Poker: Still America’s Favorite Card Game in 2014

December 29th, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
Love poker

It’s not about the money? The motives behind your love of poker might surprise you. (Image:

We love poker, as do 40 million others who say they play regularly, including 23 million in the United States.

That means over 10 percent of adults in America are going all-in for their chances at a royal flush and winning the pot.

The question remains, how can a card game attract people from all walks of life to sit down at the same table? The science and psychology behind poker might surprise you.

Not About Money

It’s estimated that three out of four poker players are male, and while money is certainly a factor for some, the majority of participants cite other aspects as their driving motivation.

Camaraderie is obviously one of the leading reasons men play as seven million say they play in “home games” or “private clubs” consistently.

Men have been getting together over poker for as long as it’s been around, and the sociability is certainly a key component in someone picking up the game.

Risk & Reward

Poker challenges a player’s trust and disbelief of their competitor’s hand. It tests gut instincts and intellectual odds, ultimately decoding risk and reward.

Humans are inherently motivated by the idea of risk and reward. In fact, each one of us undertakes this calculation everyday whether be it maneuvering lanes on the highway or considering an important work decision.

Not all of us enjoy the concept, as many shy away from risk while others thrive on it. Poker is the ultimate hobby when it comes to the give-and-take analysis.

A study performed by the British Psychological Society found men are much more willing to take risk in their careers, while women opt for security.

Study author Geoff Trickey said of the results, “The implication of our gender difference findings is that male/female Risk Type differences are genetic; having achieved a balance shaped by evolution which would have been critical to survival of our species.”

Knowing Yourself

There aren’t any other sports that provide the competitor with the ability to learn about themselves as much as poker does.

Every losing hand you experience, you discover why you received the short stick, and typically in the process you’ll uncover valuable information about your personal self. For instance:
– Do you frequently blame losing hands on simple bad luck?
– Are you realizing you think your hand is stronger than it often is?
– Do you go all-in all too often?

Your flaws in poker are often similar to your weaknesses in real life. The more one plays poker, the better they typically become.

These results often translate into the player learning something about their psychological makeup, positive or negative, that they never realized before.

So Easy & So Hard

Golf isn’t a game one just takes up and starts competing against others for money, nor is basketball, football, or basically any other sport. Poker, especially Texas Hold’em, is a format that’s quickly learned and packed with excitement.

Newbies are instantly enthralled, and their egos get the best of them. The rush of a win, whether big or small, is addicting and motivating. Competition brings out the fragileness of a human’s longing for triumph.

Ego and self-pride can get in the way and overshadow the initial reason you began playing in the first place. Poker is so easy it’s addicting, making it so hard to quit. Plus, the outsized monetary rewards that are broadcast during the yearly World Series Of Poker has been shown to generate newcomers in bountiful numbers, as they imagine themselves taking down the final table.

History of Poker

If this article were written back in the early days of poker, it wouldn’t read much differently. The game dates back to as early as 1829 with a deck of 20 cards and four players in New Orleans.

It quickly spread along the Mississippi, as gambling was a popular pastime aboard riverboats. As Americans headed west for the California Gold Rush, poker went along for the ride.

A few short years later, both Confederate and Union soldiers passed the hours at night over the card game.

People from a variety of backgrounds were smitten with the game, but the most notable early hand came from one of the country’s most legendary characters.

Famously known as the “Dead Man’s Hand,” the two pair of aces and eights with an unknown fifth card was said to be held by “Wild Bill” Hickok when he was shot in the back of the head in 1876.

The country was love-struck with poker, and the rest as they say, is history.


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