Are you familiar with “brain jogging?” According to Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center-USA, located in New York City, “Simply using your brain keeps it strong. The French call it ‘brain jogging.’
“Exercise your brain with acrostics, reading, debating – anything to keep the mind alive.” Examples of acrostics are word puzzles. All these activities serve to challenge the mind. Butler should have mentioned playing poker.
What better mental challenge is there than playing poker? Any activity that requires you to make decisions, certainly challenges – and exercises – your brain. Poker offers challenges every step of the way, starting with game, table and seat selection – and then, of course, deciding whether and how to play the cards dealt to you and thereafter, until the showdown.
While poker is a game of partial information, still there is so much available information you should process: rank of your hole cards, suited or connectors, betting position, types of players opposing you, how many stay to see the flop; who is raising; your opponents’ tells; et cetera.
An early position bets out and is raised by the next player; what’s your best response? You have a “made hand” preflop; what’s the best way to play this hand to give yourself the greatest chance of winning as many chips as possible?
There are many reasons for raising. Consider your options; then act quickly. As the hand develops, you might consider bluffing. (There are many reasons for bluffing, too.) A semi-bluff gives you two shots at winning: If all your opponents muck their hands, you take the pot by default; if you are called on the turn, you can still connect on the river – or even fire another bluff bullet.
Deciding your best move is great exercise for your brain – and most rewarding! Brain jogging is an apt description.
Jogging is simply running as a form of physical exercise, usually at a moderate pace, often over long distances. In poker, with one hand dealt immediately after the other, and each hand running about two minutes, the pace may a bit higher than you would prefer.
With such a short time span, you must make quick decisions. That really exercises and challenges your brain. All to the benefit of your mental health!
We all know poker is a game of skill. The more skilled you are, the more effectively you can identify and factor in the available information to make the best decisions in your favor – the more likely you will go home a winner, and the more money you can expect to win.
One of the most important poker skills is knowing the best decisions to make, depending on the circumstances; and how to adjust for change as the hand is played out. You must do so quickly and efficiently. That skill provides powerful mental exercise.
The better you are at it, the more will be your winnings over the long run (as luck evens out).
Health benefits: Yes, playing poker does help you to have a healthy mind. You are less likely to develop dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.
To support that thesis, I would point out that not a single one of the 200-plus members in the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group has developed this terrible, mind-killing disease, and the group (some in their 90’s) has been going strong for over eight years.
What’s more, a healthy mind leads to a healthier body. One of the group’s members was a neurologist in her earlier life, and her husband (deceased) was a brain surgeon. She explained that the brain is responsible for producing enzymes, hormones and other chemicals vital to your body functions.
Thereby, a healthy brain helps to keep your body healthier – especially important as we age. Note: Physical exercise is very important, too. At the casino, you can best achieve that form of exercise by taking a break every couple of hours and going for a brisk walk around the casino. You can also do isometric exercises while seated at the table.
Moral of the story: Play poker and stay mentally and physically healthy – as you win!
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