Becoming a winning poker player requires more skills than you might realise, and these skills can have a huge positive impact beyond the tables.
So today I’ll cover some of the top skills you can learn by playing poker and how they can improve your life both personally and professionally.
1. Managing Your Finances
Your bankroll is your single most important asset in poker, so being able to manage your money is vital if you want to succeed in the long run.
Poor bankroll management, playing higher than you can afford, or taking too many shots are the fastest ways to lose all your money.
This is a lesson many poker players have to learn on their own before realizing there’s simply no way around it.
On the bright side, learning to handle your bankroll in poker will help you prepare for other life situations.
You will learn key aspects of planning and distributing funds in the most efficient way, and even taking necessary risks. Whether in business or on a personal level, this is a very good skill to have.
2. Making Decisions Under Pressure
When playing poker, you’re under constant pressure as almost every decision you make can have significant future consequences.
Sometimes you’ll have to play several really tough hands in a row, and you’ll need to make your best decisions every single time. You can’t take a timeout, skip, or get help from a friend.
Although it can be hard and draining, with practice you’ll learn how to deal with high-pressure situations both in poker and other areas of your life. It will become second nature.
This is why many poker players move to industries like finance and investments after they retire. They become so used to dealing with constant pressure that they’re well suited to this sort of career.
Anyone who has played poker for a while has learned to be patient.
You’ll often have to sit around for long periods of time doing virtually nothing but folding and waiting for good cards or a good situation to appear.
Once you learn how to be patient at the tables, you’ll definitely be better equipped to apply it in other life situations.
Even if it’s just standing in line or waiting for a check, you’ll save yourself from unnecessary frustration about things you can’t change.
While everybody around you will be on edge, you’ll be standing there calmly, simply waiting your turn – because what else can you do?
4. Dealing With Any Situation
If there is one thing you will surely encounter when playing poker, it’s losing.
If you’re a good player, you won’t lose in the long run, but every player will have many, many losing sessions. That’s just the nature of the game.
And when you sit through countless losing sessions and keep playing at your best, you learn to keep your concentration and focus on things that matter instead of losing your temper.
This can be tough at first.
When bad sessions come one after another, it can knock your confidence – and your bankroll. It will make you feel powerless and you might even question your poker playing abilities.
But, if and when you get over these feelings, you’ll come out on the other side much stronger.
Most people don’t have to deal with this daily, so when they have to face a loss of any kind, they are likely to overreact.
You, on the other hand, will be much better equipped to deal with tough situations as they inevitably occur in your life.
5. Reading And Understanding People
Poker requires you to understand your opponents, their motivation, and their reasoning.
I’m not talking about making movie-like reads where you make a call based on the fact they raised their left eyebrow.
Rather, you’ll constantly be in a position to assess other players and think about their actions.
After a while, you’ll become much better at understanding people and their motivations, and not just at the tables.
Poker certainly does a good job of imitating life in certain aspects, and it will teach you to recognize emotions such as fear, anxiety, excitement, and more in others.
Being able to recognize these emotions is a valuable skill to have in your personal life and it can also be an asset in business, when you have to decide on someone you don’t know that well.
6. Making The Most Of The Hand You Are Dealt
There’s an expression you’re probably aware of: “Play the hand you are dealt.”
In life, just like in poker, sometimes you have to make the most out of a bad situation, and you don’t get to change your hand at will.
Unlike most people who never played the game, you will learn full well what this means.
Sometimes at the tables, you won’t get that big hand you’re waiting for and you’ll be forced to find the best possible scenario with a mediocre holding and go with it.
While not ideal, it certainly beats sitting around as your stack turns into nothing as blinds and antes go up, and you keep folding your way into oblivion.
This skill of taking charge of things and making your stand will help you in many life situations.
Instead of accepting things are bad and can’t be changed, you’ll be looking for ways to make the best of bad situations, be it on a professional or personal level.
7. Understanding Risk vs. Reward
Poker will teach you what you need to know about the risk vs. reward principle.
While you may have heard the saying that “tight is right” countless times, the fact of the matter is that you need to take calculated risks to make money at the tables.
Whether it’s in a cash game where you put real money on the line, or in a tournament where you’re trying to climb the pay ladder, almost every single decision you make has certain financial consequences.
Understanding and developing this skill is invaluable in business.
Instead of being reluctant to take any risks, or blindly jumping to an unknown situation, you will learn to calculate your possible rewards.
Poker will teach you how to assess such situations and make them as profitable as you possibly can.
8. Learning To Be More Assertive
Depending on your character, you may or may not be aggressive enough in your life.
I’m not talking about physical aggression, of course, but rather the type of aggression that is sometimes required to get you where you want to go.
For example, in business negotiations, you’ll sometimes need to be aggressive and push for what you want if you feel you can get it.
If this doesn’t come naturally to you, poker is a great environment where you can learn how to be more aggressive when needed.
Pulling a well-timed bluff or going for a bit of extra value where you feel your opponent is reluctant to fold will give you the kind of edge you want to have at the tables.
These skills translate very well to real life.
Next time you’re in a situation where you need to make that extra push, you’ll be ready for it.
You’ll be able to assess the situation correctly and do the right thing instead of backing off with the fear of losing what’s already on the table.
9. Improving Your Focus
With all the mobile phones, tablets, TV screens, and everything else all around us, it’s hard to stay focused on any single activity in this world of distractions.
Poker can be a great training field for your focus.
Most players tend to zone out when not involved in a hand and do something else while waiting for the new deal.
If you want to excel, though, you shouldn’t be one of those players. Instead, stay focused on what’s going on at all times.
Even if you’re not involved in a hand, you can pick up on a valuable piece of information from a hand developing between other players, which could come in handy later down the line when you do get involved in a pot with a particular opponent.
Learning how to keep your focus at the tables will translate well into other life situations. It will teach you to ignore distractions and be present.
It will take some time, practice, and effort, but developing this skill is almost guaranteed to make you much better at anything.
Improve Your Poker Game, Improve Your Life
Poker involves so many strategic, mathematical, and psychological elements, all of which require a great deal of skill.
If you take it seriously, the game will challenge you on many levels and will require constant growth and development if you want to succeed.
This is what makes poker so hard in the first place, but it’s also what makes it one of the most valuable and useful games to learn. It gives you skills that you can take into other personal and professional situations.
You don’t even have to become a professional poker player to take advantage of the game.
Even if you play casually but think about your decisions and work on improving, you’ll develop many of the skills discussed in this article.
So, on top of having a lot of fun when playing, you also reap other benefits that will help you succeed in your day-to-day life.