How exercise could help give poker players a mental edge.
The idea of poker as a legitimate sport may have existed for a long time now, but the acceptance of that idea by the masses is a relatively new one, coinciding with the poker boom of the early 2000s. Even then, it’s still specifically classified as a mind sport, implying that physical fitness is rather inconsequential to the preparation routine of poker pros.
Watching any of the televised broadcasts of the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour, and other major poker tournaments will show that a good number of players do look like they’ve been putting on the pounds for quite a few years now. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though, since the game does have them sitting down for hours on end.
That said, there are some notable professional players who’ve adjusted to healthier habits, and have been feeling the positive effects of that lifestyle in the process, especially on the poker tables. Partypoker‘s Lee Davy interview with Sorel Mizzi touched on the player’s fitness regimen. Since paying more attention to his health, Mizzi remarked that “I am so much more focused on everything going on around me. Eating healthily and working out is like a natural drug.”
There is, in fact, a scientific study that points to the direct correlation between physical fitness and mental alertness. The Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia conducted a study which found out that even just 20 minutes of moderate exercise could already open up your brain to more active information processing and memory retention.
Exercise affects the brain in multiple ways. Obviously, increasing your heart rate allows it to pump more blood into your brain. Apart from that, exercise also encourages your body to produce more hormones, facilitating in the faster nourishment and growth of brain cells.
Additional research at the UCLA showed that exercise also sped up the development of neural connections in the brain. This meant that training yourself to run faster actually made your brain think faster, too.
It would seem that Mizzi was on to something all along. Poker places a premium on one’s mind being up to the task, no doubt; but if exercise could further enhance one’s mental capacity, then it would do well for players to incorporate physical fitness into their lifestyle. Not only would it improve their health, but they’d be gaining a mental edge over their opponents as well. That’s a win-win situation right there.