A winning streak is every poker player's dream. Players who win one poker match after another often feel extremely lucky, but apparently – luck might have nothing to do with a successful poker session!
According to experts, the feeling of success we often feel after winning a single poker hand affects our brain in many ways, leading us to improve our poker play. How does the brain really react to winning poker? And should it affect the way you play poker? Find out the answers to those questions in this Everygame poker guide!
How Success Affects Our Brain
In the past, multiple studies explored the way our brain reacts to success. Earl K. Miller, a cognitive neuroscientist, found that we learn more from succeeding than failing. In a study he led, Miller discovered that success affects the prefrontal cortex and that those changes linger for a few seconds. But after failure, the brain changed very little.
Ian Robertson - a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist - discovered similar things. Robertson bases his theories on the Winner Effect. In the animal world, if a strong animal wins against a weak opponent, he is more likely to win a second match against a stronger one. And the same thing applies to humans!
Any positive feedback we receive – whether we get a compliment or win a poker match – activates the dopamine pathway in our brain. And dopamine affects us in two ways: first of all, it makes us feel good about ourselves, which is a feeling most people will want to recreate in the future by repeating the action that triggered the happy response.
But most importantly, it affects the part of our brain that impacts our goal setting, motivation, and focus. Therefore, success makes us a bit smarter right after dopamine is released in our brain [you can watch Robertson's gull Ted Talk here].
So, when it comes to online poker, one win might make you play even more often, as you seek the same feeling of success. And since you might be more focused and precise as you keep playing, you increase your chances of actually getting another win!
How to Change Your Poker Strategy in the Midst of a Winning Streak
Now that you know that a winning streak is not completely coincidental, how should it affect your poker play?
- Take advantage of your success – since winning actually changes how your brain works for a while, it will be a shame to miss out on the involved advantages. Keep playing as long as you're feeling focused and refreshed, and maybe your efforts will pay off – big time!
- Know when to stop – every winning streak is bound to end sometimes. So, learn to read the signs and try to quit before it's too late and all you've gained goes down the drain. When you get too tired or too distracted to make smart choices, it is time to take a break.
- Take notes on what you did right – you can learn a lot from every hand you play, whether you win or lose. When you're in the middle of a winning streak, pay attention to the things you do right: what helps you make a smart decision? How do your opponents react to your moves? Take the time to analyze your moves and get even better at the game before your next session.
Keep Playing Poker Until You Start Winning
To get a winning streak in poker, you need more than just luck on your side. Learn as much as you can about the game and master multiple strategies, and you might enjoy the psychological and biological benefits of success!