Playing poker is an ideal way to defeat Alzheimer’s

Jul 23, 2013 3:00 AM

As we age, more and more people develop the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease that attacks their brains and leads to drastic effects – ultimately, death.

Well over 5 million Americans are affected; that number is expected to increase to 16 million by 2050. While the greatest risk factor is age, people in their 30s can also suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

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Variance can be influenced when playing poker

Billions of dollars are spent to discover drugs that might be helpful in alleviating its effects after the disease has taken root; but none can prevent it. Research continues. Alzheimer’s could happen to anyone.

Some of us in the poker world, have long maintained playing poker is an ideal way to prevent Alzheimer’s – and it’s much more fun than taking strange prescription drugs that can have undesirable side effects. What’s more, the Alzheimer’s Association lends credence to our hypothesis:

Play poker to avoid Alzheimer’s disease!

The Alzheimer’s Association encourages us to exercise our brains, bodies and spirits (via social interactions). To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, mental activities such as playing cards strengthen the connections (synapses) that permit communication between brain cells (neurons).

“Challenge your mind with a difficult task at least once a week” to “help increase brain cell connections.” Twice a week at the poker table is even better.

What better brain challenge is there than making key poker decisions: With these holecards, in my betting position, should I pay to see the flop? Should I raise preflop? Should I raise on the flop to get a free card on the turn?

How about raising to protect my vulnerable two-pair on the flop? Having flopped the nuts, should I slow-play to build the pot? How do I evaluate each of my opponents; and how should this influence my decision?

With my drawing hand, are the pot odds high enough to call on the turn? What are the card odds? Would I have a Positive EV? Is this a good spot to bluff?

Is this the time to check-raise? What do I think my opponent is holding?

A “maniac” has joined our table. how can I best adjust to this change? The table has substantially changed its texture since I first sat down a few hours ago. Should I seek a table change? Is it time to gather my winnings and go home a winner before variance turns me into a loser?

Betting on the river, it would help to recall how your opponent has been playing this hand. Then you can make a better decision on your next move. That’s another challenging exercise for your brain.

Dr. Robert Wilson, professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, recently published a paper in the July 3, 2013 online journal of “Neurology.” He notes that “people who engaged in frequent mental activity in later life had a rate of mental decline that was 32 percent lower than those with average activity.

Meanwhile, those with infrequent mental activity experienced a decline in mental abilities that was 48 percent faster.”

My co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein, fully supports this conclusion: “In our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group – now over 200 members strong – not a single one appears to have developed Alzheimer’s.” Members range in age from 50 to well into their 90s.

Physical exercise and social interactions are also important. Fear not, you can get your physical exercise while playing poker. Some of us do isometric exercises while seated at the poker table.

Add to that taking a break every hour or so; go outside the casino and take a brisk walk – breathing deeply to clear the “cobwebs” from your brain, and think about the game and changes you should make, etc. (Reference: “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” by George Epstein and Dr. Dan Abrams.)

As for social interactions, that’s precisely what you do when you are seated at the poker table involved with other people – “good for the brain, body, and spirit.”

In conclusion: try it; you’ll like it – and it may help you avoid Alzheimer’s disease.

We invite your comments. Email to [email protected].

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