Brain-Boosting Through Exercise
Mental Fitness in Poker and How Biking Can Help Achieve It
Poker isn’t just classed as the world’s most popular card game. Chess aside, it might very well be the world’s most popular mind sport, too. It is, after all, a game that requires constant thinking of abstract calculations. Whether or not players are aware of it, they’re always practically applying the tenets of that branch of math called probability theory. In fact, game theorist (and ardent poker player himself) David Sylvinski has come up with a sub-branch named poker theory that caters precisely to the card game’s unique characteristics.
With this obvious emphasis on mental skills, it’s only natural for folks to think that physical conditioning hardly figures into the sport, if at all. To hear poker pro Sorel Mizzi tell it, though, perhaps poker players could use a little workout every now and then. “[Exercising] before the tournament makes such a major difference to my mental clarity,” he says in an interview with Partypoker’s Lee Davy during the 2012 WPT Vienna leg. “I am so much more focused on everything going on around me.”
There are scientific studies that actually corroborate Mizzi’s claims of enhanced poker performance through exercise. According to a study conducted by the University of Georgia’s Department of Exercise Science, even just 20 minutes of moderate exercise could already show significant improvement in brain function. Vigorous physical activity increases the heart rate, pumping more blood in to the brain. This in turn boosts the brain’s ability to process information, as well as its memory retention. Just as well, researchers at the UCLA also found that exercise encouraged the development of the brain’s neural connections, further supporting the previous study’s findings.
To that end, it might behoove poker enthusiasts to take up a variant of their favorite game called poker run. To the uninitiated, poker runs are races that incorporate elements of the card game. Each lap grants participants one card, and at the end of the race, a combo calculation of race time and poker hand strength determines the winner.
These races make use of different modes of transportation. For land-based races, bicycles are among the most commonly used, not to mention one of the healthiest. Compared to other poker run staples like motorcycles and speedboats, bicycles require full physical participation, and therefore provide a lot of health benefits.
Apart from burning calories and enhancing muscle tone, it improves cardiovascular fitness, which as the studies above illustrate, directly improve mental capabilities. Furthermore, bicycles are a hell of a lot cheaper to acquire than motorized vehicles, making it accessible even to people with modest incomes.
For poker players looking to improve their game, there’s virtually no other activity more appealing than bicycle poker runs. Combining their favorite game with an exercise that’s relatively easy to get into, taking this up should be quite a lot of fun.