You’d be amazed how much the game of poker can teach you about the game of life.

There’s a lot that goes on at the card table, whether playing at home with friends, in a casino or gambling online. Cards, rounds of bets, and hopefully some nice winnings if you play your hand well. That’s poker. Throw in some snacks, cigars and beers and you’ve got yourself a cracker of an evening. But is that all you’ve got? A few hours of fun and distraction and maybe some extra cash in your wallet? Or is there something more to the average poker game? Perhaps a lesson or two you can take from the table to help you win not just at poker, but at life as well?

Let’s take a closer look at what poker can teach us about life…

Size People Up – Make Informed Decisions

If you don’t learn how to read body language quickly in poker, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a losing streak, and fast. Gestures, facial expressions, verbal cues – these are all indicators of a player’s poker behaviour and gaming style. Learn how to read their tells and you’ll soon learn how to read their playing patterns – useful information when it comes to your own decision-making. It’s the same in life. Learn how to identify a person’s character traits by analysing their behaviour and body language, and you’ll instantly know if you can trust them or not – a highly valuable skill to have. And you thought poker was just another card game…

Choose Your Battles Carefully

As much as poker is about being brave, bold and courageous, it’s about knowing when to take a step back as well, for the sake of your stake and sometimes your sanity too. Walking away from a losing hand can be just as effective in the long run as sticking with a winning one, and it’s learning this balance that can be a hugely useful tool outside the game too. If something’s not serving you anymore, be it a job, a relationship, a financial investment, it’s time to cut your losses and move on. Once you do, you’ll finally understand what Kenny Rogers was singing about all those years ago.

Famous poker quote

Control Your Emotions

poker emotions

Joy, anger, fear, elation, sadness – all emotions that make us winners in the game of life, all triggers that make us losers in the game of poker. Learning to control your emotions over the hand you’re dealt, the decisions of other players, and the outcome of the game itself is by far one of the most valuable lessons you can learn as a poker player. Never let them see you bleed – otherwise you can bet your bottom dollar your opponents will pounce, using your weaknesses to set themselves up for success. And while being in touch with your emotions can help make life’s experience that much richer, being controlled by your emotions will only put you in the passenger seat of your own journey. Remember that while you can’t control the outcome of a situation, you can control your response to it – so get in that driver’s seat and stay there.

Learn Some Discipline

Want to get somewhere in poker, and in life? Then you’ve got to work for it. Forget shortcuts and stop relying on luck – put your head down and get in some solid graft. If you’re playing poker, that means playing regularly and consistently, practising your skills, learning to read your opponents, and learning to control and manage your bankroll. If you’re living life, that means choosing a goal, and working towards it constantly, whether in the face of obstacles, distractions or downright don’t-want-to-do-it. Wishing won’t get you a promotion, a new house, a smaller waistline or a winning hand – discipline and dedication will. Nobody said it would be easy; they said it would be worth it.

The joy of playing casino pokerPlay the Cards You’re Dealt

There are two kinds of people in this world – drains and radiators. Drains complain constantly, playing the victim, blaming everyone but themselves for their lot in life. Radiators, on the other hand, glow with positivity, exuding warmth, enthusiasm and optimism in every situation. When you’re dealt a bad hand, either in life or in poker, like it or not, that’s the hand you have to play. You can’t give your cards back, and you can’t demand another go. You get what you get, and that’s what you have to work with. So how will you choose to play your hand? Moaning and whining like a drain? Or eagerly and cheerfully like a radiator? It’s your choice – so make the right one.

Don’t Be the Best. Be Your Best

Finally, and most importantly, it’s crucial to remember that you don’t have to be the best to be a winner. We’ll say that again just so it sinks in. You don’t have to be the best. You only have to be your best. All too often we mistakenly think that in order to come out on top we have to be the absolute best player sitting round the table, or the best person for the job. In fact, winning at poker has very little to do with being dealt the best cards – instead it comes down to courage, commitment, tenacity, and the willingness to outlast and outsmart your opponents. The same is true for life. You may not be the smartest, the fastest or the strongest, but if you’re the most confident, the most determined, and the most hard-working, you’ll win every time. That’s because winning has nothing to do with being the best. It has to do with getting up, showing up, and never giving up.

Some cards, rounds of bets, and hopefully some winnings. That’s poker. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see that it’s life too.

-Learning how to take a knock and stand back up.

-Learning how to lose with grace and dignity and come back fighting.

-Learning to accept what you’ve been given and make it work for you.

-And learning that determination, discipline, and strength of character will help you not only reach your goals, but surpass them beyond expectation.

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Nicola Davidson, a staff writer at Planet 7, is a semi-professional rock climber and lover of poetry and games of skill. When she's not scaling mountains or at an open mic night, Nicola enjoys writing about games like Blackjack and Three Card Poker and putting gaming strategies to the test.