by Elnora Boone
You might think you’re too old to play or even learn poker, but here’s a little secret — you’re never too old for poker. One of the oldest and most legendary poker players of all time, Doyle Brunson, is a celebrated poker superstar whose earnings once caught the attention of a real-life Vegas mobster. Brunson played in the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1970 and the 52nd installment of the event in 2021. Today, at age 89, he is tied with poker superstars Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan for second-most WSOP bracelets ever earned.
As you can see, age shouldn’t be a factor in your poker-playing experience and skills. Playing poker offers benefits for older adults. After all, it’s always essential to invest in your physical health as you age — from taking the right vitamins to staying physically active — but mental and cognitive health are just as important. Today, we’ll go through the four benefits of playing poker for the elderly:
Poker players rely on social and behavioral cues displayed by the other players to help them make the best decisions. If you’re playing with old friends or loved ones, you might have an edge as you may already know the giveaway bluffs and tics they may be prone to. And if you’re playing with new people for the first time, then poker can be a fun way to get to know them. Suppose you’re not traveling to in-person casinos to play poker. In that case, the many online poker platforms today allow you to enjoy the poker experience in the comforts of your home whenever you want. You can socialize much easier with your poker opponents and make new friends based on common interests — without exhausting yourself on long-distance travel.
Poker is a social and mental game. The best poker champions are where they are because they have mastered the cognitive skills needed to make decisions in high-pressure situations. Knowing to fold and when to take more considerable risks make up the critical mental skills (and toughness) you need to succeed in the game. You don’t have to be the most intelligent player at the table to have fun playing — what’s important is that you take the time to understand mistakes in previous games and apply what you learned in the next one. Poker is an effective mental exercise to help keep your memory fresh while challenging your critical thinking, a good routine to maintain as you age.
It can be discouraging to learn new interests as you age since you may have less energy or stamina than you used to. Thankfully, poker isn’t a physically demanding game but an excellent opportunity to relieve stress. Apart from some quiet time, playing poker can be a good exercise in handling and recognizing your emotions. Tilting is a common phenomenon in poker and gaming, where players lose control over their play due to negative emotions and make bad decisions as a result. With more poker experience, you might find that you respond better to possibly stressful situations, as playing poker well requires you to be calm to make the right choices — lest you reveal too much and end up losing.
You can’t win every poker game you play. Much like life, poker has its ups and downs, and sometimes you get dealt a bad hand. Poker helps develop a positive outlook in a seemingly counterintuitive way: you learn how to accept defeat. Even when you do everything right, losing is always possible, so it’s crucial not to take a results-based approach to the game. Not only can poker make you a more positive person, but it also helps you develop resilience over time. As seniors, we often face difficult situations and news, from sickness to losing loved ones. A positive outlook on life can manifest into improved physical wellness and more energy to do things you like. On top of managing your stress, as mentioned above, poker can help you become more reflective as you think about past games and what you may have done wrong so that you can come back and win big in the next hand.