Why ADHDans Make Poor Poker Players

It's difficult enough for my ADHD brain to remember what I'm doing, let alone what five or six other mooks are up to.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman
Bill Mehlman blogs about treating adult ADHD for ADDitudeMag.com

I was diligently studying Latin; OK, I was watching some tournament poker over the weekend when I realized that in a treating ADHD blog post last week I'd discussed the hardships an ADHDan faced when playing cards. My point was that given our ADHD impaired memories, we were at a gross disadvantage, since being able to recall the cards which had been played was critical to all but the most casual levels of gaming.

True enough, but not the whole story. First of all, it's not just the cards that a good player remembers, but the other players. Poker players speak of a player having a "tell," some behavioral tic that he replicates in direct response to a given set of circumstances. For example, a player who's bluffing may sit there scratching at his ear, or drumming his fingers on the table (these are exceptionally overt mannerisms, but for our current purposes they'll serve). Given a good hand, the same player may sit as serenely as a lama, or carefully arrange his chips in even stacks.

This information only comes from constant observation and analysis, watching the actions of one's competitors and linking them to the situation that eventually reveals itself. Like all data recording, the value of these observations increases in direct proportion to their quantity and accuracy. And then, of course, one has to remember this stuff. There's no benefit to an "AHA!" moment, the realization that another player has just moved his glasses to the top of his head, or has started to suck on an ice cube, unless you can recall what he held the last time he did so.

I've come to terms with this, and that's why I don't play cards any more. It's difficult enough for me to remember what I'm doing, let alone what five or six other mooks are up to. And that's not even allowing for the possibility that they've totally fabricated a tell, and are planning on trotting it out, blatantly, at a critical moment, probably when you're trying to decide whether or not to go all-in.


PS: If don't think you have any tells, think again. All but the very best players exhibit them, and if you're reading this, Slick, you're certainly not in that category.

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