Poker Face and other Poker Life Lessons

Game-changing life lessons from Poker

Poker is a popular card game combining gambling, strategy and skill and its lessons carry over into life. From knowing how to bluff to reading your opponent to perfecting your poker face, playing poker teaches the average punter strategies in life. Life is most certainly a gamble and poker lovers know that like life, poker takes a day to learn and a lifetime to master.


Let’s take a look at how a poker game operates. Different styles of poker have different variables in the numbers of cards that are dealt, the betting procedures, the number of shared cards and the number of cards that remain hidden. When the first round of betting begins, the punters make some form of forced bet.

At which point, each punter bets according to the rank they believe their hand is worth and comparing to what the other players have. The winner of the hand is ranked according to the combination of the cards in their hand all of which remains hidden until the end of the hand. Then each punter must either match, or “call”, the maximum previous bet or fold. When one folds, they lose the amount bet so far and any investment in the hand.

A punter who matches a bet may also opt to “raise”, increasing the bet. When all punters have either called the last bet or folded, the betting has finished. If all but one punter folds, the remaining punter is not required to reveal their hand they collect the pot. Yet if more than one player remains after the final betting round, then a ‘showdown’ takes place. All hands are revealed and the punter with the winning hand takes the pot.


The parallels between winning in poker and winning in life is numerous. Winning at poker and in life both rely on identifying when you have a positive hand or angle. Also important are measuring your odds, trusting your gut instinct, escaping cost traps and committing to constant learning and improvement like reading savvy gambling books


It’s super easy to get angry when you’re dealt a bad hand or when another player is trash talking you. If and when you experience a ’tilt’, a losing hand that you had only 1% chance of losing, it can seriously challenge even the strongest of characters in revealing their panic. Punters quickly learn that emotional responses are often unnecessary and detrimental to the game at large. 

In poker like in life, you have to deal with both winning and losing. Keeping your emotions in check allows you to handle both winning and losing calmly. The ability to separate your emotions from the game is essential to being a good poker player as well as when dealing with the cards you’re dealt in life.


Critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment. A punter is given a wealth of poker tips and strategies inside of books, blogs, and forums. Yet there is a lot misinformation, theories and strategies that are worthless. In today’s world of mass information, a punter needs to seek out the truth that is relevant to their experience.

In this way, poker teaches a punter to actively engage in the process of critical thinking where ideas are reasoned, well thought out, and judged.


With all the questions that are bubbling in your head as you play, the game never delivers an answer. Instead a punter learns how to surf a chaotic wave of variables with the winds of chance. Just like surfing, one learns how to read a wave. Then to ride it. But you learn quickly that you can’t ride all those waves. You learn that you can master some waves but other waves remind you that they are the master.

In essence, in poker and in life, you are not in control. There is nothing to do about it but keep your head up and try to catch that next chaotic wave of variables. Keep on keeping on is the name of the game even if it’s better known as poker.


This game is inherently ego-driven. Face it, everyone playing is thinking they have what it takes to outsmart everyone else including the house. This game teaches you that you must quickly forget your ego. If ego is on your mind, it’s nearly impossible to have a neutral poker face.

Just like in life, you can’t always win. It’s not logical to expect that you can be better than everyone all the time. You’re bound to lose and the quicker you drop your ego, the faster you’ll see that losing like winning is just a part of the game of life. Truth be told, whether your ego likes it or not, that’s the only way to become stronger.


Your own perceptions of whether you’re winning or losing can never be fully trusted because perception is full of biases and illusions. Punters are more often fueled by delusional thinking. Cognitive science and psychology have demonstrated how fallible our perception truly is. 

Poker in itself is an industry that runs on delusion. As much as one learns to trust their gut, one must also learn to listen to their instincts with suspicion. Always question your perception. It keeps you on your toes and open to the mystery at large.


The up and down swing is like a rollercoaster and you can’t have one without the other. While the up is exhilarating, the down can be devastating. Yet a down can be just as powerful of a teacher as the up. 

Failure is feedback. If you lost, then there’s the voice inside you that asks: What could I have done different? This insight is a strong influence on the next time you play. It goes to show, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall. It matters how many times you stand back up.


Most often punters are thinking of winning the big pot. People tend to live in this way too, vying for day they can retire or go on holiday. Yet that strategy of striving and never arriving sets one up for disappointment. Rather try implementing a gratefulness for the small victories like winning even if a hand isn’t attached to a big jackpot. Celebrating abundance increases your activation energy to receive bigger jackpots. 

Just like in life, counting your blessings increases your aptitude for abundance. Celebrating your small wins is just as important as celebrating a big jackpot if not more so.


Every hand that is dealt has some sort of intrinsic risk factor. If you aren’t a risk taker then this game may not be for you or you just may need to learn the lesson that it has to teach you. What constitutes a skilled poker player lies in how they manage risk.

Risk is one of the central challenges that we face in life. There’s a fine line with taking risks and being risky. Poker players walk that fine line. Risk in poker is simple yet, very complex. Understanding risk’s central concepts can elevate your game and its profitability.


Success comes from years and years of learning and practicing a craft. Good things take time and good things come to those who train. Life and poker agree, you have a choice: Anti up or fold. Good thing that the human spirit is meant to endure and it’s addicted to becoming stronger. 

Mistakes are proof that you are trying and learning from your mistakes is training. Poker pros aren’t born, they’re made, tried and true.


The key is to know when to bluff. When new players do it, it’s easy to spot. When you know how to bluff, you can change the way people think about you and your hand.

In life, bluffing works the same way. There are moments when you need to represent yourself as bigger or more successful than you actually are. In this way, the invaluable art of bluffing comes into everyday use.


Have a big hand? Raise! First into the pot? Raise! Small blind limp in on your big blind? Raise! Poker favors aggressive players. The decisive moves you make forces tough decisions to be made by your opponents.

In life, being aggressive can literally get you ahead of the rest giving you a cutting-edge advantage that the timid of heart could only dream of.


You have to play the hands you’re dealt. Yet many people tend to ruminate over what cards they’ve been dealt. The lesson Poker teaches is that by riding these waves of chaotic variables, one is better off not worrying about the things you cannot change. Rather, it’s more important to play from a place of neutral objectiveness. Constantly asking yourself: How can I make the most out of my hand?


Studying your losses equips you for a better hand next time. Try to evaluate what you could have done different. And if you couldn’t have done anything different, try accepting that you are not in control. Reviewing your choices and analyzing betting patterns can reveal what went wrong, who did what and how can it be prevented in the future.

Life like gaming a lot about loss and the only thing a punter can control is their reaction to change.


A good punter looks at all the variables to make a decision. Yet poker is a game of incomplete information. The inability to see the other players cards forces you to make guesses. This is a vital part of decision making in general and in how life works. We don’t have the entire picture and everyone always have ulterior motives.

We learn by playing and living how to read and guess correctly what the real situation is. 


Discipline is very important. For example, when you’re not playing well then you need the discipline to leave the game before you lose. If you win then you need the discipline to not spend all your cash that night.

Kenny Rogers explains the discipline, insight and wisdom involved in poker and life in The Gambler.