How Personality Wins Poker Games

What’s the best thing professional poker players have going for themselves, aside from their fat stacks, ability to do quick mental math, and the fact that they don’t work in a cubical? That’s right: emotional stability.

A study published in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking has found that poker players who find long-term success at the game are emotionally stable, which allows them to follow through on a strategy, even when the stakes are high and they’re under pressure. Researchers conducted an online survey of nearly five hundred poker players using the HEXACO model, which measures honesty/humility, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and emotionality, which is called neuroticism by the Big Five. Anyway, personality traits are known to be fairly stable over time, which suggests that they’d be unlikely to be impacted by poker playing experience. Researchers also asked players how long they’ve played, what their regular stakes were, the approximate number of hands they’ve played, and whether they considered themselves professional players.

Researchers found that veteran poker players tended to score low on emotionality—that is, they’re emotionally stable with low levels of neuroticism. According to the study,

“The effect of emotional stability was most strongly associated with the levels of stakes at which the participant typically played poker. This indicates that experienced poker players may have an innate disposition to tolerate mental and emotional pressure, and keep calm while making decisions involving large sums of money.”

Interestingly, there were also differences between online players and players who sought out tables. In-person players tended to score high on extroversion and openness to new experiences, which you might expect.

So, there you have it. Sorry neurotics—stick to Woody Allen movies. Wait, no. Actually, you’re invited to our next game.

Photo courtesy of Tom Godber.

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