If you have read many poker strategy articles, then at some point you have probably seen a tip along the lines of not playing poker when you are tired. The typical reason behind this is because that players that play poker when they are fatigued are more likely to make mistakes than they are when they are alert. Now, a report has been released that proves that gamblers tend to chase bigger gains while risking huge losses just based on lack of sleep alone.
Researchers at Duke University studied 29 individuals to see their tendencies related to gambling in both a well rested stated and in a sleep deprived state. Researchers discovered that patients that had adequate sleep tended to guard against loss like one would expect. They also discovered that patients that were sleep deprived did the opposite. They tended to chase large gains at the expensive of risking huge losses.
Researchers also discovered that this shift was independent on a players ability to concentrate. MRI scans revealed that players that were sleep deprived had more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that is typically associated with risk, fear, and decision making.
According to Vinod Venkatraman, a graduate researcher at Duke, the players that are sleep deprived “are facing more than just unfavorable odds. They are fighting a sleep-deprived brain’s tendency to implicitly seek gains while discounting the impact of potential losses.”
It is also worth noting that Vankatraman added that measures that are customarily used to combat fatigue and increase alertness may not make any difference in changing the brain’s ability to guard against loss. As such, those that take stimulants, drink coffee, etc to play long sessions may not be helping themselves.
This study seems to go hand in hand with most typical poker advice. When you are well rested, you will make better decisions. When you are sleep deprived, you will chase more often. That makes one wonder if players that play for a day or two at a time walk away a winner because they are good, or because they happened to run lucky.