Poker is one of the most popular gambling games there is. You can play it online, in a casino, at home with your friends, professionally or for fun- it’s versatile and can be adapted easily so that almost anyone can enjoy it! Better still, it’s not too difficult to learn, and if you get good at it, you can win some big money. So is this the only reason people love to play poker?
Of course, it is about the fun, the social aspect of the game and the money. These are three huge contributing factors as to why we enjoy the game so much. Who doesn’t want the chance to make some big money relatively easily, or just to have a laugh around the table with some friends, some snacks and a couple of beers? It makes sense, of course, it does. But could there be a more psychological aspect to it all?
Well, first of all, as humans we love an ego boost. We love being made to feel good about ourselves, and we like to be admired by other people. When we play a game of poker and are able to make a good move and, better still, make a win, we are cheered on and appreciated by our peers, or whoever it may be sat watching your game. This gives us a rush, an ego boost and makes us feel really good about ourselves, which triggers a reaction in our brain and creates a natural high. It’s a feeling we don’t want to go away, and so we continue to play to try and keep hold of that feeling.
The thrill of the game also does something to the chemical makeup in our brains. In the way that a burst of dopamine is released when humans do anything pleasurable, such as have sex, drink alcohol or eat junk food, dopamine is also released when we gamble in a risky game such as poker. This burst of dopamine makes us feel really great and being a pretty strong chemical, it just so happens to be quite addictive too. We want to get that burst of dopamine over and over again, and so we continue to play, even when we have nothing left to bet with.