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5 Life Skills You Can Learn from Playing Poker

There are several misconceptions about poker—the most common one being that anyone who learns the game must be looking for a “get rich quick” scheme that doesn’t involve working a standard nine-to-five job. This might be the case for some poker players, but many enjoy it for the social camaraderie found at the table and the critical thinking strategies absorbed over time.

Many life skills can be acquired through poker, and the more often you practice, the more applications you’ll gain—both at the table and in the real world. These lessons are just a few examples of how enhancing your poker game can also be beneficial in the other parts of your life.

Becoming Mindful of Your Emotions.

Poker can trigger an intense range of emotional responses, from irritation over a poor deal to infuriation over an unexpected loss. But allowing these reactions to impair your judgment can goad you into making careless moves that reduce your likelihood of success overall. Maintaining a sense of balance and control over your emotional state during a poker game, even if the odds feel stacked against you, is a vital component of winning. The same idea is also true in life—remaining level headed instead of succumbing to reckless or erratic behavior can steer you toward smarter choices not governed by emotions.

Seeing Beyond Perceived Weakness.

You are most likely familiar with the expression, “play the hand you’re dealt,” and for an obvious reason—it’s a crucial strategy for thriving, both in poker and life. You can’t substitute the cards you receive for a more lucrative hand, so the only course of action is to find a tactical outcome for an undesirable situation. This doesn’t always increase the odds of winning, but sometimes a hand that appears weak turns out strong because you leveraged the cards you were given. Similarly, when you’re hopeful and optimistic instead of negative and jaded, you can detect the glimmers of light in any kind of circumstance.

Managing Your Bankroll Shrewdly.

The basis of poker is simple and straightforward—if you don’t have enough cash, then you’re out of the game. Because it’s never a strategic idea to risk more than you can afford to lose, experienced players track their spending carefully at the poker table. They account for each dollar, and they exercise the restraint to walk away from a game if needed. Rather than borrowing money to fund their seat at the table, they make a point of investing what is theirs. In poker, this is known as bankroll management, and it applies to your real world finances too because it teaches you to follow a budget and live within your means.

Weighing the Factors of a Decision.

Since you don’t have insider knowledge of the opponent’s hand during a poker game, you have to depend on educated guesses and reading between the lines. You can gauge another person’s motives by interpreting their facial expressions, body language and other nonverbal cues, but you can’t take anything that happens around the table at face value. This forces you to question how something might appear initially, then assess the different variables before deciding on a move. Healthy skepticism is useful for decision making in general because it protects you from reacting hastily without considering the ramifications.

Looking for the Positives in Failure.

There’s no denying or escaping that failure is part of life, but even though it’s not enjoyable, failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes and gain wisdom in the long-term. This dichotomy is reinforced at the poker table because in order to improve, you need to practice often—and losses are bound to occur. This is unavoidable, but how it affects your performance and motivation is your own choice entirely. Sometimes it can seem like you’re on a permanent losing streak, but push through the discouragement. Both poker and life function on the basic premise: “You might fail now, but you’ll succeed later.”

To summarize all these benefits into one overarching idea, poker teaches you to think—to be rational, preemptive, disciplined and self-aware. The methods and strategies used in this game are transferable to your life outside the poker table. And the more intentional you are about finding the parallels, the more success you can achieve in both arenas.

Photo Credits

Riffle shuffle – Wikimedia creative commons

Royal Flush – pixabay creative commons


Guest Author Bio
Mats Johnson

Mats Johnson is an Executive Director and Chief Marketing Officer at VGW, the company that revolutionized the social gaming industry with their Chumba Casino and Global Poker brands. Over the past two decades, Johnson has held many senior positions in online gaming including General Manager at Centrebet, Director at Coral Eurobet, Chief Executive Officer at Playsafe and CMO at Expekt. When Johnson isn’t working he enjoys playing poker and skydiving.

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