Can Poker Psychology also be Applied to Chess?

Poker Psychology to ChessAs a serious chess player with an undergrad degree in psychology that has also played a lot of poker, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the parallels between psychology in poker and chess. I consider poker to be very similar to chess, the only real difference being luck. There is absolutely no element of luck in chess, there is only good moves. After someone loses and they say the opponent got lucky, what they really mean is that they played sub-optimally and did not capitalize on the mistakes of the opponent. In chess a player makes his own luck by consistently making good moves. On the other hand in poker, the element of luck is a very real thing. While a poker player may consistently make good bets and decisions, he might win many inconsequential hands and lose a few big hands where he is statistically favored – but I guess that’s why they call it gambling! This article outlines the main psychological factors that influence the games of poker and chess in very similar ways.

Maintain Objectivity

This is an incredibly important factor in building a strong poker or chess psychology. Whether you have just taken a bad beat in a big hand or have fallen victim to a tactic you hadn’t even considered, it is critical to stay calm and maintain objectivity in your decision-making process. When the situation feels hopeless and out of control, this is a great time to realize you’re not thinking straight and get up for a glass of water and a quick walk around the room to clear your thoughts. The ability to fight back from a bad position is a clear indicator of a strong psychology in chess or poker.

Consistent Pressure

Spectators often wonder how grandmasters create fantastic tactics seemingly out of nowhere, or how poker pros can dance on the edge of disaster with continued success by making huge bluffs. The short answer is consistent pressure. By continually pressuring opponents with new threats, you force your opponent into solving new problems at every turn. Consistent pressure can wear down even the most determined player, generating unforced errors at an alarming rate. Amazing tactics or bluffs do not appear out of thin air, they are the direct result of consistent pressure.

All-In

Poker Psychology to ChessIt is frequent in chess and poker that a player is forced to make a decisive move. Whether you’re extremely pot-committed or you have pushed an attack as far as it can go without large material sacrifices, you must not hesitate to pull the trigger. Going all-in in poker requires the exact same mentality as sacrificing a piece in chess – it is almost certain that when the dust clears there will be a decisive result – you win or you lose. But if you shy away from these decisive moments and opt for quieter continuations, it will very negatively affect the entire complexion of your game. So don’t be scared to go all-in and all out for the win!

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