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‘Online Poker + Music = Bad Beats’

Jack Beresford outlines why online poker and music playlists just do not mix.

Bob Marley famously said that one good thing about music was that “when it hits you, you feel no pain”. As someone who used to listen to my favourite tunes while playing online Texas Hold’em, I tend to disagree.

There is a place for music in live poker. It can be a great way of easing tension during a home game, where one too many bluffs can otherwise see friendships severed and tables toppled over like in a Wild West saloon.

And then there’s the psychological advantage music can offer in a casino-based tournament. For years players have been utilising in-ear headphones and carefully selected playlists to help stay relaxed and, most importantly of all, show no emotion.

But the same can’t be said for the online game. Played at home, usually in solitary conditions, music’s role is actually inverted so that, rather than keeping feelings in check, a particular song or soundtrack can heighten the emotion of a hand – with disastrous results.

It’s one of the oldest pieces of advice in the book when it comes to playing online poker, but it still rings true: never let your heart rule your head.

Back when I still dabbled with online poker playlists via iTunes or Spotify, I made the mistake of playing through a flush draw, not on the basis of anything at the table but because Survivor’s 1982 smash “Eye of the Tiger”, which was playing at the time, had given me a “feeling”.

One rather substantial chip loss later and, like a party-goer sobering up in the early hours of the morning after, I was left feeling tired, empty and more than a little foolish.
Then there is the distraction aspect to consider. From messing around with playlists, to singing along or even simply changing tracks, music can have a damaging effect on concentration levels.

Research from the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, focusing on the effects of listening to music while revising a particular topic, proves as much.
The study, published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, saw 25 test subjects tasked with memorising a list of consonants while listening to their favourite music, music they hated, or nothing at all.

The findings revealed that regardless of the vocalist, music had a negative effect on their ability to memorise information. As researcher Dr Nick Perham summed it up: “One should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing.”

But before anyone starts queuing up the tunes for a Rocky-style pre-poker training montage, maybe it boils down to asking yourself one thing: how seriously do I take online poker?

Those seeking a bit of social engagement online alongside a few casual low-stakes hands may want to keep the party going with a spot of trance, techno or even classical arrangements in tow.

But for those seeking the big wins and even bigger thrills, maybe it’s time to shut down the Spotify in favour of a game with a far less predictable rhythm and a few unexpected beats along the way.


Image ‘#MYLDN (331)’ by Babycakes Romero

Photographers Website

  • The secret to the perfect day…in the quiet moments…the poetic moments…having reached the peace inside enough to be able to hear the birds dawn chorus…those little bad boy birdies play some ripping tunes! Marley knew this. Everybody now 1, 2, 3…
    “Rise up this mornin’,
    Smiled with the risin’ sun,
    Three little birds
    Pitch by my doorstep
    Singin’ sweet songs
    Of melodies pure and true,
    Saying’, (“This is my message to you”)

    Singing’ “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
    ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”