Poker is great medicine for the human brain

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For the past 30 years or so, scientists have studied the human brain in order to better understand how it ages with time.

Research has proven our brain continues to make new neurons (special cells that transmit nerve impulses). These are the basic building blocks of the nervous system, functioning throughout our lives in response to mental activity. The brain changes physically, functionally, and chemically, as you acquire or improve an ability.

In other words, cognitive function can be improved, regardless of your age, and cognitive decline can be reversed. This is especially important as we get older and retire.

Albert Einstein

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich – professor emeritus at the University of California-San Francisco, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences for his pioneering studies in brain research – factors that can optimize brain fitness include engaging in new learning, staying socially active, and physical exercise.

A key aspect of improving brain function or turning around functional decline is “the seriousness of purpose with which you engage in a task.” In other words, “the task must be important to you, or somehow meaningful or interesting.”

With a little imagination, you can get your physical exercise. (For example, take a brisk walk around the casino every hour or two.) The alternative would be sitting at home watching TV hour after hour.

Every hand is different in many ways. Each presents a mental challenge. Study your holecards and ask yourself: With this hand, should I pay to see the flop or should I raise? Consider the rank of your holecards, whether they are connectors and/or suited. How many opponents have limped in? Has there been a raise – or likely to be one after I call?

Look at the players to your left; does one have a big bunch of chips in his right hand (a tell), preparing to raise? Can my hand stand a raise? When the maniac to your right makes his usual raise, consider whether you should re-raise – perhaps isolate him when you have a strong starting-hand.

As the hand progresses, and you connect with a monster – perhaps the nuts, ask yourself: How can I build this pot that I fully expect to win? Should I slow-play to keep my opponents in the hand – so they can bet or call on the next round? Should I check-raise? Can I be sure an opponent will bet after I check, so I can pull off my check-raise to build “my” pot?

Much to consider while playing every hand dealt to you – about 30 each hour. An abundance of mental activity with lots of big challenges.

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

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