It is all but unanimously agreed that in the mental sense, Poker is a game that demands a lot from players. Extreme pressure, constantly changing game plans, and risk management, all on a moment-to-moment changing basis. To say that a player needs to be 100% focused is an understatement, to such an extent that many players even suffer mental burnout. They crumble under the pressure, eventually abandoning the game entirely. Or perhaps they simply did not develop their brains in the right way.
On the other hand, as trying as the game can be on some players, it can also be the equivalent of taking your brain to the next level. Dr. Stephen Simpson went into Poker in a way that few others have, and discovered that what seems to be a simple card game is far more than it seems on the surface, as far as the players who enjoy it are concerned.
Simpson accidently found his way into the Poker world. He initially started working with hypnotist Paul McKenna, and neuro-linguistic programming expert Richard Bandler. But upon coming into contact with professional Poker player Chris Moorman, he went into an avenue not before considered. Moorman had been on a losing streak, but after just one month of working with Simpson won the LAPC Main Event. How?
Moorman explains that he had trouble focusing, and delivering his A game when he needed it most. But working with Simpson allowed him to get into a place of focus, or a ‘zone,’ more often than previously, delivering where he had struggled before. But what had Simpson done to help achieve this?
Simpson explains in his book on the subject Poker Genius: The Mind Secret of Champions, the concept of Myelin, and Neuroplasticity. In a nutshell, the more a person engages in in an activity, the more the brain changes in order to facilitate that activity. Comparing it to copper wiring in an electronic device, Simpson says that the difference in the brain is that the wire will thicken if the task is carried out repeatedly. The problem is that it can be very difficult to change certain habits once they have become engrained. It is rewiring pathways that Doctor Simpson focuses on, hence allowing Moorman to achieve where he had been struggling.
But those who have their brains correctly geared for professional Poker benefit immensely. Phil Galfond, founder of RunItOnce says that playing the game has granted him exceptional decision making. EV, or average outcome analysis, is immensely beneficial in everyday life, and a key to playing professionally. Patrick Leonard, PocketFives world champion, states that he uses EV in virtually everything he does. Using the simple task of choosing between a taxi and the subway as an example, he explains that playing Poker is key to his way of thinking.
So, it seems that Poker is not only good entertainment, but can also rewire a brain in the most beneficial of ways. If approached properly of course