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Do Poker Players Have a High IQ?


To those who don’t play, poker seems like any other game of chance. You receive your cards and you hope for the best. This simply isn’t true. Although random chance does play a role in any poker hand, the fact of the matter is that skill and knowledge win over luck in the long run. It is also obvious that many great poker players didn’t become famous and rich just because they were lucky. All of this beckons another question: do poker players have a high IQ?

This is a bit tricky. In everyday life, IQ is often used as a synonym for general intelligence. But in actuality, the IQ index is just one of several ways of trying to test someone’s intelligence. Its creators are French psychologist Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. They created it in the early years of the 20th century and called it Binet-Simon test. The test tried to unify several separate cognitive capabilities like algebra, memory, language and constructive abilities into one test process. Now, it is the forefather of many contemporary intelligence tests.

So, IQ is a combined measure of all these different cognitive abilities. It’s undoubted that good poker players are above average when it comes to combinatorics and basic statistic, which are a necessity for assessing the possibility of any hand in comparison to new cards, or the card that could be in the possession of the other players. Also, a good memory is needed by any successful poker player, because it’s necessary to remember an opponent’s betting strategy.

Of course, this also means that a great player can have very poor language skills or general knowledge, which are also a part of any IQ test. With above average scores in several filed, and an average or even worst scores in other fields that are not important in a game of poker, even the top player could score only an average IQ.

It is also important to recognize that emotional intelligence is a big part of any poker game. Over the years, movies overdramatised this phenomenon, presenting the images of players sweating and looking for a small hand or face movement that can show that their adversary is bluffing. Instead, successful poker players learn intuitively to classify their opponent’s style of play and gauge their reactions. This is accomplished by a unique ability to understand and notice other people’s emotion, but no IQ test takes this into consideration. There is no doubt that every good poker player uses the emotional state of others involved in a game, and the majority of them is more likely better at it than the general population.

Answering the question do poker players have a high IQ isn’t straightforward. It’s really unlikely that any excellent poker player has a low IQ, but the chance is that most of those who excel at this game have an average, or just slightly higher IQ. They just learned to use their intelligence to their advantage in this game of chance, chips, emotions and intellect.

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