All in the cards: Top card games to keep your mind sharp and your hands occupied

January 6, 2012 at 9:33 a.m.

There is nothing like the camaraderie generated by a group of friends playing cards. It is good for the soul, but are you aware it also sharpens the mind? Challenging card games improve concentration, memory and analytical skills. What better way to spend a relaxing evening than enjoying both the social and mental enrichment that playing cards provides?

The best cognitively demanding card games are those that incorporate memory, strategy and attentiveness. It may be as simple as playing concentration or match with a partner, or as complex as a evening playing bridge. Gin rummy is an old favorite that requires careful attention to what cards players have picked up and discarded. The ability to do this greatly enhances a player's chance of winning. One of the challenges of a hearty round of poker is perceiving and interpreting the subtle signals others emanate as they try to win the game. This combines an array of both cognitive and complex interpersonal skills that really keep the brain sharp.

Card games rely heavily on short-term memory skills but have also been shown to improve long-term memory and other cognitive functions as well, so take delight in the wonderful benefits cards provide. Routine and boredom are huge culprits when it comes to brain stagnation. Try a variety of different card games to keep your competitions mentally challenging.

You can also get brain exercise playing cards with an electronic opponent. There are vast numbers of card games online that provide the same cognitive challenges as playing with a human opponent. You will not get the conversation and social boost, but levels of concentration are usually deeper without the distractions of friends around the table. Just remember that all games are intended as enjoyment, the brain benefits are simply an added bonus!

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