No matter who you are or what you do, it’s important to stay mentally sharp — after all, it simply makes life easier. It helps you make decisions faster, compete better, and enjoy your activities. These days, there are countless tips and tricks out there for improving your mental agility. Apps, dietary changes, meditation… everyone has a different suggestion.

Since you’ve read the title, you know what my suggestion is: take up casino card games. Does that seem odd? It shouldn’t. There are several reasons why casino card games are great for your mental agility. Let’s take a closer look at how they can help you sharpen up:

They can improve your short-term memory

At a minimum, casino card games require you to keep track of your cards. You can also try to keep track of which cards have been played (and thus which cards are left), and use that information to infer the odds of particular cards coming up. Should you do that in a casino? Well, card counting can sometimes work in that context — but it’s considered a bannable offence. You’re best served giving it a try when playing casino card games at home.

And then there’s the matter of keeping track of how other players behave. In poker, for instance, you can look for tells, consider how often people raise or call, and consider the extent to which they take cues from one another. All of this activity will be great for your short-term memory, helping you to hold a lot of information in your mind at any given time.

They can keep you motivated to perform

Regular card games can be very enjoyable, of course, and are relatively low-pressure — but it’s the pressure of casino card games that makes them so engaging and intense. Even if you’re not competing for monetary rewards, there is certainly some kind of competitive element, and it’s easy to be motivated by competition.

If you are competing for money, then you’ll have a major incentive to perform well. It’s so much easier to get better at a particular task when that’s the case, and simply wanting to improve your mental agility is something of a vague motivator. When you’re so close to winning a tidy sum, you’ll find yourself concentrating in a way you couldn’t previously have achieved.

They can switch up your challenge

How many casino card games are there? There are the basic categories — poker, baccarat, blackjack — and then there are countless variants that can be played. You can pick from established rulesets, or mix things up in a manner of your preference: change the size of each hand, for instance, or disallow certain cards.

Additionally, you can change the stakes. If you think you’re hitting a wall, why not put something new on the line? More money, or something more personal if you’re playing against friends or family members — doing dishes for a week, perhaps. Because you can play card games extremely cheaply and at almost any time (just take a deck and some chips wherever you go), you’ll always be able to find fresh ways to tax your mental prowess.

Keeping your mind sharp is just as important as staying physically healthy, but you don’t need anything expensive to manage it. Casino card games are cheap to play and easy to pick up, but brutally hard to master, ensuring that you’ll always have more to learn. Why bother with brain-training apps when you could be playing poker instead?

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