Poker helps us stay young

Mar 15, 2016 2:30 AM

We all age. It’s inevitable. Hopefully, each of us will enjoy a long and happy life.

In that regard, world-famed poker psychologist Dr. Alan Schoonmaker recently published a rather unique poker book that could become one of the most important books you have ever read: “StayYoung; Play Poker.” (Available on Kindle for $2.99; amazon.com)

Several years ago, he and poker guru David Sklansky collaborated on a special column, “Poker is Good for You” (published Sept. 2009, on twoplustwo.com) that describes a wide range of benefits derived from playing poker. These include improved study habits, math understanding, logical thinking, ability to concentrate, patience, discipline, focus, realism, adjustment to diverse situations and people traits.

Hence, it follows, as Dr. Schoonmaker explains, “poker can also do something wonderful for older players – and we are all bound to age with time: It can delay or prevent some nasty effects of aging.”

Quoting Dr. Schoonmaker: “Because I have seen many friends and relatives become feeble, frail, and confused, I naturally worry about ‘losing it.’ I am painfully aware that I’m not as sharp as I once was. That’s why I wrote this book.” Then he adds, “studying the research on aging and writing this book helped me to stay young, and reading it will help you to stay young and sharp.” I fully agree!

Reading this book should help you to learn an extremely enjoyable way “to stay young longer.” Nothing can prevent aging. It is to be expected. Advances in medicine have permitted us to live longer, but our brains and bodies are bound to show the effects of aging.

You may not realize it as the symptoms of aging steadily creep up on you over time. On the other hand, playing poker can slow down your decline, and “playing it the right way will be particularly helpful,” Dr. Schoonmaker says. Like exercising your physical body, the mental challenge (exercise) when paying poker is incredible. Use It or Lose It!

General Principles

Dr. Schoonmaker’s new book includes an interesting chapter on the principles to be kept in mind to best enhance staying young as you play poker. Let’s look at several in his own words:

• “The more intensely you become engaged, the more you will learn, the better you will play, and the more you will delay aging.”

• “Be active, both mentally and socially.”

• “Poker buddies and discussion groups can greatly increase your mental and social stimulation.”

• “Create a score-keeping system. Poker has a natural one – the amount of money you win or lose.”

• “Go beyond the money won and lost; also keep track of how often and how well you take various aging-delaying steps while preparing to play; choosing games and seats; analyzing your opponents; playing your cards; taking a break; planning your self-development.”

Even your choice of seat can promote active learning and social interaction, according to Dr. Schoonmaker. In his new book, he tells you how he does it. That’s somewhat beyond our seat selection criteria for positional edge over your opponents: “tough, aggressive, loose, and unpredictable players to your right, and weak, passive, tight, and predictable ones to your left.”

“Occasionally, when you feel sharp and confident” (and, I would add, are well ahead in the game), “choose a ‘bad seat,’ one with the wrong players on your left or right,” he says. “It will probably cost you some money, but it may be a good investment. First, it can teach you how to adjust to this bad situation, and you will often need that ability. Second, it will present you with a difficult puzzle. Trying to solve it will provide the stimulation you need to stay young and sharp.”

Dr. Schoonmaker recognizes such actions will increase stress. “That’s why I recommended them,” he says. “You need the right amounts of the right kinds of stress to slow down aging… But don’t overdo it.”

And there are so many other opportunities to use the game of poker to stay young. Fascinating!

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].