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. And incase you missed it you can read Part 1 right here. Enjoy:
Winning poker tournaments is why you play them. The only problem is that many tournaments take hours to complete and can run late into the night. Playing poker for over 10 hours straight can be a daunting task and really put a strain on your skills if you’re not used to it.
In my last article which you can read here, I gave a handful of proven tips to help you maintain your A-game throughout a long tournament. But, people are unique and so here’s another batch of advice that may do the trick for you.
Think of focusing throughout the tournament like shifting through the gears of a car. When you are engaged in a hand that has to be your only focus; you’re in 5th gear. However, when you’re not in a hand you don’t need, and moreover, can’t maintain such intensity. A lot of people, especially early in a tournament, are too jacked up.
They try to focus on every tiny detail right from the start and they end up burning themselves out. They’ve revved the engine, but not achieved anything productive. You can’t learn something definitive about someone that quickly, and if anything might read too much into things. Therefore, you need to have a looser focus at the start. You still need to engage with what’s going on, but not as intensely as when you’re in a hand; get in 3rd gear. You will see many pros start a tournament relaxed because they know they can’t do it all on the first hour. They’re prepared to gradually move up through their gears and settle in for the long haul.
As I just mentioned, many players start a tournament too excited. Although excitement can keep you going during a tough grind, it can also cause you to play poorly. If you’re too excited the part of the brain responsible for high level thinking can actually shut down. Excessive levels of all emotions, whether it’s anger, fear, or excitement, has the power to shut off your ability to think. Lots of players get overexcited at the start of tournaments, and just give away their chips. Don’t be one of them. Plus, even if you’re able to control your excitement and play well at the start of the tournament, you burned up so much energy that you’ll get tired at the end—when you need it most. Rather than let your emotions get the best of you, remember that you can’t win a tournament in the first level, but what you do in that level can make it more likely for you to lose it.
Poker in not as physically demanding as sports tend to be—poker rooms aren’t really full of “athletes.” However, that doesn’t mean that being in good physical shape isn’t important. There is an ever growing body of research that points towards a strong link between mental and physical performance.
In my latest book The Mental Game of Poker 2, physical energy is cited as one of the fundamental components of getting into the zone consistently. The reason is that physical energy is the foundation to mental energy. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when you’re exhausted physically, you’re also not in the best mental shape.
Well, on the flip side, getting your body in to better shape gives you extra energy to have your mind function even better. That means you’ll read the action, make decisions, and focus with greater ease. These are all things that need mental energy. With more of it, you can do them better. Getting in better physical shape can be done simply by doing slightly more than you are currently doing. For example, try going to the gym one more day per week, or go for a 15 minute walk every other day.
Many players do not realize that mental endurance can be increased in similar way to physical endurance—steadily over time. Sure you may be able to play a 14 hour tournament once, but unless you’ve trained that level of mental endurance eventually your mind will break down if you don’t get enough rest. This breakdown is the same thing that happens to the body if you overextend yourself for too long. If you plan on playing tournaments regularly, try playing shorter tournaments or SNG’s that can help you control the length of time you’re playing. If you can maintain high quality focus for 4 hours, for example, then push yourself to play for 30 minutes longer for the next several sessions. If you find the quality of your play dipping in those extra 30 minutes, work hard and push yourself mentally to keep the quality of your play high. Afterwards rest like you would after a tough workout. When you can do those extra 30 minutes and play well more easily, add more time. Then rise and repeat this process to keep building your mental endurance.
Ultimately, if you want to play great throughout a tournament you have to fight for it. If winning was easy and playing high level poker for 10+ hours straight was a breeze there would be no reward in it. If you make it to the final few table of a long tournament, whether you won or lost, and you’re not exhausted you didn’t work hard enough. Winning takes a little luck, and if you don’t win, but did everything you could to come out on top then you can consider that a win.
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.
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