How does the brain work when playing poker?


When we start playing poker , have we ever wondered how our brain works in a stressful or tense situation? Does a professional player really have such different mental processes from those of an amateur player?

Well, we will reveal all these questions and many more curiosities in this complete article.

Playing Poker – The Experiment

During the MTT PartyPoker Word Poker Tour London tournament, played at the Aspers Casino in that British city, a new experimental system that can read the brain activity of players during a poker hand was being tested, and the results left everyone surprised. present.

The system in question, by means of sensors placed on the heads of the volunteers, allows to read and record the brain waves that are activated in our brain and allows us to locate which parts are activated or deactivated, to know the degree of thought, emotion or frustration of the player at the same time, this allows to know in real time how players react to different situations when playing poker at a table and which of these decisions involve greater effort and pressure for each one.

The company that carried out the test is SimpleUsability Ltd and has posted a very complete and detailed report on the website enabled for this purpose: pokerbrain.

Playing poker – Deal of cards

At the time of dealing the cards, it is observed that both the brain of the recreational player and the amateur player have a lot of activity, focused on the front part, which is responsible for concentration, approaches, and emotional control, the professional player is not so active nor does he feel so much emotion for the arrival of his letters, since his decision will be very clear to have his ranges well studied.

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 Play Poker – Flop

In the Flop, the brain of the recreational player seems to process practically nothing, it does not seem to be a transcendent street for him, on the other hand, the amateur player begins to have greater activity, but focused on the left lobe, in charge of logic, the maximum exponent is The brain of the professional, with an incredible frontal lobe activity, having such a high activity will be planning his hand, the size of his bets, how to focus his hand on the back streets and other important decisions when playing poker .

Play Poker – Turn

In the Turn, the three players begin to have more brain activity, by the mere fact of having fewer cards left to come out and having to raise the hand, their brain begins to process activity to see how their hands are going to play, the professional is still fully performance, he continues to plan his moves at full speed to win the hand.

Play Poker – River

In the River the amateur player is the one who develops his mental activity the most, his inexperience has led him to reach the River to start planning his hand, when it is a street where all the cards have already come out and there is not much more to do, focusing your activity on the right lobe, which is in charge of emotions, maybe you failed to bind and you are frustrated or you have made your move and you are excited? The recreational player also processes a lot of information, and surely the same thing happens to him as the amateur player, although the latter has high logical thought processes.

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On the other hand, the professional is the one that processes the least activity, that is because he planned his hand in advance and already had the decision made, so his work plan when playing poker was developed beforehand.


The experiment also recorded various actions that are usually taken when playing poker , movements such as Call, Raise or All In create a lot of pressure and stress for the players.

Play Poker – Call

Both the recreational player and the amateur generate high workloads in their brain, since they have to think about what to do with their hand, for the professional it is a fairly routine and automatic movement, since they are very clear about the ranges with which they should play, so the workload is practically nil.

Play poker – Check

For both the recreational player and the amateur, passing with their hand does not generate almost activity, perhaps passing does not contain any action on their part and they are only waiting for cards or playing, for the professional instead if it involves a high workload , since you are most likely calculating what repercussions checking against an opponent may have, how the cards can benefit or harm you in later streets or perhaps you are planning a Check-raise .

Play Poker – Raise

This movement generates a lot of workload for both the amateur and the recreational, possibly because the movement was not expected and they are highly pressured for their next movement, for the professional it is a decision and measured and considered that was within their plans, with which the load is much less.

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Play Poker – All In

The All In is the play par excellence where a player receives the most pressure and this is seen in the brain charts. The recreational player has a brain on the verge of exploding, with a brutal workload and maximum tension, where both the logical and emotional parts of the brain are active.

In the Amateur player and in the professional player, the load is more moderate and is focused on the frontal part of the brain, which is in charge of logical decisions, with which it is very likely that in their decisions they put emotions aside and are governed by the logic.

Did the study surprise you? Perhaps you can modify and improve your pattern of thinking knowing where you are, in the recreational, the amateur or the professional.

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