I’ve been playing poker for years, probably longer than I’d like to admit to anyone, but playing tournaments not so long. Not until this past year had I given thought and effort towards preparing to play a long tournament. I wanted more than anything to have a great showing in the main event at the 2010 WSOP which I did by finishing 489th out of 7319 players. I never gave much thought to this process until recent articles about several poker pros that have been utilizing life coaches, dieticians, and physical trainers and living a less than partying life style. Okay, so I don’t live the party life style, scratch that one off! There must be something here though that I’d been missing because I now give all the credit of my deep run in the WSOP to pre-tournament prepping.
First I took a look at my thought processing during a poker tournament. I have a little check list I go through every time I sit down at a tournament table. Get to the table early to watch players get ready, NO talking, listen intently to the player interaction, watch player’s movements, learn their betting patterns, see as many cards as possible, watch how they handle chips and learn any tells if possible. This is the short list but you get my essential thoughts of first impressions at the table. My interaction with my opponents always has room for improvement and my pattern of thought is probably very typical of many players, but I needed a change in this area to give my game an additional edge and a stronger motivation to move forward with confidence.
Poker has changed tremendously in the past five years. It no longer takes a seasoned player of 20 years to win huge tournaments but only a player of 20 years of age to win one. There are probably many reasons why but for this blog article I’m going to pick a couple of “key points” to analyze. The largest and most reported point of poker today is the fact that young minds have entered the game, with that; the game has totally emerged as a thinking strategist game. More players are playing the people rather than the cards with more aggression and courage. The ability to disassociate the value of the hand has become key in many successful strategies. As result hyper-aggressive players have emerged that create emotions in their opponents and exploit them to their advantage. These kinds of players often wear on us as frustration sets in as well as other negative emotions. So how do we combat these emotions and players? Learning how to make adjustments in your game and thought processes can only improve your ability to cope and play a more competitive game and overcome these obstacles. If you are going to have an accomplished poker career you have to take this seriously because the player across from you certainly is. Enter the life/poker coach.
I turned to a life coach who applied her skills to my specialized needs for my game. I explained to her where my head is in my personal life as well as my poker life and we met in the middle by cleaning out my needless mind clutter and reaffirming my positive energy. This takes a lot of self exploration which I found I needed pretty bad. If my mind wasn’t on what I was doing at the poker table, but somewhere else, how in the world was success ever going to be possible? So with that, we began cleaning out my wandering thought issues and learned patterns of thought to enable my thought processing at the poker table to be only poker. Once this felt comfortable we tackled my ability to focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand. This in part requires absolutely no interferences, diversions or distractions of ANY kind during the days of a long tournament. A support system at home is paramount. In my case, my husband and I discussed that I shouldn’t be involved with anything of a distracting nature during the WSOP, and he would deal with everything until I was available after the tournament. Secondly we developed a little reminder list for keeping myself aligned with my goals. Acknowledging to yourself in a positive rather than negative will drive your efforts towards your ultimate goal.
This is my list:
A – Affirming the goal as if you’ve already achieved it!
V – Visualizing the end result
I – Identifying the form any resistance has taken
C- Clearing the resistance that stands in the way of achieving your goal.
*There is no such thing as losing, just learning lessons to set yourself up for your next win!
Thirdly and probably a very important acknowledgement for me was to never have negative thoughts about what was happening. Letting go of negative emotional energy was as simple as recognizing its influence and existence. The reason for this is simple, your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between positive and negative, and therefore processes every thought as a positive. Keeping negative thoughts out of your thinking at a poker table is very difficult. I learned to focus and concentrate on individual incidents, analyze to a positive solution quickly and move on to the next hand and play without any further thought or analysis. This helps to eliminate steaming, tilting, emotional and stress factors as well as getting stuck in your thoughts of how you should have played that hand over and over in your head and questioning your last move or lack of. MY confidence and attitude improved to the degree that even my poker friends could see the change in my over all demeanor.
You may not recognize it but fear is a major influence on our game. Hesitation, reluctance and lack of courage to follow through with a decision often keep a player from advancing on a consistent basis. To overcome this emotion I have changed two things in my game. Focus and applied logic. Certainly there is way more exploration on both these topics than can be written here, but I have total confidence that I can continue to grow in this area of my game with the help of my life/poker coach. Changing my behavioral patterns thru coaching reflects my ability to focus on a competitive level allowing me to advance in my game. I no longer let outside thoughts and influences invade my train of thought while at the table. Following this change, my thoughts on logical deduction and math options improved. It just seemed like a natural thought occurrence that I’d never had before, so it was all new and made possible by clearing out my fear.
Dieticians can be costly. When you see specially prepared foods being delivered table side to famous players, don’t you wonder why they are doing that? It is no secret that you should eat a balanced diet to keep your mind and body sharp for the long haul ahead, but you don’t have to pay the extra dollars for a specialized meal schedule unless you just want too. I pack nutritious snacks such as granola bars and fruit to get me through until the dinner breaks. Then at dinner I eat protein, vegetables and very little carbohydrates as those make me feel tired and sleepy. All through the day I drink water, Gatorade and Green Tea. No alcohol. This is no time or place for any kind of impairment.
Physical fitness also can play a part in your ability to maintain your stamina for long sessions. If your back starts hurting or you get cramps easily, you have to combat that somehow so that your comfort level is maintained and your concentration remains on the task at hand. There are no rules against getting up at the table when you’re not in hand and doing a few stretches. Several pros have work out regimes we read about them constantly; I however really do not have an exercise program in which I am faithful. Walking, getting plenty of rest and not over exerting myself has helped me get through long sessions but this part of my “program” will improve with time.
For those who might be interested in further investigating a life coach for their poker career, I recommend Lisa Ulshafer who has helped me beyond my expectations. Find Lisa’s services at www.lasvegaslifecoach.com