How Poker Can Help Improve Your Decision Making

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Everyone wants to become a better person and change their habits. Yet, making this change can be very difficult especially if it requires a big decision. One way is to use your hobby as the motivation and method to change your life for the better. Most hobbies have an aspect to them that will improve some part of your life, with poker being one such hobby. Professional poker player Maria Ho has spoken about how playing poker improved her decision making ability. In this post we will look at how you can use poker to improve your own decision making and take better control of your life.


Making decisions under pressure



One of the most commonly recognized — and most appealing — impacts that poker has on your decision-making is being able to make decisions quickly and strategically under pressure. Ho is a top-ranked female poker player from California who has mastered taking action under stress and urgency. She states that playing poker forces you to make decisions swiftly and intentionally based on deductions you’ve made throughout the hand.

As it is in life, not every piece of information is available to you when playing poker. Ho says that when it comes to the game, acting decisively requires you to find just one opening that could potentially benefit you. For instance, when bluffing, she would analyze all of her opponents and pick the one person that’s most likely to fall for her bluff. Poker can teach you to find strategic openings like this to help you quicken the pace of your decision-making, even when faced with immense pressure and risk.


Thinking analytically



Poker forces you to think analytically, especially since it’s a game of probability. Vanessa Selbst, one of the greatest female poker players of all time, is a testament to this. The only female ever to win three World Series of Poker bracelets in open events has cited deductive reasoning as her biggest asset, allowing her to make quick and big decisions to defeat her opponents.

Poker makes players take a step back and consider different possibilities, such as does their opponent have a better hand (and what hand could that be) or are they bluffing. By considering these different variables they are able to make the best decision on how to move forward. Often in life bad mistakes are caused by rash decisions that haven’t had much thought put into them or have been made too quickly. Take a leave out of Selbst’s book and always think analytically to make the best decision possible.


Maximizing net benefit



Sometimes, making decisions isn’t a matter of maximizing your time, but maximizing your benefits. Retired poker pro Chris Sparks, who had once been in the top 20 online cash players in the world and is now using his poker skills to teach business leaders, explains how this trains you to make decisions that maximize your “net benefit.”

The net benefit is tied to the concept of opportunity cost, which states that your decision now will come at the cost of everything else you’re choosing not to do. With poker, that could be the choice to sit at one table at the expense of sitting at other tables. What you’re weighing then is which benefits outweigh other benefits. Applying this to life beyond poker, weighing the net benefit not only allows you to finalize your actions but also act upon the best choice with the greatest advantages.


Poker is a timeless game filled with great thrills. At the heart of this excitement is the demand to make good decisions given your resources. Because of this, your mind is trained to be able to apply these techniques even beyond the game.