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Every poker player plays to win. However, research suggests that those who do so are less motivated to press on towards greater success than those who lose.

Is losing at poker the best motivator?

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Whether you play with friends over a few beers, online via your smartphone or with the high rollers at your local casino, every poker player plays to win. However, research suggests that those who do so are less motivated to press on towards greater success than those who lose.

The claims seem counter intuitive, at least at first glance. Surely, poker is all about confidence and bravado. Get on a losing streak and the cracks will start appearing, while if you take on all comers and emerge victorious, you will want to carry on towards greater things, and be more motivated than ever.

But according to psychologists, the human psyche is a little more complex than that, particularly when it comes to card games. Where winning relies on a blend of skillful play and being dealt a good hand, there is a strong motivation to try again after struggling through a tough game and coming out second best.

The implications for online gamers

Of course, poker has always been among the most popular card games, but with the rise of online casinos such as, there are more players than ever before, enjoying games whenever and wherever they like via their desktops, tablets and smartphones.

The possibility to go straight on to another game whenever they feel like it, without having to wait for their buddies to be ready or for the casino to reopen means that the question of what motivates players to keep playing becomes an important one.

Are winners more likely to walk away?

The fact that those who are on a losing streak are more motivated to keep playing and turn their fortunes around raises an interesting question. Does it mean that the opposite is also true, and those who win are actually less motivated to play on?

The answer appears to be that this is exactly the case, at least for a good many players. In most sports and competitive pastimes, the thrill is in the chase. Whether you are chasing down that elusive 180 in darts or seeking to reach the highest ranking in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, failure only makes us try harder, while when we reach the goal, there can sometimes feel like what is almost a sense of emptiness.

In a game like poker, the situation is slightly different, as each game is unique. However, there can be no denying that after a big win, there is the tendency to sit back and relax slightly. It is highly probable that you might not play with the same intensity as if you were coming off a heavy defeat and had a point to prove.

Focus and perspective

Ultimately, psychological studies on human nature are interesting, but the most important thing is to understand your own motivation. If you are playing because you want to, you enjoy the game and you are determined to succeed, that’s great. If it is out of habit or desperation, you are clearly less likely to do well, and it makes sense to force yourself to take a step back.

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