The mental skills you can learn from poker

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 04/04/2021

Poker is a mental game, and it will prepare you for a healthy lifestyle and productive life if you put in the effort. On top of that, the hard work could pay off handsomely in the form of a high income.

On the surface, poker appears to be nothing more than a game involving cards, casino chips, and luck. But that’s a simple way of looking at a complex game.

1. A positive outlook

The first important lesson you’re going to learn from poker, whether you like it or not, is to accept defeat. You can’t always win at the poker table. Some days, you’ll play your best game, do everything right, and walk away losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Luck is a factor in the short-term in this game, and even a complete donkey can win on any given day. The same can said about life outside of poker. Take the stock market, for example. You can invest in a great company that appears headed for massive profits, and for you, a big payoff, and then one day the CEO gets caught with cocaine and the stock plummets.

Poker is similar to the game of life in that you can’t always win. But it will either teach you how to accept defeat or you’ll lose a ton of money playing on tilt.

2. Resilience

As we just mentioned, you’re guaranteed to lose at times in poker. And that’s perfectly okay because you shouldn’t be focused on the results of any single session. Your focus should be on playing the best you can every time out so that you’ll win over the long run.

Taking a results-oriented approach to poker is a terrible idea that will harm you mentally. You’ll be depressed every time you lose if you are results-oriented.

The same can be said about other facets of your life. Let’s say you’re searching for a new job, you get an interview for a job you’d enjoy and are all excited and ready to show the hiring manager what a great fit you’d be for their company.

You show up dressed to impress and feel you knocked it out of the park during the interview. But so did 20 other worthy candidates, one of whom got the job over you. What’s the best response to finding out you didn’t get the job? Shrugging it off and moving on to the next opportunity. A results-oriented job seeker would spend the next week angry about losing out on the job instead of spending that time more wisely.

3. Emotional intelligence

The best poker players in the world don’t just know how to make the perfect poker face or calculate pot odds. They are also mentally tough or they’d never get to that level in this game.

Playing poker and winning Poker for months and years will teach you how to handle your emotions. You’ll learn that things aren’t always going to go your way, which will benefit you in other facets of life.

Perhaps things don’t work out with a significant other you fell in love with, or a loved one passes away. Those are difficult situations that can cause severe depression. But a mentally tough individual will get through the tough times in life without having a mental breakdown. The ups and downs of poker will teach you how to be mentally tough. If it doesn’t, the chances are pretty solid that you need some counseling and are likely a losing player.

4. Learning from mistakes

The most successful people, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffett, have failed many times at certain things in life. Ditto for Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and every other poker legend.

Ivey and the other players mentioned have something in common with Gates and Buffett, two of the richest investors in the world: they learn from their mistakes.

Go watch how Ivey conducts himself at the poker table. He never appears distraught after a bad beat. If he loses, he walks away from the table and moves on with his life. Players at Ivey’s level find positives in their losses.

Instead of complaining about a defeat, they analyze their play objectively. If they made mistakes, they fix the mistakes so they don’t make them again the next time out. Learning from your mistakes can be helpful in poker and in life. We all make mistakes at the poker table every session, but the top players work to correct the errors.

Featured image source: Flickr