Is poker a game of luck or skill? Ask ten different poker players, and you will get ten different answers. But researchers seem to agree: The more hands played, the more a player's poker skills -- a set of cognitive functions including focus, alertness, memory and more -- will determine his or her success.
Players have long used mind-altering substances to sharpen their cognitive poker skills at the table. But now, rather than synthetics and stimulants, brain-boosting nootropics for poker are gaining steam – due to superior safety, fewer side effects, and a greater capacity to boost poker skill-oriented cognitive functions.
This guide discusses some of the most promising nootropics for sharpening poker skills and winning more cash.
Poker Skills to Pay the Bills
In gambling, poker is considered an active game, with outcomes that can be influenced by an individual player's skills. Researchers have suggested that while a single hand of poker is largely determined by luck, player skills will have a greater impact on total winnings over the course of 100,000 hands.<1>
What skills are needed to win at poker? According to one qualitative study, to achieve peak game performance and win consistently over the long haul, poker player need a combination of:<2>
- Technical Skills: Learning, memorizing and mastering poker rules, betting, and strategy; odds calculation, risk assessment, financial management
- Psychological Skills: Emotional balance, self-control, opponent interaction and bluffing, opponent analysis, rational decision-making
All of these critical poker skills are wholly dependent on a player's brainpower.
It comes as no surprise then that poker players ranging from amateurs to professionals take cognitive enhancers to try and win more. What is surprising, however, is exactly what players seem to be taking. According to a 2016 survey on cognitive enhancer use in poker:<3>
- 28% of poker players reported use of synthetic drugs for attention and anxiety;
- 71% used caffeine;
- 35% used marijuana;
- 30% used alcohol
The problem: Survey authors noted that these substances may create safety risks among poker players, especially non-professional poker players. What the authors didn't note is these substances are also limited in what they can do for poker skills, with many of simply not working that well.
The Solution: Nootropics for Poker
Nootropic brain-booster supplements have the potential to enhance poker-specific cognitive functions more effectively than traditional synthetics and stimulants. Plus, nootropics are by definition safe -- with some even capable of improving long-range brain health.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the nootropics in Mind Lab Pro® that are ideally suited for helping cognitive functions utilized in poker – especially when they are combined into a single stack supplement to elevate all of those functions at once.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Poker
As the most popular cognitive enhancer among poker players, caffeine improves alertness and mental energy at the poker table, but is not without its drawbacks – specifically, jitters.
If you’re holding a straight flush after drinking a Venti Starbucks with a Red Bull chaser, any alertness advantage gained may be undone by facial tick tells, shaky hands, nervousness, or other caffeine side effects.
Some poker players may combine caffeine with alcohol or synthetic tranquilizers and sedatives, in the hopes of achieving super stimulation without the jitters. But this combination is not advisable – at best it creates a stimulated-yet-clouded mindset that is ineffective for poker; at worst it may increase risk of addiction and health concerns in body and mind.
L-Theanine is a safe, natural way to help caffeine to work better.
Found in green tea leaves, L-Theanine has several research-backed benefits for cognitive function, but may be most widely known for its ability to minimize caffeine's jittery side effects without sedation.
L-Theanine partly works by increasing alpha brain waves, “tuning” the brain to a frequency of wakeful relaxation. Its mood, concentration and even creativity benefits may also help to improve cognitive poker skills. More on Mind Lab Pro® L-Theanine
Caffeine may be the most popular choice among poker players for maintaining mental energy during games -- but it’s not the best choice.
Cognizin® Citicoline is a multi-tasking nootropic that boosts overall brainpower by optimizing several different brain pathways at the same time, including brain energy.
Unlike the stimulant action of caffeine, Cognizin® Citicoline works by optimizing the mitochondria power plants within brain cells that are responsible for generating brain energy. One human research study found that supplementing with Cognizin® Citicoline was associated with a 13.6 percent increase in brain energy levels.
Poker players may consider Cognizin® Citicoline as an alternative brain energy booster with two distinct advantages over the caffeine everyone else of the table is drinking.
- Cognizin® Citicoline boosts brain energy at the most fundamental level – within cells. Unlike stimulants, its mental energy effects are clean and sustained, without the eventual “crash” and brain fog associated with excessive caffeine intake.
- Cognizin® Citicoline supports performance-oriented brain chemicals, combing with its energizing effects to produce research-backed benefits for focus, mental energy, attention and recall -- all critical cognitive functions for peak poker performance
Poker players should consider Cognizin® Citicoline to separate themselves from the pack mentality of caffeine at the table. With Cognizin® Citicoline , poker players promote mental energy and peak overall mental performance without the crash that can lead to poor performance later on. More on Mind Lab Pro® Cognizin® Citicoline
Competitive poker can be grueling. Individual games may last hours until early morning, while tournaments stretch out over days. All the while, poker players are thinking, calculating, strategizing and multitasking, placing great stress and strain upon the brain. Factor in chaotic surroundings and inadequate sleep, and a player's brainpower may be significantly diminished upon reaching the finals -- just when they need it most.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine is the ultimate nootropic for poker players who face grueling schedules, cognitive exhaustion and mental burnout.
Poker’s high-pressure, multitasking cognition under distracting conditions places tremendous demand on neurotransmitters called catecholamines. To put it simply, during an intense high-stakes poker game, the brain burns through catecholamine neurotransmitters at a faster rate.
- Low catecholamine levels are associated with problems with attention, working memory and impulse control: Cognitive functions that are crucial for superior poker skills.<4>
Catecholamine depletion is a concern for competitive poker players. While advancing through a tournament, as stakes get higher and pressure increases, catecholamines may be diminished to the point of creating a significant competitive mental disadvantage.
N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine helps because it is the master precursor used as a building block to synthesize catecholamine neurotransmitters. This bioactivity helps to maintain a healthy level of performance-oriented brain chemicals during multitasking, high pressure, and highly distracting environments.
Research has shown that N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine helps focus, attention, concentration, and multitasking ability in study subjects who were:
- Submerged in freezing cold water
- Subjected to loud 90 dB noises
- Engaged in military combat training
- Administered mentally demanding multitasking tests
Poker players should consider taking N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine to maintain mental clarity and sharpness during exhausting marathon games and tournaments, stressful high-stakes hands, and when playing against opponents who use distraction techniques. More on Mind Lab Pro® N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
Poker can be extremely stressful. Stress destroys brainpower. Poker players with poor stress resistance cannot achieve the peak mental performance, calm nerves and impassive demeanor that is essential for winning.
Rhodiola rosea is an outstanding nootropic for poker players whose skills may be diminished by stress.
The N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine that we just discussed helps to restore the catecholamine brain chemicals that are depleted by stress. Rhodiola rosea works on a different pathway: It helps to strengthen the brain’s resistance to stress.
Rhodiola is classified as an adaptogen – a class of herbs that are used to normalize physiological functions and bring them into balance. In the case of stress, Rhodiola rosea blunts some of the hormonal cascade that is triggered in stressful scenarios.
Rhodiola rosea's anti-stress activity has made it a legendary performance enhancer in the former Soviet Union, where it grows in the wild and has long been used in traditional herbalism practices. According to lore, Rhodiola has been used by:
- Siberian farmers to extend their mental and physical work capacity during the harvest
- Russian cosmonauts to keep a calm, positive-minded, levelheaded composure while orbiting the earth in outer space
- World-class powerlifters to transcend their mind-body limitations
- Olympic by athletes to maintain laser-sharp focus, steely resolve and steady hands during competition
For poker players, specifically, Rhodiola rosea is an excellent herbal nootropic for countering the mind-dulling effects of high stress competition. Rhodiola has been shown in some clinical research to improve stress-related mental fatigue. More on Mind Lab Pro® Rhodiola Rosea
Like Rhodiola rosea, Bacopa monnieri belongs to the adaptogen class of herbs – so it shares some of Rhodiola’s stress resistance-boosting benefits.
But Bacopa can do so much more. It may even be the very best nootropic for poker.
In addition to its adaptogen activity, Bacopa monnieri promotes the brain chemicals acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin, and has been shown in animal studies to boost blood flow to the brain. Evidence has shown Bacopa monnieri to promote a relaxed mood and to accelerate the speed of visual information processing, both of which are helpful in the midst of poker competition.
Bacopa monnieri's most famous nootropic benefit may be its true secret for unleashing dominant poker performance: Memory.
Researchers have suggested that Bacopa monnieri improves higher order cognitive processes, especially when it comes to acquiring new information and then processing that information into learning and memories.
The exact form of Bacopa monnieri found in Mind Lab Pro®, standardized to 24% bacosides with nine active nootropics, has been found to improve three types of memory that could be game changers for poker players:
- Immediate recall memory: Greater ability to recognize other players strategy and betting patterns during the game, enabling more accurate predictive poker playing
- Delay recall memory: remembering the unique styles, tells, and patterns of players faced days earlier in the tournament, or even from tournament experience from past years
- Learning: studying poker strategy, internalizing that knowledge, and being able to draw upon it at will. Learning can also involve mastery of odds, which, combined with Bacopa monnieri’s mental processing speed benefits, may bring a significant competitive advantage to mathematics-oriented poker players.
Memory is a powerful secret weapon in poker that is vastly underutilized.
According to the earlier survey, large percentages of poker players consume alcohol or even marijuana while playing – both of which have a significant negative impact on memory, and almost certainly impair memory functions that are needed in poker.
By taking a clean, natural and multifaceted memory booster like Bacopa monnieri, poker players may give themselves a smart competitive advantage at the table. More on Mind Lab Pro® Bacopa Monnieri
Some so-called cognitive enhancers used by poker players may be associated with health risks and unpleasant side effects. The nootropics for poker players discussed in this article are different. Safe, natural and effective, these nootropics have also been shown in quality human research to help with cognitive poker skills – focus, attention, mental energy, memory and more.
What may be the most exciting thing about these nootropics for poker is that their benefits remain, for now, a best-kept secret. Just imagine sitting down at a table where every other player is on tranquilizers, alcohol, marijuana and caffeine – while your own brain is clear, clean, boosted up to 100% brainpower and firing on all cylinders. With a cognitive advantage like that, a World Series of Poker champion prize may be just around the corner.
Mind Lab Pro®, the Universal Nootropic™, stacks together all of the brain-boosting nootropic ingredients discussed in this article and more. Mind Lab Pro® is also formulated to exacting standards of quality that guarantee a clean, premium supplement that is safe and healthy for daily use.
- DeDonno M. A., Detterman D. K. Poker is a skill. Gaming Law Review, (2008) 12(1), 31–36. doi:10.1089/glr.2008.12105
- Moreau A, et al. Psychopathology of Online Poker Players: Review of Literature. J Behav Addict. 2016 Jun 1; 5(2): 155–168.
- Caballero J, et al. Cognitive and Performance Enhancing Medication Use to Improve Performance in Poker. J Gambl Stud. 2016 Sep;32(3):835-45.
- Clark K, Noudoost B. The role of prefrontal catecholamines in attention and working memory. Front Neural Circuits. 2014; 8: 33.