Have you ever felt ‘off’ before a poker match? Ever felt plagued with hesitation and ended up second-guessing every move you make? Days like these are common for all poker players –– regardless if you’re a novice or experienced player. After all, we’re only human, and we can’t expect ourselves to be at our peak all the time. That being said, we can try to ensure that we keep to our best performance most of the time. One of the surefire ways to do that is to create and implement a poker warm-up routine.
Whilst routines can differ from person to person, a good routine should accomplish three things: to eliminate any potential distractions, help you to reflect upon your newfound knowledge, and calm your mental state. Read more to find out more!
The first thing to do is to create a serene and calm environment –– one without any potential distractions around you or in your head. As we know, poker is a complex game that demands an intense amount of mental strength as well as a steady flow of full attention, especially if you’re managing several tables at once. To maximize your success rate, we recommend isolating yourself from distractions to ensure that 100% of your attention is placed on the game.
Firstly, you’ll want to clear your bladder before the start of the match. Multiple trips to the restroom can interrupt the flow of the game. Secondly, you should place your phone out of sight, so you’re not distracted if a call or message were to come in. At the same time, you could have your social media notifications on mute so that you will not be constantly updated or distracted by notifications during your game. Thirdly, make sure to eat a snack and have water on standby before starting the game. Entering the game on an empty stomach can potentially cloud your judgment. Fourthly, ensure that any housemates, partners, friends, or family members aren’t disturbing you during your game. Lastly, shut out any noise disruption that could break your focus. Closing the windows, listening to soothing music, and shutting the blinds are great ways to get rid of urban noise.
Don’t underestimate the importance of studying. We recommend dedicating an hour each day to study what you’ve learned from previous matches, or from observing how professionals play. Take some time to scroll through social media platforms, or read professional gambling blogs that break down poker gameplays –– for example, beatthefish.com did this review that we recommend. However, blindly studying without application is useless. You’ll want to spend a few minutes before each match to go over what key pointers you’ve picked up so that the information stays fresh in your mind.
For instance, if you’ve struggled with playing post-flop with a weak hand after fighting against the big blind, but have also learned about newfound poker range work, you might want to apply these tactics in your upcoming session. Take time to reflect upon your recent hands that you may have folded too quickly or over-called in the big blind. Recall your thought process, and think of alternative ways that you could have played these hands instead. You might discover the need for minor adjustments to your gameplay, or a pressing need to implement significant change. Either way, you’re better equipped to take your opponent down.
Many factors in life can keep you on edge or distracted from the game –– be it work stress, relationship issues, fatigue, burnout, and so on. Hence, it’s important to assess your mental state, and eliminate any factors that could end up affecting your game. If you are experiencing high levels of tiredness, irritation, frustration, or sadness, you might want to hold off that upcoming game. Poker is as stressful as it can be, without including any emotional baggage into the picture. It’s better to conceptualize and work through your feelings before rushing into the next game –– you’ll thank me later.
Even if you’re mentally ready to start a game, it’s good to listen to some soothing music and meditate to keep you relaxed before you play. Having a brief moment of relaxation would help you enter a neutral state of mind, where you’re best suited to make rational decisions. It’s also important to let go of any expectations. You may end up busting your first tournament, or throwing away two buy-ins in the first five minutes of game time –– but that’s okay. Remember, you don’t want to let these short-term results steer you away from the end goal. Poker is a marathon, not a sprint.
Let’s take a close look at professional poker player Jamie Kerstetter and see how he warms up before his live cash games. The first thing Kerstetter does is to check social media to find any worthwhile games that are suitable to spectate or play in. Next, he takes his mind off by accomplishing non-poker-related tasks, such as answering emails, doing household chores, and walking pets. Next, he exercises and eats a sufficient meal before taking a hot shower. This combination of poker and non-poker-related activities helps Kerstetter to steady his mental state and prepare himself –– both physically and mentally –– for a match.
Alternatively, professional player Elliot Roe sums up his warm-up routine in five stages. First, he attends to any physical needs, such as having nutritious snacks, drinking water, and relieving himself. Next, he goes over any strategic goals and potential challenges for the upcoming session –– this gives him a morale booster and increased concentration. He then stimulates his mind by playing with a few hands, to prepare his mind for poker. Fourthly, Roe transits from a ‘preparation’ mindset to a ‘performance’ one, by listening to meditation and music to get him in the zone. Lastly, he removes any physical and mental distractions that could potentially hinder his gameplay.
Poker isn’t a game for the faint or weak-hearted. You have to go in with a strong mindset, and emerge with a stronger one –– one that is free from physical and mental distractions from the outside world. At the same time, it’s also equally important to take care of any physical needs, such as ensuring proper nutrition, hydration, rest, and hygiene. Clearing your surroundings from any noise or digital pollution can help heighten concentration and focus. Lastly, don’t forget to keep a sharp mind and be ready to impart any relevant information into your gameplay.