Emotional and Social Factors influence Poker Decision Making Accuracy

J Gambl Stud. 2015 Sep;31(3):933-47. doi: 10.1007/s10899-014-9454-5.


Poker is a social game, where success depends on both game strategic knowledge and emotion regulation abilities. Thus, poker provides a productive environment for studying the effects of emotional and social factors on micro-economic decision making. Previous research indicates that experiencing negative emotions, such as moral anger, reduces mathematical accuracy in poker decision making. Furthermore, various social aspects of the game—such as losing against "bad players" due to "bad luck"—seem to fuel these emotional states. We designed an Internet-based experiment, where participants' (N = 459) mathematical accuracy in five different poker decision making tasks were assessed. In addition, we manipulated the emotional and social conditions under which the tasks were presented, in a 2 × 2 experimental setup: (1) Anger versus neutral emotional state—participants were primed either with an anger-inducing, or emotionally neutral story, and (2) Social cue versus non-social cue—during the tasks, either an image of a pair of human eyes was "following" the mouse cursor, or an image of a black moving box was presented. The results showed that anger reduced mathematical accuracy of decision making only when participants were "being watched" by a pair of moving eyes. Experienced poker players made mathematically more accurate decisions than inexperienced ones. The results contribute to current understanding on how emotional and social factors influence decision making accuracy in economic games.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anger*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Reward
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Conditions
  • Surveys and Questionnaires