Jared Tendler is a mental game coach to over 300 professional poker players and the author of The Mental Game of Poker as a regular guest to the partypoker he’s here to talk about how to focus especially for the LONG GAME. Enjoy:
Going deep in an online tournament like the upcoming partypoker $500k Guaranteed with a chance to win is why you play. It’s a thrill to make the final table with the pressure on and some good money at stake.
The only problem is that many of these tournaments last for hours and run deep into the night. Getting close to winning a title is great, but not if you’re too tired to really have a chance. Playing poker for 10 hours straight, or more, can be daunting and really put a strain on your game if you’re not used to it.
For the past seven years
I’ve coached over 300 poker players on the mental game. Very often, that means helping them to play great poker for long periods of time, such as making Palladium Elite or through a full schedule at the WSOP.
If you want to maintain your A-game throughout a long tournament and give yourself the best opportunity to win, try some of the following advice that’s been proven to work for other players.
Obviously you want to win. But so does everyone else. As the tournament grinds along it can be easy to allow your focus to drift…you open up Facebook, check email, or chat with friends on Skype.
Goals direct your focus and if your only goal is to win, you might forget about the little things you need to do in order to win—like focus. So set the goal to maintain steady focus throughout the tournament, think through every important decision, think deeply about how your opponents’ game, and even to push yourself to play in the zone.
These types of goals give your mind clear direction and make it easier to maintain focus.
Eliminate External Distractions
We live in a culture of constant distraction and poker players are particularly prone to them. Whether it is a smartphone, chatting on Skype, watching TV or browsing the internet, it’s becoming incredibly easy to lose concentration.
The reason that’s such a problem is because your brain can only handle a limited amount of information at any one time. Within the brain is a place called “Working Memory.” Whenever you can hear yourself think, or can imagine a picture in you mind, it happens in Working Memory.
This space is limited to between five and nine pieces of information at one time—even less if you are excited or on tilt. So purposely inviting more distractions is going to severely limit your ability to perform.
Chatting on Skype while you play online might take up two or three pieces of Working Memory. That could be half your full capacity! At the time, it may not seem as though you’re missing much of the action, but this proves you’re missing a large amount.
In Fact Just Remove Them All…
One of the most beneficial changes you can make to your game is simply removing all, or many, of these distractions before you play. Make a list of all the typical distractions and commit to removing them. Turn off your phone, shut down skype, tell your friends you won’t be available for the next several hours, turn off the TV, and eat before you play.
Learn to Refocus
Your goal may be to maintain focus throughout a long tournament, but the odds are that at some point you’re going to lose it. This is to be expected. Each person has a level of distraction they can comfortably deal with and you need to find yours. Spend a few minutes thinking about the point where you’ve lost too much focus.
Top 3 Ways Of Maintaining Focus
Look out for the signs that your focus is dropping while playing and do the following three steps:
- Take a couple of deep breaths to steady and focus your mind.
- Think about your goals to motivate you to increase your focus, for example “I want to win this tournament so I can take my family on a great vacation.”
- Remind yourself of some technical keys to playing well so you can easily refocus on the action.
Less Than 20 Seconds…That’s It!
These steps can be done together in less than 20 seconds, and while they may not immediately get you refocused, if they at least stop your focus from getting worse you’ve accomplished something. Just remember, you may need to repeat these steps often throughout the tournament. Once you’ve lost focus the first time the odds are that it’ll happen again. So be prepared.
And Learn To Maintain It!
Maintaining focus throughout a tournament is critical—the only way you can win without it is to get extremely lucky! Don’t leave your success to chance. Putting even just a little bit of effort can make a significant difference in your ability to sustain the focus needed for success. Try some of these tips, and in Part 2 I’ll be back soon with a handful of new ones.
Jared Tendler is a mental game coach to over 300 professional poker players and the author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. Both books are available in book stores worldwide, and available for free on audiobook. For info on his books and coaching go to: www.jaredtendlerpoker.com.