Poker is good for you

We explain how poker can enrich your life with more than just cash

Do you ever get accused of poker taking over your life? If you play once a week or more then the answer is probably yes, and the complaints can get as annoying as a hoodie-wearing chav playing hip-hop on a cheap mobile phone. Nagging wives, finger-wringing husbands and other assorted nay-sayers find it all too easy to buy into the tabloid fallacy that you’ll gamble your life savings away within a fortnight of seeing your first flop.

I’m sure you’ve given the usual argument to such worry warts. The ‘it’s a game of skill’ routine can be fought in a court of law but try to explain it to a non-player and you’ll often come across as a wannabe lottery winner that believes their numerology technique will see them rolling naked around in piles of money. Instead, rise above the eyeball rolls and cheap quips and quote one or all of the following reasons to the uninitiated as to why embracing poker is a fine idea.

1. It acts as a brain-booster
If you’ve never played Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training game on the Nintendo DS (one of those funny little handheld consoles) it’s a series of timed puzzles and exercises designed by a prominent Japanese neuroscientist to help stimulate the brain. And poker works in much the same way. It’s all too easy to let the brain get lazy making the most simple of problems a real chore.

You’ll find non-poker playing friends are more likely to be worse at these kinds of maths and observations games. Thinking deeply about what hands your opponents are playing, trying to read players’ actions, while calculating pot odds and potential betting on future streets, puts your grey matter through a rigorous workout. Unless you work in army logistics, the chances are that playing poker is one of the only times you have to number-crunch and strategise in a high-pressure environment.

2. It promotes social integration
Okay, things may still get a little fruity at the table from time to time but when else are you going to sit at a table with such a mix of ages, nationalities and social backgrounds? I’ve sat at a table in a $100 Vegas tournament with a music producer from London, a Texan millionaire, a pig farmer from Iowa and a woman that I could only guess danced on a pole by night.

3. It eases the strain on the NHS
You’ll always have those boozy nights but as the cards get more important than the beers you’ll find yourself drinking less and the life of alcoholism, liver disease and dialysis machines that was mapped out will slide away, saving the nation collective millions in hospital bills.

4. It keeps old age at bay
Do you want to end up in an old people’s home? No? Then keep playing poker. Some of the more venerable gentlemen of the game such as Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim are still playing at the highest level while your relatives of a similar age are ruminating on what they had for dinner last night. Poker brings out a ruthless streak, and keeping that competitive edge will give you a few extra years of emancipation before your kids try to lock you up in a pissstained old folks home. Bless.

5. It helps you detect lies
If you regularly play live poker your skills of observation will grow, as will your ability to detect lies. While this is a great skill to have at the poker table it also helps immeasurably in real life, like when a colleague explains why they were late into work (rambling, gesticulating way more than normal). Don’t believe them. They got drunk and overslept.

6. It’s fun!
And if none of that convinces your worried friends and relatives, you can also explain that there’s loads of money to be won and it’s great fun. But will they believe something so simple? Who cares? You’ll be the one laughing as they get wheeled into the local nursing home while you’re still ripping up your local casino.

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