There are life lessons to be learned in poker



Is there anything you can take from the poker table that makes for effective life, family and business management?
Well, poker is a competitive activity, so there’s always something to learn from competition.

It’s said that the two psychological features of snipers are patience and stubbornness. Some might say the same is true for good poker players.

A good player patiently waits for the correct moment to make a move. The best hand doesn’t always get the best results. A complete analysis of the situation is necessary. How can I extract the most money from players when I have the nuts?

And stubbornness, not to be mistaken with rigidity, is a player trait. The stubbornness is that luck evens out; that variance is part of the game and if I play correctly I ultimately will win.

I was at a table the other day and folks were talking about their favorite and least favorite hand. A-A came up. One guy said he hates A-A. It always gets cracked or he wins a small pot and loses a big pot. Another guy said all of those other favorite hands (J-10, 9-10, etc,) are not the best hand, though they might be your favorite. His favorite hand was A-A. Finally, the distinction between favorite and best emerged. The conversation ended when A-A was presented as the best hand and therefore should be the favorite hand, that everything else is … whatever.

The real issue was skill of play. Sure A-A gets beat, sometimes you win a small pot and other times you lose a big one. Nonetheless, A-A is the best preflop hand, but it has to be played correctly. One can’t be rigid, for example after the flop when seven villains called and the A-A was slow-played. The A-A may have allowed a villain to make his straight, two pair, set. But preflop, A-A was still the best hand, played correctly.

So, one thing to learn from poker for everyday life is patience. A second is don’t be rigid but be stubborn about what you know to be true.

One of the more important things you can take from the table is variance and how to deal with losing.
As long as you play and live for the long run this won’t be a real problem. But one has to learn how to deal with setbacks and disappointments in the microcosm of poker. How you learn how to deal with this will help with the variance of life, love, family and work.

As in life and as in poker, always keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine