Access all areas: if you’re not a poker player, you’re not getting in-Poker Brains 3

Access all areas: if you’re not a poker player, you’re not getting in

Well actually, it seems like everyone does want a slice of the poker pie.

We’re living in an amazing and historic age for poker; it’s an age of extremes. Poker has never been so accessible and yet so constricted, so high profile and socially accepted yet so despised and outlawed.

From poker hen parties to poker blackouts, poker in space and charity tournaments to State bans and poker TV – the game is everywhere. And that’s despite advertising limitations and media monopoly.

So what’s the craic, as they’d say, down in my local?

The fact is that the dawn of the internet enabled poker to grow globally – and it spread like wildfire. It became both a lucrative and social activity which no longer required trips to casinos and cardrooms. As the game became more accessible, the concept of poker became more acceptable, and as a result, more people played…and more people learned that while it’s easy to learn, it takes skill to master.

Poker was always cool. But it suddenly became A-List cool.

So much so that it’s seen as a must for celebs – from Hollywood actors such as Don Cheadle to professional e-gamers like Fatal1ty; everyone wants to be seen playing the game – and playing it well. Adapting skills from their everyday careers to the game of poker, it’s not just for fun; poker is seen as an additional income.

I read about a perfect example today… Paul Zibits, a bassist for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra who plays poker as a sideline. He stated:

“It’s all about technique. In music, you learn an instrument’s scales and positions. With poker, you become skilled at learning when to bet certain hands, when to raise hands, and your position at the table.”

The combined science of music and poker is a new one on me – but regardless, the guy is doing something right – he’s a WSOP and WPT finalist and editor of “Poker Face 2” (though he should have read this article before choosing that title!).

But on the flip side, as with any scientific discovery, it not all peachy…there’s a possibility that poker players are brain damaged.

Ok – that’s an exaggeration – but there is research that looked at the gambling technique and habits of players with and without brain damage. Apparently, those without brain damage became easily discouraged when they took a bad beat and as a result, grew more cautious. Those with brain damage suffered less emotionally and continued with their game as before – thus ending up with more winners.

Now, I can’t say I support the findings – and it’s certainly not a conversation I’d like with Phil Ivey – but it shows the lengths that scientists are now going to with poker research.

And then, there’s the scary side too…

Pharmaceutical companies are now realising the marketing potential of poker as an intelligent game, offering brain enhancing drugs to improve people’s performance. Despite the potential side effects, professionals from all walks of life, including professional poker players, are reportedly using such drugs in an attempt to improve focus and concentration and control emotion. And it looks like research labs are investing huge amounts into cogniceuticals…

I don’t want to get into neuroethics… just let it be known that personally I’d rather stick with Brunson’s scientific theory and my own experience. But it goes to show that poker is getting noticed in the scientific sphere. And hopefully, most of the research will be for good.

After all, who knows where the findings could lead? Maybe poker will be recognised as a sport? Maybe some of the world’s ridiculous governmental decisions will be dropped and our cousins in America will be back online soon?

In the meantime, at least we can now back up our own smug belief that poker players are awesomely bright individuals with some scientific fact. And we can hit the tables again knowing we’re doing our brains – and the world – a favour.

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