PokerStars’ Mindsports Ambassador Jennifer Shahade’s shares critical life skills to learn from mind sports such as poker and chess
In the world of mind sports where performance is a function of one’s intellectual ability, training the mind to examine and respond to new situations is crucial. Mind sports such as poker and chess focus on developing analytical and critical thinking and encourage players to improve their spatial and cognitive abilities, and pattern recognition. All can be useful skills as we tackle what everyday life can throw at us.
Two-time United States Women’s Chess Champion, writer and Mindsports Ambassador for PokerStars – Jennifer Shahade shares her top learnings from mind sports such as chess and poker and how she applies them day-to-day.
Strengthening your focus
Chess and poker both demand total focus from the start till the finish, a skill that can be important in your overall development in life. In a world of increasing distractions and reducing attention spans, working on building your focus can be a useful response. The experience that you enjoy when being totally absorbed in a hand or chess position can be modeled in other areas of life, whether it’s writing an essay or enjoying quality family time.
Structuring your learning
Mind sports teach us to structure our study in a way that allows us to improve rapidly. It’s not just how much time you spend studying but making sure you study the right things. When in doubt, gravitate towards patterns that will come up quite frequently. In poker, this could mean playing on the button. In chess, it could mean “The Queen’s Gambit opening”, one of the most popular ways to start a game. In life, it means studying the patterns we are living through and putting some method to the madness to learn powerfully.
Broadening your thinking
Mind sports force us to think not only deeply, but also widely. In chess we often say, “long variation, wrong variation”. This means that when you look straight down the barrel of a specific move sequence, you’re often missing something horizontally, rather than at the end of the line. For instance, a check in response to your second move, rather than something in move ten of the line. Think about all your options to avoid “tunnel vision”. This can be a key life skill too. Consider the expression, “man plans, god laughs.”
Building a strong network
In mind sports, building your network helps you in multiple ways. In the game itself, it helps to have a support network, and people to bounce off strategy, or share learning tips. Every mind sport has a strong community united by a shared passion for intellectual adventure and self-improvement.
Reading situations and people
One of the most important soft skills picked up in a mind sport is being able to read people and situations. From how they dress, speak, move or even their body language, everything is a cue. It is the subtle nuances that speak volumes. One needs to remain aware of every moment in sports such as poker. The art of seeing through the obvious and taking conscious calls to emerge as winners can be a useful skill to cultivate.
Managing your ego and admitting mistakes
Mind sports put us in a state of extreme concentration and it’s quite obvious that everyone, even the best, are bound to make mistakes. We are comfortable admitting these mistakes in a sport because they are just a part of the game. It’s easier to reverse these when playing the next time. In poker, this could mean folding even after investing a lot of chips in previous streets or in chess, it could mean moving a rook back to a square you just left, as you realized you need it there after all.
But acknowledging your mistake in real life could be tougher than doing it in a game. What’s important to keep in mind is that admitting your mistake is the first step to rectifying it. Take the leap towards a stronger tomorrow.