Poker is a complicated game, especially if you want to play it well. You have to think on many different levels and make decisions based on incomplete information if you want to make a profit. This is why it’s hard to be a winning poker player if you’re not smart.
The good news is that if you study and work on learning from your mistakes, your poker intelligence can improve. And the same skills you learn at the poker table can be useful in many other situations in your life.
Here’s a list of five ways that playing real money poker can make you smarter. As you learn more about these five ways, try to think how they can help you in everyday life instead of just at the poker table.
1 – Thinking Ahead in Poker
The ability to think ahead is one of the most valuable skills you can have in life. Every decision you make can have more than one possible outcome. When you can see the possible outcomes it helps you make better decisions.
Poker works the same way. You have to make 100’s of decisions every poker session, and each decision has multiple possible outcomes. You have to think ahead a few moves if you want to be a profitable poker player.
The best poker players are thinking three or four or five or more steps ahead. They might make a particular play to set up a future hand. They also think about what they’re going to do depending on multiple outcomes of each decision.
Profitable poker players recognize as many possible outcomes as possible and plan ahead for each of them. They know that every possible outcome will happen eventually if they play in the same situation enough times.
For example, if you have a flush draw on the river you know that if you’re in the exact same position 46 times that you’re going to complete your flush nine of them and not complete it 37 times. You need to have a plan for both possibilities before you see the river card.
It can take some time to learn how to think ahead, but you can practice this skill to improve faster. Every time you have to make a decision take a second to think of the possible outcomes. Make a quick mental plan for each of the possible outcomes so you’re prepared.
The more you practice thinking ahead the more natural and automatic it becomes. This is going to help you when you play poker as well as help you in the rest of your life.
2 – Online Gambling Odds and Probabilities
Odds and probabilities are usually considered only useful when dealing with math. But there are a lot of things in your life that have a mathematical component.
Poker is almost completely mathematical. You do need to develop people reading skills, but outside of that every decision you make needs to be based on mathematics when you play poker.
Odds and probabilities are pretty much the same thing. It just depends on how you look at situations and which way works best for you.
As you see each card dealt, the pool of possible cards shrinks. For example, if you have the ace of hearts in your hand you know there isn’t going to be another ace of hearts dealt this hand.
Get a deck of playing cards and start dealing your favorite poker game. If you play Texas holdem, deal two cards to yourself and then deal the flop. Determine the odds of the turn improving your hand. Then deal the turn and do the same thing for the river. If you play Omaha, deal four cards to yourself and then deal the flop and follow the same steps.
You like to play Texas holdem and deal the jack or clubs and 10 of diamonds to yourself. The flop is the nine of spades, queen of hearts, and the two of clubs. This gives you an open end straight draw. Any of the four 8’s or kings completes your straight.
This means that eight cards complete your straight. You’ve seen your two cards and the three on the flop, so there are 47 cards left in the deck. This means that eight out of 47 times the turn is going to complete your straight. It also means that there’s a ratio of eight good cards to 39 bad cards.
You can use these numbers as they are, or you can turn them into a percentage. eight divided by 47 means that 17.02% of the time you’re going to hit your straight on the turn.
When you deal the turn, if you don’t complete your straight, determine the numbers for the river. The only number that changes in this example is there are now 46 cards left instead of 47.
3 – Cost Benefit Analysis
Gamblers use cost benefit analysis all of the time. They look at the cost of an action and compare it to the possible benefit.
Cost benefit analysis goes much deeper than this when you play poker. And it goes much deeper than this in real life.
If you have the option to do one of two things that each take one hour and you only have one hour so you can’t do them both, you must decide which option is more valuable to you. The cost is one hour and you’re not going to be able to do the thing you didn’t choose to do. The benefit is what you get out of the thing you decide to do.
Learn how to make good cost benefit analysis decisions at the poker table and you’re going to start making better decisions in the rest of your life based on the same principles.
4 – The Cost and Rewards of an Aggressive Poker Style
A saying that I’ve always liked about playing poker is fortune favors the bold. In poker, when you bet or fold you’re showing your poker playing style.
In many situations in life it’s also better to be aggressive. Sometimes it’s better to speak up or take action than to sit back quietly and wait.
Of course, you have to also learn when it’s better or more profitable to not be aggressive. At the poker table the best choice is usually to be aggressive if you don’t know what to do. But profitable poker players also know when it’s more profitable to wait. Just like the most successful people in everyday life know when to be aggressive and when they should wait.
5 – Reading Other Poker Players
When you play poker you need to learn how to read other people. You need to try to decipher what they say and how they say it and you need to read what their face and body language says.
Poker is a game of deception. When you have a strong hand you want other players to think your hand is weak so you can win more money. And when you have a weak hand you want other players to think you have a strong hand so they fold.
The other players have the same goals, so when you can read what’s true you can make more money.
You have to deal with people in your life very day. The ability to read them just like reading people at the poker table is valuable. It helps keep you safe and helps you avoid being taken advantage of.
The best skill that good poker players learn that helps you in other areas of your life is how to think ahead. When you can see the possibilities that come from your current actions you can make better decisions.
Cost benefit analysis and the ability to work with probabilities are also valuable life skills. These skills are good in a wide variety of situations, not just in the obvious mathematical situations that first come to mind.
Being able to read and deal with other people is valuable in all walks of life. It’s particularly useful in business settings, but also can be useful when dealing with more common everyday situations.