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Spotify playlist

We all love to listen to music during our daily activities, whether it’s having a soundtrack to accompany our commute to work, rocking out to a few loud songs while knocking back a few pints at the pub, or getting pumped up to fast-paced thrashing tunes while working out.

If you have a permissive work environment, then you have the good fortune to be able to listen to music while you’re slaving away at work. But every boss should let their employees listen to music, according to research. It turns out that many already do: 58% of managers believe that turning off music permanently would damage their employees’ productivity, and 88% of them agree that it makes for a better work environment .

Listening to music can actually enhance the brain and you’d be surprised with the sheer volume of in-depth studies of the subject. In 1991, researchers first discovered what they dubbed the “Mozart Effect,” in a two-year study which revealed that listening to classical music enhances brain functions. Most recently, scientists at Sapienza University of Rome found that “Mozart’s music is able to ‘activate’ neuronal cortical circuits (circuits of nerve cells in the brain) related to attentive and cognitive functions.”

This, in conjunction with our sheer urge to love music, makes it evident that professionals from all walks of life would turn to music, and not only for entertainment purposes. According to a BBC article, 73% of warehouse workers say music increases their productivity, while 65% business owners and managers agree that their employees are more productive when listening to music at the workplace. Professional athletes can also benefit from music, as it has been found in two separate studies from 2006 to increase their performance.

Another interesting case in point, which combines all the above, is the glamorous but stressful world of professional poker. As the cream of the crop, Team PokerStars recently decided to share their Spotify playlists. At first glance, it seems that poker players would want to listen to classical music, particularly Mozart, to enhance their cognitive ability while playing in high-stakes games.

Still, a look into the Spotify playlists of Team PokerStars pros reveals that only a couple of pros included classical music tracks on their playlists. Instead, most prefer to listen to their favorite artists to put them in a comfortable and energetic mood. Music’s stress-reducing abilities were proven in a 2005 clinical trial. This, as scientists from BMS College observed, is even more evident when one chooses music with about 60 bpm.

Poker is one of the professions where it’s highly important to keep a calm and cool mindset. Poker players will often turn to music to help keep them chilled out. Music has always been a way to trigger emotions – both good and bad. When music stimulates the brain, it has the powerful ability to evoke memories.

Poker pros set their own rules since they’re self-employed and don’t have to deal with horrible bosses. They also have the benefit of being able to listen to music at the poker table (using headphones). Plus, online poker players have the added advantage of playing poker from the confines of their own homes, where they can crank up the music to help get them in a better mood. Sometimes music can be as strong as a shot of espresso. For some pros logging long sessions late into the night, fast-paced music at a loud volume can help them stay awake and alert.

Veil of Maya - Dan Hauser - photo by Hannah Cole

Many of the younger pros have an affinity for EDM. Electronica is both upbeat and energetic, and the fastest-growing music genre among teenagers and young adults. These days, DJs are the new rock stars. A stack of Marshall amps and a Flying V guitar have sadly been replaced by a laptop.

From a heavy metal standpoint, there are no big-time headbangers in this batch of poker pro Spotify playlists. There are definitely a few rock enthusiasts, but nothing really harder than AC/DC. – which we find surprising. Is it that some of these poker pros do go for harder sounds, just not at the table? Or did they perhaps simply choose more mainstream-friendly songs for their public playlists?

Let’s look at some of these playlists from real professional poker players:


Hometown: Singapore

Playlist Artists: AC/DC, Linkin Park, Blink 182, Green Day, The Killers, Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Yellowcard, and American Hi-Fi.

Quick Analysis: Bryan Huang’s most-rocking tunes are Linkin Park and AC/DC, but he also likes classic rock (The Stones), 80s hair rock (Bon Jovi), and 90s pop-punk (Blink 182 and Green Day). He also has an interesting choice with little-known Yellowcard, who originally started as a hardcore-punk outfit from Jacksonville, Florida before they rounded off the edges. Huang also has a great sense of humor. One of the songs on his list is “The Art of Losing” by American Hi-Fi – imagine him listening to that while winning big pots!

Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet album art


Hometown: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Playlist Artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Clash, REM, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Offspring, Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Aerosmith, Kings of Leon, Bon Jovi, White Stripes, Cardigans, Beyonce, N’Sync, The Backstreet Boys, D’Angelo

Quick Analysis: Fatima Moreira de Melo is a former women’s field hockey player who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Fatima became a poker pro shortly after she retired. Her playlist is a mix of classic rock (Aerosmith) and 90s pop (Chili Peppers, Offspring, Sum 41), but she also has an affinity for 90s boy bands (N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys), which seems like an odd combination, but to each his (or her) own.



Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Playlist Artists: PSY, Muse, The Who, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Foo Fighters, REM, Rory Gallagher, Kings of Leon, Red Sun Rising, Joe Bonamassa, Bruno Mars, and Maroon 5.

Quick Analysis: Vivian Im studied dance at university before she became a full-time poker pro. Her playlist includes the King of K-Pop PSY along with lot of American pop (Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, and Thirty Second to Mars). Her most rocking songs are from Foo Fighters and The Who. But still quite pop-y, yes?



Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Playlist Artists: Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, Bach, Ludovico Einaudi, and Angele Dubeau

Quick Analysis: Mexican pro studied engineering in college before choosing to play poker full-time. Limon has undoubtedly shared the most fascinating playlist. He’s also one of the few pros who listens to classical music, but combining it with quite noisy and rather obscure tracks in a way that makes his intelligence show. In addition to the Nine Inch Nails and Sigur Ros, Limon loaded his playlist with classical music behemoth Bach. Limon also prefers violin-heavy tracks by Angèle Dubeau.



Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Playlist Artists: Fundo de Quintal and Zeca Pagodinho

Quick Analysis: So it’s not metal, but it’s definitely something that gets you moving and grooving. It’s no surprise that Brazilian pro Andre Akkari prefers to listen to samba music while he plays poker – and he’s got the most monolithic (no, in the other sense!) of choices: His playlist is comprised of a handful of Brazilian samba artists. The winner of the 2011 $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event bracelet at the WSOP simply can’t be a one-trick pony, as his lifetime winnings of over $3,240,000 and status as Team PokerStars member show, so we’ll just assume he really likes to party.



Hometown: Hong Kong

Playlist Artists: The Smiths, Foals, Kasabian, Fear of Men, Wolf Alice, and The Enemy.

Quick Analysis: Originally from Shanghai, Celina Lin is a rising star on the Asian circuit. She also has a special place in her heart for modern British indie rock bands (Foals, Kasabian, Fear of Men, Wolf Alice, and The Enemy) and when she’s in special grind mode, she listens to nothing except Enigma. The British connection is easily explainable, as British culture is very popular in China. As for Enigma, it seems that Lin uses ethereal music to help her concentrate and keep a good poker face on the felt tables.



Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Playlist Artists: Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Mumford & Sons, Cold War Kids, Death Cab for Cutie, Belle & Sebastian, Florence + The Machine, Cake, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Jay Z, and P!nk

Quick Analysis: Vanessa Selbst put herself through law school while playing poker on the side. The most successful female pro in the world put her law career on hold while she crushed the tables. Vanessa’s playlist is a mix of classics (Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens) and a ton of Brooklyn hipster stuff (Mumford & Sons, Cold War Kids, Death Cab for Cutie, and Vampire Weekend). Nothing in her playlist is riff-heavy. Instead, she rocks out to Jay Z.



After a quick sampling of playlists from seven poker pros – from Brooklyn to Hong Kong to Rotterdam to Singapore to Brazil to Mexico City to South Korea – we learned that they might be making millions of dollars at the poker tables, but they should really expand their musical horizons. Here’s hoping a future pro steals the show while listening to The Dillinger Escape Plan!