through a Losing Streak

Not everything in business goes according to plan — often it can feel like you’re just getting hit with failure after failure. In poker, we call this a losing streak. Poker is about playing hand after hand in the hope of turning the tables and getting 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 to succeed. However, it’s also essential to know when to walk away and call it a day, especially if you’re not in the best frame of mind to make good decisions — and this can take even more strength.

Emotional Intelligence

Whether you own or run a company or are just in charge of a team of people, learning poker will undoubtedly make you a better manager. After all, to play a good game of in-person poker, you have to be able to read people’s physical and non-physical cues, such as facial expressions and body language. This helps players develop the emotional intelligence to “read the room” and work well with colleagues, employees and partners.

Practice Makes Perfect

Too many people think running a business or playing poker is easy. They fail to understand that it will come with a lot of hard work, as well as ups and downs. There will also be times when they will lose, no matter what they do. Yes, poker can be about luck, but the more you play, the less luck you’ll need to win because you’ll improve your game. The same goes for business. The more experience you gain, the better you will get at decision-making, identifying opportunities and making your company successful.

Poker Teaches You To Control Your Emotions

Good poker players are renowned for their ability to recognize when they should hold or fold. Part of being a successful poker player is being able to control yourself at the table, which is something that new or inexperienced players can struggle with. Self-control is a massive asset to have as a poker player. When you play live games online, you develop emotional self-awareness and mental resilience 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 round. Whether you’re playing in a casual online poker tournament with friends or taking part in one of the biggest poker tournaments around the world, playing poker can improve your cognitive maturity and apply it to real-life situations. 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 won’t regret it later down the line.

By playing smart and managing your emotions, you’ll learn to identify which games are worth putting effort into and which you’re most likely to end up losing. 

Poker Benefits Your Concentration

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

Texas Hold’em poker rules may be relatively easy to learn, but they’re certainly not easy to master. Becoming great at any variety of poker requires years of experience, studying and concentration. Fortunately, it’s one of the cognitive benefits most commonly associated with poker, since players need to be highly focused to win. 

Poker players will find that they develop longer concentration spans — but this isn’t the only impact it has on the ability to focus. 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 community cards 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 multitasking ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. This is especially true of online poker tournaments and competitions, as they require players to concentrate and focus for long periods. 

Poker Could Help Prevent 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 degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dr. Jeffrey Cummings produced a study that showed that people who play poker could reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50%. 

Consistently performing an activity can also help your brain to rewire itself with newly created neural pathways and nerve fibers, which supports the idea that regularly playing the game can help fight against degenerative diseases. 

Poker Teaches You How To Deal With Losses

No matter how lucky or good you are at something, there will be days when things just don’t go your way. Whether it’s an important pitch at work, a competitive game of soccer or just a conversation with your partner, loss and failure are inevitable in life. It’s how you deal with it that will have the biggest impact. 

A good poker player won’t chase a loss or throw a tantrum over a bad hand. They will simply fold, learn a lesson and move on. Being able to take the hard knocks is an essential aspect of everyday life. If you can learn how to handle failure and take a lesson as part of it, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up quickly. That way, you’ll be able to learn how to do something better the next time around. You can further enhance your resilience through practice and other skills, which again provides benefits outside of the world of poker.

Poker Helps You Develop a “Poker Face”

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

At some point in their lives, everyone will find themselves in a situation where they don’t want to let people know what they are thinking — whether that’s something as serious as negotiating an important business deal or as lighthearted as keeping a surprise party secret from a loved one. 

In poker, players must learn how to bluff to hide their tells and keep their hands’ contents a mystery to other players. The less information opponents have about your hand, the better chance you have of outplaying them. Learning this skill can help you put on a real-life poker face whenever you need it.

Play Online Poker in the USA With Borgata Online

These are just some ways that playing poker can benefit your mind and help you in real-life situations. If you’re looking for the best place to play live poker online or more tips and strategies for beginner poker players, Borgata Online has got you covered. Our platform is the leading site to play poker online for money. With a top selection of individual games, hot tournaments, promotions and welcoming specials, you’ll soon find your poker skills start to improve. What’s more, you can pick up poker tournament tips and learn poker tournament rules from our renowned poker blog.
To play poker games online, along with all the other online casino games we offer, register with Borgata Online.