For tournament poker players, endurance is as important a skill as any. It's easy to play your 'A-game' early in a tournament, but can you keep it going? Here are 6 tips to keep your head straight (and eyes open) during long tournaments.
Poker success is dependent upon many factors, some of which have nothing to do with actual in-game strategy. For tournament players, endurance is as important a skill as any. It’s not uncommon for a large field online tournament to last over 10 hours, and since most of the money is at the top, you can’t achieve serious poker success without being able to stay sharp and focused until the very end. The more tired you get, the more difficult it is to make good decisions. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself in hour eight of a long tournament making mistakes that you would never make in hour one. And if you’re really not careful, the worst can happen. I’m ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion I have fallen asleep with hundreds of dollars-worth of online tournaments running. It’s always the worst feeling to wake up a few hours later, slouched over my lap top with the realization that I’ve been blinded off in all my games and lost all the money I invested. Don’t ever let this happen to you! Here are 6 ways to stay alert during those epic tournament battles.
Get plenty of exercise
Before and during the tournament. I try and make sure to go for a run or hit the gym earlier in the day before a big tournament grind, but it’s also important to move around a bit during the game. Walk around, do some push ups or just get out of your seat and play standing up for a few minutes. Listen to poker’s resident super hero Jason Koon and stay active any way you can.
Eat healthy food
Sugar is for children. Put down the skittles and the coca cola and replace them with healthy snacks like nuts and fruits. Poker requires a well-functioning brain, and brains love healthy fats and proteins. Whatever temporary energy spike you get from junk foods will be negated by the inevitable crash. For me it’s very simple, I play well when I feel well and I feel well when I eat well.
I know nothing about the science behind this trend and don’t support or deny any of the nutritional claims made about ‘Bulletproof coffee’. All I can say is that I’ve tried it multiple times and it works for me. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, maybe not, but coffee with grass-fed (unsalted) butter instead of regular cream is delicious and when I drink it I feel alert and sharp for much longer than with normal coffee. If this sounds too weird for you, green tea is a more conventional source of sustained energy.
Drink a lot of water
In addition to the ‘bulletproof coffee’ or green tea, I drink liters of water during a long tournament. Staying hydrated is a great way to keep yourself alert and feeling well, and it’s hard to fall asleep when you have to pee every ten minutes! This is more practical during online tournaments of course, when you don’t have to travel too far to the bathroom (and can even take your lap top with you!).
Don’t drink alcohol
This should be a no-brainer but in fact alcohol is commonly linked with poker for many recreational players (and even some pros). I know it’s fun to drink a few beers while playing but our goal is to make money, so save it for after the game. Some players believe that the benefit of being relaxed outweighs the loss of mental focus and decision making power, but for most people this simply isn’t true. It’s much better to be the alert sober guy at a table full of drunk people. If you want to go deep into poker tournaments you need to treat poker like any other job. Plus, you’ll enjoy it all much more after you’ve won the tournament and can fully relax.
Find a balance between side entertainment and distraction
If you want to be a serious poker player, you need to be able to focus solely on poker and devote 100% of your brain power to making correct decisions. While it’s important to eliminate distractions, it’s also nice to create a positive environment and doing so can really help to keep up your spirits during those long and (let’s face it) sometimes boring tournaments. Poker can be a lonely and heartbreaking game at times, so I find it incredibly beneficial to listen to upbeat music or even have a comedic TV show or movie playing in the background. The key is to not watch anything that requires the use of your brain. Don’t watch a film or TV series that’s complex and catches your attention, instead use some silly comedy that you don’t need to pay attention to. Characters in positive and happy films can be the perfect companions for your night of poker. They’re friendly and put you in a good mood, but unlike regular friends, you don’t have to talk to them or give them any of your mental energy!
(Psssst! We’re on YouTube – see, what we do there).