On the face of it, poker may look like just another game; there are winners and losers, some who love playing, others who hate it, and some who are good at it, some who are not. However, dig a little deeper and there is more than meets the eye. On the surface of it, the rules are relatively simple to understand. You get dealt some cards, and are tasked with making a hand in accordance with some fairly straightforward rules. Depending on that hand you can raise (bet more), fold (i.e. leave the game), or call (match the bet); the best hand in wins the round.
However, there is far more to this popular card game. There have been numerous poker books written to help players with the strategy, statistics, and psychology of the game, showcasing the complex nature of the game, and all those who play the game are in agreement that there are many life lessons that can be learnt from a good game of poker.
Being disciplined is key to success in poker, and in life. In poker, it is key to know when to call it quits, when to cut your losses, and when to bow out gracefully. It may be ever so tempting to keep calling and trying to bluff your way through, but in reality this is not always a particularly successful tactic.
In life, discipline means being able to only spend within your means, get a good nights’ sleep before an important day rather than the immediate gratification of going out, or saving for a rainy day.
Success in poker means being prepared to play the long game. There will be some good hands and some bad hands, hands that the player can capitalise on and ones they can’t. It is very unlikely that a player will win big on their first visit to the table, and players must be able to balance the successes with the losses, making sure they don’t try to rush into anything.
In life, patience is key: key to relationships, success in work, and to making good decisions. Nothing I life is easy, and taking the time to create strong relationships with friends, family and acquaintances helps build trust and a network of support that makes life all the more enjoyable.
3. Emotional Control
Emotions play a huge part in the decision making process, and someone who’s emotions are out of control is unlikely to make good decisions. In poker, losing control of emotions when you get dealt a bad hand or another player is irritating you is known as tilt, and this can easily be exploited by opponents. The most successful poker players are those able to keep their emotions in check, presenting what is often called ‘poker face’ to the world.
Similarly, being able to control emotions in life means that better decisions can be made more rationally. People who can control their emotions better will find they are more able to get what they want, using logic to make decisions and building better relationships across the board.
4. Balancing risk and reward
Every decision a player makes in a game of poker is the result of a decision make balancing the risk and reward of said decision: the risk of going all in on a hand with a 1% chance of winning is too high, despite the potential reward. However, going all in on a half decent had may be worth the risk.
In daily life, all our decisions are similarly based on risk and reward. Often though, people are too scared to take risks. In poker-speak, this would equate to folding every hand waiting for the perfect hand to present itself, which is unlikely to happen. There is never the perfect time to change jobs, or buy that house, or have kids, but people do it anyway, not because there is no risk, but because they have weighed up the risk and reward and decided it is worth it. Poker helps develop this skill further, giving people more fulfilling lives.
5. Decision making
Poker players have absolutely no say in what cards they receive, but it is down to them how they play them. They make decisions every step of the way, whether to fold, raise, or call, or even to go all in!
Every day, people make decisions based on their current situations, and need to know how to make the best out of the proverbial ‘hand they are dealt’. It is about accepting what is in front of you and making the best out of the situation.
6. Dealing with bad beats
Poker constantly deals players random hands, and leaves it up to them to make of them what they will. An initial deal of Texas Hold’Em (the most popular variant of poker currently on the market) may give one player really good odds, but as more community cards are turned over these odds can quickly change, and players need to be able to adapt their game play to suit. Players also need to have the mental capacity to keep going in spite of changing circumstances and bad beats.
In life, people will often suffer from setbacks and disappointments. Where things may seem to be going well, all it takes is for a small change for things to go badly, and individuals need to know how to react to be able to get through this tough spot.
Poker lesson in life
Many of the skills required in poker can be transferred into daily life to help make things easier. Patience helps with building strong relationships. Emotional control makes it easier to make good decisions. Throughout daily life, individuals need to make decisions based on risk and reward, learning how to make the most of what they have and learning to deal with setbacks in a constructive way to come back better and stronger than before.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.