In order to become a better version of ourselves, sometimes we need to take a look into unexpected places. People may, for example, try practicing a new sport, or take a course on creative writing. As surprising as this may sound, playing poker can also be a source of change. This is because poker is not entirely a game of chance, and in order to beat their opponents, poker players must develop a very specific set of skills. These newfound skills can be powerful tools of self-improvement in our everyday lives.
Movies like Maverik or Casino Royale may have taught you that poker games are frequently won by getting the best possible hand. However, this is rarely the case (getting a Royal Flush in Texas Hold’em has a probability of 30,000 to 1) and poker is usually more about waiting patiently for a good hand and only then raising your bet.
In a similar manner, getting a great opportunity in real life, whether we are talking about a good job or connecting to your higher self, is all about being patient. We might feel, for example, that if we don’t accept our first job offer we might never get a better one, or that the path of self-discovery we have chosen isn’t working. But often not being patient will probably work against us.
You might not believe this by looking at a game of poker, which is usually filled with silent players who might even look bored, but poker can be an intensely stressful game. Players can feel frustrated for getting bad hands repeatedly, or confused about whether to fold their cards or continue playing. This is why it’s important for them to learn how to relax, which as professional player Daniel Negreanu says, can be achieved by something as simple as taking a deep breath.
Learning breathing techniques can be a powerful tool against anxiety. Just taking a deep breath, for example, can immediately reduce your heart rate. It’s also an excellent way to detect which parts of the body might be a bit tense. If you have more time though, there are some simple exercises like alternate nostril breathing and guided meditation.
Keeping Your Ego Under Control
While top poker players may seem to have healthy egos, this is actually a skill developed through practice. In order to become great at poker, it’s essential to control your emotions when you get a particularly good hand, as you could easily cause your opponents to fold. On the other hand, resist the urge to call or raise an expensive bet simply because you felt that the other player was challenging you in front of everyone.
Life will also provide you with multiple challenges to your ego. Challenges that can push you towards making a mistake, whether this is having a public argument with your boss, or making an expensive purchase for the wrong reasons. But as long as we keep our ego under control, we will have a clear mind even under stressful situations.
Probability and Risk Calculation
In professional poker games, millions of dollars are won and lost over the players’ capacity to effectively calculate the odds of getting a particular hand. The task can be even more challenging when we consider that players also need to calculate the chances of the other players getting a better hand. This may sound incredibly difficult, but with time poker players are able to make complex calculations with speed and precision.
Being able to calculate risk can be extremely helpful in real life. Deciding whether to invest in a particular mutual fund or stock based on the risk to reward ratio, for example, or trying to predict the future of the job market before getting a mortgage requires taking into account multiple variables and transforming them into actionable insights. It’s something that could improve considerably if we develop our ability to calculate probabilities.
As inspiration for self-improvement can come from everywhere, so do the skills required to make a meaningful change. Poker is a game that may seem stressful and challenging, but like with any other game, simple practice can help us develop specific skills to new levels. More importantly, the abilities involved like risk calculation, patience, and keeping your ego under control can be applied in almost every aspect of our lives, allowing us to achieve higher levels of well-being.