Mental Game Coach Jared Tendler has helped thousands of poker players increase their focus and mental endurance. This week he gives advice to all our PartyPoker WSOP qualifiers on how to stay sharp during the main event.
When You Arrive
It is very easy to get caught up in the Las Vegas lifestyle, since every day there is an opportunity to go out and party. There is nothing wrong with having a great time in Vegas, in fact if you cut yourself off from it completely, you might actually play worse. The most important thing is to prioritize your days. That way you won’t be dealing with a hangover the day of the main event or a big tournament, nor will poker be the only thing you do while you’re there.
Before You Start To Play Each Day
Before you start playing, set some clear goals around what you need to do to make quality decisions. Write down on a piece of paper or a note on your phone what these goals are to remind yourself later. If you are getting distracted easily, make your goals to not be distracted. Setting these goals focuses your mind and help keeps it sharp. Although, you are going to have to push yourself through some tough stretches where, for example, your mind may be tired or distracted. Remind yourself of your goals, and refocus on playing as well as you can. Rise and repeat as often as needed.
During the WSOP
You get a lot of short breaks during tournaments, use them effectively. Your brain can become bloated and tired because it has too much information swirling around. All the past action can clog your brain like rush hour traffic in a major city. The best way to clear your head is to talk to likeminded players about what’s on your mind and become more certain about what you’re seeing. Just be careful not to make this into time when you’re just venting and moaning. Rather than focusing on things you can’t change, talk about the questions you have about the action that will help you to play better in the future.
If you don’t have any poker friends nearby, call some up to get their feedback. If that isn’t possible, write down your thoughts on a laptop or as a note on your phone. Getting this information out of your head either on paper or in conversation allows you to gain some clarity on the action and refines your strategy. When you get back to playing, you’ll notice how much easier it to think—just like it’s easier to drive when there’s no traffic.
At the End of Each Day
You will have tons of information swirling around your head at the end of the day and it is a good idea to make some notes, maybe a short journal, to get these ideas out of your head. However, do not overdo it. It can be really easy to talk about poker for the rest of the day, but that is a waste of energy when you should in fact be relaxing. Use whatever time you have before bed to relax and take your mind off poker.
If You Don’t Win the Main Event
Every player in the main event is going to dream about what it would be like to win it, much in the same way many of you have imagined winning the lottery. The players who have the most success are the ones who change the focus from what it would be like, to how you can go about getting it. The players who just fixate on the end result of what it would be like to win are less like to win, and more likely to be very disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
It is great to have a dream; that isn’t the problem. The problem is getting so caught up in the dream you do not do enough to make it happen. If you instead focus on what needs to be done to give yourself the best possible chance of winning, busting out of the main event isn’t your last chance. The WSOP is not going anywhere, and if you see playing in it as an opportunity to learn, so you know what you need to improve on the next time, busting out isn’t as bad. It sucks at the time, but use it as fuel for you to work harder and give yourself and even better opportunity next year.
No matter how excited or confident you feel, there are thousands of other players and variance standing in your way. This is a tournament where most the best players in the world are watching from the sidelines after day one. Don’t put too much stock in winning the main event, but use it both as an opportunity to have some fun and most of all as an incredible poker learning experience so that you come back stronger next year.
Jared Tendler is poker’s leading expert in the mental game. He coaches some of the top players in poker and over a 150 other pros from around the world. Jared’s new book “The Mental Game of Poker,” is now available at www.mentalgameofpoker.com.