Mental Health Tips for the Poker Player – How to Improve Your Well-being and Your Game
Last Updated: August 19, 2021
For some, poker is a great way to experience the rush of adrenaline that comes from winning a big pot.
Others turn to it because they find the game relaxing, and still more are searching for a way to connect with other people, especially if they are spending more time than they’d like inside and online.
Whether you are turning to Texas Hold’em for profit or as a hobby, it is important to understand the benefits and consequences that delving into the game can have for your health.
Read on as we break down everything you need to know about the ways in which the game can impact your body and mind.
A question of balance
While the pros far outweigh the cons, there are a few aspects of regularly playing poker that can potentially negatively affect players' health if left unchecked.
Stress is an interesting element to study as it pertains to poker because the game can both decrease and increase levels depending upon prior experience and expertise.
Poker is generally touted as lowering anxiety and empowering players to control their emotions more effectively than others, and that is certainly true for many.
Some find that the game can actually increase their stress — albeit, generally only until they are more accustomed to the process.
Game enthusiasts with plenty of practical experience are more likely to see the benefits of playing.
Experienced poker players are sometimes able to exert more control over stress than others — a characteristic that is vital for professionals.
Allowing emotions to overtake your ability to think clearly about poker hands you’re dealt into is a quick way to lose, and career poker players are generally able to keep them in check during the game.
This can sometimes translate to an enhanced ability to keep stress and anxiety at bay even in unrelated situations, although the true extent of this particular benefit has yet to be determined.
While poker can prove to be quite the boon for experienced players, not everyone is so lucky.
The game can be intense and unpractised individuals might find themselves experiencing higher than usual stress levels during matches.
What this means for players outside of the game, however, is still unknown, and it is possible that game-related stress does not carry over into their everyday lives.
Most fans find that poker is a relaxing activity that helps take their mind away from daily stressors.
But the potential for increased stress is something to keep in mind as you spend more time at the table.
It is worth noting that because experienced players are often able to refine their ability to control their emotions, it is possible that the longer you play, the more you may learn to rein in yours, too.
When playing online poker, perhaps the biggest potential drawback the game presents is its enticement to sit in front of computers or other electronic devices for long periods of time.
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but keep in mind that bad habits can form surprisingly quickly.
Indulging the desire to stay inside and play rather than to seek out opportunities to engage in physical activity could lead to the type of sedentary lifestyle that can impact both your physical and mental health.
The best way to ensure your body and mind get the exercise they need to thrive is to make sure to set time aside for some kind of physical activity.
This doesn’t have to be overly strenuous. Walking for a mile or two can often be enough to get your heart pumping, for example, without taking an exceptional amount of time and effort.
The important takeaway here is the need to balance the time you spend sitting glued to a screen with the time you spend on your feet.
It is possible to even further protect your health by paying attention to your diet and ensuring you are getting all of the nutrients and vitamins your body needs.
Players who find they experience the urge to snack during matches might benefit from preparing healthy options before they begin to play.
Mental and emotional health
Now let’s look at the mental, physical, and emotional boosts that playing poker online can have. There are a few different ways in which the game impacts your mind and body, and we have detailed some of the more significant ones below.
Poker matches can be intense, and players often find themselves facing the need to will away stress and anxiety before it threatens to overwhelm their ability to play with a clear mind.
This presents the perfect opportunity to practice meditation and reap all of the positive effects it can have upon your life, from lower tension to a happier and more peaceful state of mind.
We explored the link between poker and stress more thoroughly above, but note that meditation is a great way to improve your game as well as your everyday life regardless of your skill level.
Take this chance to focus on deep breathing and proper posture to make time online as enriching as possible.
It can be difficult to meet with loved ones in today’s busy and technology-filled world, something that is true even if we discount the complications COVID has brought.
As we spend more hours on computers and mobile devices, the amount of time spent actively interacting with friends and family tends to slowly decrease.
This can leave you without the support system that is often taken for granted, and the resulting sense of isolation can be difficult to overcome. This is where poker comes in.
Poker is an inherently social game, whether you play it in person or online.
This makes it a prime opportunity to meet like-minded people and expand your friend circle. It has the added benefit of improving your communication as you remain socially engaged while online, contributing to your overall health and happiness.
You might not immediately think of poker when the time to make friends arises, but finding people who share your interests is a great way to improve your emotional and mental health both outside of the game and within.
Strengthened Cognitive Health
Another important benefit of playing poker is the way it affects your mind. In general, people feel their best when their minds are active and pushed to continue learning and growing.
Spending time playing poker online is a good way to keep your mind sharp and healthy.
Research from respected neuroscientist Jeffrey L. Cummings indicates that card games have the potential to reduce regular players’ chances of brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Poker can also help improve your observation skills and ability to focus, both of which can boost your productivity and mood.
All in all, poker players are more likely to experience positive effects from the game than they are to run into any negative consequences.
New and experienced players alike should be aware of their habits and health, however, and make smart choices to safeguard their bodies and minds!