The US has always been a country that embraces poker, from the dusty backrooms of the Wild West to the opulent Las Vegas poker tables that host the World Series of Poker. This year, poker is going strong, and it’s part of a growing gaming industry that broke pre-pandemic revenue levels as early as the 2nd quarter of 2021.
The game’s continuing popularity is understandable. It involves both chance and skill — and whilst you cannot control the former, you can develop as a person by embracing the latter. Here’s how playing poker can help you become a better person.
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Awareness of Self
The mindfulness trend is more than what meets the eye. In fact, it’s an innate human ability that involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and how these all impact your surroundings. That might not sound like something you can achieve playing poker, but it is.
When playing poker in a casino, your opponent is studying you and the messages you are giving off, such as the tells you give off when you’ve got a good hand. Controlling yourself is a skill that can work for you in real life, helping you discover how other people perceive you, and what can you do to influence that perception. Poker pro Tanya Vujanic particularly recommends having great posture, while her colleague Jackie Glazier recommends using breathing techniques to combat stress.
However, you must also be aware of your opponents as well. Understanding people and their behavior will help you become a better player. Far from simply being a brash card game played by big personalities, poker can sharpen your observational skills by having you watch your opponents and work out their strengths and weaknesses. It can improve your memory, something we’ve mentioned can ensure a good mental state. It can also help you manage conflict, build leadership skills, and make you a better people person.
A few games may even see you following in the footsteps of Doyle Brunson, one of the greatest poker players of all time. He’s condensed his people skills into the book “Super System,” which lists tips on everything from controlling one’s emotions to reading other players. Though published 20 years ago, it remains highly relevant today.
There is an element of decision-making included in a poker game, especially if you’re watching cards and calculating odds. This is very much a practical skill one can learn playing the card game because situations change very fast, and often you have to make split decisions under pressure.
National Poker champion Annie Duke adds that you are dealing with unknown variables, such as the cards your opponent has or what is yet to be dealt on the river if playing Texas Hold’em. Making decisions without all the facts is never ideal, but it has to be done every single day of your life. Do you leave your coat at home when you’re not sure what the weather will be like? How do you prep for that big interview when you don’t know what you’ll be asked? You can’t fill in the blanks with a game of poker, but you can learn how to make snap decisions better and how to deal with the consequences.
Poker can be a tricky game to master. However, there are also plenty of beneficial elements to the game. These can be rewarding for your self-development journey — if you take the time to pay attention to them.