6 Small Hacks to Take Your Poker Performance to a Higher Level
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2014-08-17, by JTringerWhen we examine improving as a poker player, we typically focus on reviewing hands and identifying mistakes. For many players, however, there are simple ways that aren't even directly poker related that can make small, but significant differences to their game. Here are six bite-sized tips to help you optimize your poker play.
1. Drink Tea or Coffee Before Playing
Caffeine is one of, if not the most studied chemical out there. Even in small doses, it has been proven in numerous studies to improve focus and thought clarity. These are consequences that are obviously beneficial at the poker table. Both coffee and most types of tea have a significant dose of caffeine.
As long as you don't overdo it, a small drink before a session can be a great asset. It takes about 30-45 minutes for caffeine to kick in, but you should be good for at least 3 to 4 hours after that. Keep in mind that caffeine is a diuretic, so don't drink too much additional water beforehand.
2. Exercise on a Regular Basis
It doesn't matter what kind, but you need to exercise on a regular basis. There are so many benefits alone from the endorphins that are produced. You will not only be happier, but you'll think clearer, have more stamina, and find that stress melts away. If you like to exercise alone, go for a jog or bike ride. If you enjoy group exercise, join some local recreational leagues for a sport you enjoy.
3. Change Table Colors and Stay Alert
People have a tendency to 'zone out' when doing repetitive tasks. A good example of this is highway hypnosis, where people drive for several miles without even consciously being aware of it.
The same effect can often creep up when you're playing poker. Staring at the same tables for hours on end, clicking the same mouse can lull you into playing robotically. While taking breaks is useful, there are some subtle changes you can make to avoid this problem. The mind notices different things, so in order to keep it stimulated, change things up a little. You could:
? Change your table background drastically
? Change the location of the tables
? Use your left hand on the mouse
? Play a different game for a while (heads up, short handed, etc.)
4. Eliminate all Unnecessary Distractions
The best players like Phil Ivey exhibit laser-like focus. There could be a fire alarm going off next to them during a tough decision and they probably wouldn't notice. While that level of focus isn't needed for the majority of winning players, maintaining a solid level is.
You need to examine the biggest distractions to your play. Some players are unable to focus with music in the background or tend to browse the internet at the same time. Before your session starts, eliminate distractions by turning your phone to silent, closing all browsers, and getting rid of anything else that takes your mind off the game.
5. Eat Healthier
It may not be the first thing that you think of, but eating healthy is crucial to optimal brain function. Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients help the brain focus, make connections, and have stamina while making decisions.
We all know how to eat healthy more or less, it's just a question of doing it. Eating healthy fats have been shown to improve learning ability in studies. These are fats coming from fish, not pizza. Those small eating decisions you make on a daily basis have more of an effect on your poker results than you might think.
6. Create a "Poker Zone" and Routine
People have what is called state-dependent memory. While it's a fascinating subject, the basics of it, and what you need to know, is that people remember things better if they are in a similar situation. Have you ever noticed how certain songs automatically bring up past memories?
The same can be applied positively when you play poker. You essentially want to create the same environment so that lessons that you learn will be recalled subconsciously while you are playing. This means sitting in the same way(s), drinking the same thing, and even listening to the same things. Some players chew gum, others wear a hat, and others even wear a single sock. Find some sort of unique routine and create an environment that will only be present when you play poker.
Any one of these tips can help you improve your poker play and consistency by a small amount. If you can implement a few or all of these, you are likely to see a very real and measurable improvement in your results in a relatively short time span.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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