Poker is a mental sport that squeezes every last drop of brain power. For this reason -and for the fact that there’s obviously often a considerable amount of money on the line- poker can also be very stressful. For this reason, various studies have confirmed that playing poker and having a disciplined approach to the game can help the brain in confronting different situations related to controlling nervousness, negotiating with others, and achieving important life goals.
In fact, Harvard Business School even has a class called Strategical Poker Thinking where the students are taught poker and shown how the same skills that make one successful at the felt table can also be transferred to the business world.
There is one cognitive ability that poker develops that can benefit everybody, no matter what area of life they’re in: poker playing definitely improves your memory.
Poker and Improved Memory
The most successful poker players are able to manage various pieces of information in their working memory simultaneously: their different hands of cards, the possible cards that their opponents are holding, their opponents’ behaviour (both verbal and non-verbal), and the probabilities of winning or losing each round of poker. Simply put, as poker players we are able to develop our own hard drive and are less dependant on smartphones and laptops.
Poker players don’t only need to be good at remembering sequences, they also need to make detailed mental notes as to the behaviour of other players. The guy with the Chicago Cubs baseball hat that never raises pre-flop when he’s got a great hand or the cute Asian girl who always calls on the flop. These are the type of things that poker players need to take note of and be able to recall.
So a poker player won’t develop a perfect photographic memory (although it’s well known that three-time World Series of Poker champion Stu Errol Ungar did have an eidetic memory) but they will develop an advanced ability in sequential and time-based prospective memory.