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In case you did not know it, poker is more than just a game of cards. True, it is played with a deck of 52 cards; but that hardly explains what it is all about. You are also playing a game when you play checkers or a sport.

So what is a game?

A game is an activity in which you engage, usually competing against one or more other people to gain a reward. But let me assure you that poker is much more than a game; and that is often why we engage in it without realizing it. I will try to explain.

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Over the years, I have learned much from poker that applies to life and my career away from the felt — sometimes without any special effort. You may have read some of my columns in which I explain why playing poker may prevent players from acquiring Alzheimer’s disease.

Among the people I know who suffered — and eventually died — of Alzheimer’s, none of them were poker players. Others have reported the same to me. Coincidence or for real?

Tells are a vital part of the game of poker. Becoming adept at identifying our opponents’ tells and interpreting them can be carried over into our daily lives and careers to gain valuable relevant information. And how about learning how to avoid giving tells to your opponents at work, as well as in the casino? That is sure to get you an advantage — an edge — over others.

There are many other benefits derived from the game of poker. Let us examine some:

• Ability to pick the best table and game to play — where you will have the best chance to win. That can apply to your career and life — even to selecting your mate and friends.

• Ability to strategize and use tactics — in life, as well as at the poker table.

• Ability to focus — to concentrate your attention wherever necessary.

• Ability to use logic. If your reasoning is not logical, you are bound to be a loser.

• Do not trust to luck. You can learn to influence luck, but never to control it.

• Do not chase. Chasers are bound to lose — be it in the poker game or in facing life’s challenges.

• Control your emotions to avoid making costly mistakes.

• How to decide when the reward (amount of chips in the pot) is worth the risk.

• Ability to select your starting hands — and when to muck them.

• Ability to make decisions based on facts — not hunches.

• Self-control and self-discipline — so important in success both at the felt and in life.

• Ability to avoid going on tilt. You are bound to make mistakes when not in control of your emotions.

• Ability to be more patient.

• Ability to read people.

• Accepting a loss or defeat.

• Ability to remain calm in the face of “danger.”

• Knowing when to quit. . .

One I am not sure you want to learn is how to transfer ability to bluff and semi-bluff your opponents from the green felt into real life. That’s great for poker, but not the way you want your work associates, friends and family to remember you. Likewise, ability to be deceptive while playing poker may not be the best way to engage in transactions in real life.

I’ll wager you can add a few more items that you can learn at the poker table that relate to real life situations. . .

Life/Poker Quote of the Week

“The road to success: There are no shortcuts.” — @landpsychology

Play to win; live life as best you can; do not depend on luck! 

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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