Poker vs Chess – Which Game Is Better for Your Brain?

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It may seem at first glance that poker and chess have nothing to do with each other, but people who are familiar with both games would agree that there are more similarities than differences. For novice players, poker may be just a game of chance, such as slot machines which you can try online using free spins at Top UK Slots, but for experienced players, poker is no doubt a game of skill. Many chess masters are also good poker players because both games require intense brain activity, and both have beneficial effects on the brain. Now, let’s compare how the two games have been proven to affect the brain and try to determine which one is better for the brain.


Numerous studies have shown that both poker and chess help develop brain cells and stimulate the transmission of impulses through the nervous system. Our nerve cells are surrounded by myelin, a kind of protein that protects and nourishes the nerves, and the more we play the thicker the myelin sheath becomes.

Prefrontal cortex

Playing poker or chess has particularly beneficial effects on the development of the prefrontal cortex as players need to think strategically and critically and they need to anticipate the opponent’s next move. This kind of thinking increases the development of the prefrontal cortex and leads to better decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Prevent brain diseases    

Both games significantly contribute to reducing the risk of developing brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, and are also effective in their treatment. This can be explained by the saying “use it or lose it”, meaning that if we don’t keep our brains active, our brain power will diminish and we will start losing memory.

Emotion control

Emotion control is the point of divergence between poker and chess. When emotions become overactive, the brain shuts down higher functions which leads to poor decisions. Poker players experience big emotional swings, from excitement to despair, which can happen even in a single hand, but they must keep a perfect poker face. Of course, chess players feel a variety of emotions, but they don’t have to suppress them. In fact, they can use their emotions to improve their performance, taking advantage of both mental and emotional strengths.


In some cases, playing too much poker, especially on multiple tables, increases the risk of developing ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Poker players may develop difficulty focusing on a single task as they need multiple pleasurable hits typically produced when multi-tabling. On the other hand, studies have shown that chess has beneficial effects on children diagnosed with ADHD. Chess keeps the brain busy with all the possible and potential moves and helps people stay focused on one goal longer – winning the game.

All in all, both poker and chess have numerous positive effects on the brain, but having in mind the possible negative ones, we rule in favor of chess. It goes without saying that chess is suitable for people of all ages, which cannot be said about poker.