Testosterone Makes You Worse at Poker

According to a new study conducted by the Department of Psychology of Utrecht in the Netherlands, testosterone may make people more “risk averse” — and can seriously affect the prowess of someone’s poker game. But it may not be in the way you originally expected.

The study aimed to determine the effects of testosterone and to discern whether or not the hormone rightly deserved the negative characteristics that were typically associated with it, such as “economically egoistic and materialistic behaviors.”

Conversely, testosterone has also been associated by some researchers with “economically fair, generous and cooperative behaviors” while being driven by “reputable status seeking.”

According to long-standing research, testosterone typically peaks at age 30 for men and decreases by one to two percent each year as an individual ages.

But which is it really? The researchers at University of Utrecht sought to settle it once and for all with a good old fashioned poker match.

For the study, the researchers gave a group of women either testosterone-laden lozenges or placebo lozenges and sat them down to a game of poker.

For the poker match, the women were asked to play a simplified computerized heads up poker game.

As any seasoned player knows, one of the best strategies is based on the Nash Equilibrium. The researchers posited,

“The most profitable strategy for placing a bet depends on the strength of the hand. For a sufficiently strong hand, the player should always bid high. For weaker hands the player should bid irregularly high and low… to create uncertainty, and consequently protect the player against deviations from the equilibrium strategy of the opponent.”

They continued, “In particular, the player should bet mostly ‘low’ on weaker hands … However, according to the [Nash] equilibrium, strategy players should place irregularly randomly distributed bluffs.”

According to the rules of poker, one of the most foolish things a player can do is call a bluff, as this is not a profitable long-term strategy. Rather, bluffing in and of itself is the best strategy, as it prevents players from being caught cheating.

In the results, the researchers found that the women who were given testosterone lozenges did more calling than bluffing.

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