There are a lot of ways to ease into meditation as a beginner. There are books and podcasts that teach basic strategies. Many people today learn meditation through apps in an attempt to improve their mental health. In fact, there were 10 million total downloads for the largest mental wellness apps in April 2020, and by August 2021 over 350,000 apps were available to respond to this growing needs. Notably, most of these apps have a guided meditation feature.
Even with all these options available, some just aren’t ready to jump into meditation. In these cases, it can be handy to figure out a sort of bridge activity — something that teaches mediation basics without technically being (or feeling like) meditation. And oddly enough, the common game of poker can serve as that activity.
The Popularity of Poker
Poker is still played by millions. In certain states, you still have the option of playing poker online with actual money on the line. Even those who wish to play more casually have plenty of options on both PC and mobile. Due to the larger pool of poker players these avenues provide, poker resource site Poker.org notes that it still takes a certain finesse to win at poker. This includes playing a balanced range and knowing how to strategize when you get dealt your hands. More importantly, you have to stay focused and level-headed to keep emotions in-check at all time. So with this in mind, let’s explain how these factors help poker serve as a bridge to meditation.
Poker Requires Calm
Most successful poker players — or half-decent ones for that matter — will tell you that poker requires mental and emotional calm. Playing with too much emotion or activity detracts from strategy and results in losses. Almost by default, good players can calm themselves when needed. Achieving a certain level of calm can also be done through holistic therapies. These focus on helping you achieve a relaxed state of mind through activities such as mindfulness, guided meditation, and even aromatherapy.
Poker Demands Patience
Reasonable poker players will also admit that they lose, and do so quite often. It just isn’t a game in which one can count on too many consecutive wins, even with a flawless strategy and some good luck. That’s why what separates the good players from the rest is how they handle the losses and setbacks they encounter. They don’t allow the game to bother them. Instead, they have the patience to focus on a long-term approach and end goal. This poker-honed ability can carry over quite well into the meditation realm, with most related activities requiring a strong sense of forbearance.
Poker Teaches Focus
In addition to a calm mindset and a high degree of patience, poker also teaches players to focus on individual tasks. Each individual hand, decision by an opponent, and new card turned over on the poker table requires careful attention. This targeted mental engagement teaches the mind to zero in on a task to the exclusion of all else until it’s time to move to the next one. In our guide to the easiest method to meditate, we discussed how simply concentrating on your breath with your eyes closed can clear your mind and induce a laser-like focus.
You’ll Learn Your Nature
Years ago, one of the more fascinating articles about what poker teaches noted that the game will teach players about their own nature. It reveals whether or not you’re naturally patient, when and how you can self-assess, and even how quickly you tend to learn and improve. Learning these things about yourself can absolutely position you to better navigate mediation efforts and find practices that benefit you specifically.
None of these activities suggest that poker is any complete approach to meditation or personal wellness. However, these aspects of the game do show how it can be meditative in its own way. Approaching the game with an eye on these benefits can help some people to get used to certain concepts they’ll then feel more comfortable expanding on through actual meditation.