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Tips for Keeping Your Head in the Poker Game

Home » Tips for Keeping Your Head in the Poker Game

Tips for Keeping Your Head in the Poker Game

A poker player in a suit lifts his hole cards to check them.

If you’re a poker player, you know how vital it is to stay focused during a game. Whether you’re a new player who hasn’t worked out that three of a kind is better than a two pair or a veteran guilty of tilting long before people started playing online poker, it’s essential to maintain a lifestyle that lets you concentrate when you need to. Here are seven tips to help you keep your head in the game, whether you’re playing offline or online poker games.

1. Ensure You’re Well Rested Before the Game

A good night’s sleep before a big game will ensure that your mind and body are at their best when you play. The WebMD article “What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Mind” shares how a lack of sleep makes it more challenging to focus and pay attention. The same article also discusses how a lack of sleep can affect your mood, making you upset more easily during a game. Pre-game jitters can affect your sleep quality — which is why it’s crucial to build up supplementary habits like exercise that help you sleep better.

2. Ensure You’re in Peak Physical Condition

While it would be great to drop down, do a few sets of push-ups and be mentally and physically ready to go, such a thing is unrealistic. To keep your mind performing at its best, you must exercise regularly and keep your body fit. Regular physical activity will keep your memory and thinking sharp. It’ll also have numerous other benefits, such as ensuring you have more energy, sleep better and have more mental fortitude to deal with complex challenges.

The good news is that you don’t need to go to the gym and throw weights around for multiple hours each day (although you can do that if you want to.) You can reap many of the benefits of exercise through activities like cycling, jogging, swimming or yoga. But remember: bodies all have different limits and tendencies, so your workout should center around keeping your body and mind at their best (not somebody else’s best.)

3. Practice Meditation

There’s no doubt about it: whether you’re playing high-stakes cash games or online poker tournaments, focus can be difficult to attain in the mind of a poker player. You might want to consider meditation to help you calm down and keep your stress and focus under control. Many scientists, including researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center, have studied and affirmed the positive effects experienced by people who meditate. An article titled “How Meditation Can Help You Focus,” reveals the many benefits of meditation, including increased focus and learning concentration.

And don’t worry — this isn’t about putting on a robe, shaving your head and joining a monastery in the Tibetan mountains. There are many simple meditation techniques that you can use before and during a game to help you out. You can download apps on your phone that teach you the basics. 

You can even learn tips to play the game from professional players like Annette Obrestad, a trailblazer for women who play poker who posts YouTube videos with tips for poker players.

4. Take Breaks When You Can

A woman in a chair leans back and closes her eyes with a closed laptop on her lap.

If you’re planning a long poker session, remember to take breaks. This may not always be possible if you’re participating in live poker tournaments. However, if you have the option to step away, it’s a good idea to do so from time to time. The time you spend away from the game will allow you to relax, recharge with a quick drink or a snack and help you return to the game with improved concentration.

5. Find the Right Kind of Music

There are many benefits to listening to music, including increased concentration and motivation and lower levels of stress. However, this doesn’t mean that all music offers these benefits. The article “Music and Studying: It’s Complicated” from Healthline shares the types of music that you might want to play to boost your focus:

  • Music without lyrics that might distract you.
  • Slow, instrumental tunes, such as classical music or soft electronic pieces.
  • Music played at a low volume that fills the background but doesn’t take over your senses.
  • Music that you don’t have a strong emotional attachment to.
  • Music without commercials that might break your concentration.

6. Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

The modern world has many distractions that can cost you big time if you’re trying to perfect your poker tournament strategy or win a high-stakes cash game. These distractions might include the wrong type of music, noisy family members, other online players or even hunger pangs. 

The number one offender, however, is, without a doubt, your smartphone. These devices are designed to pull you in and keep your attention. Notifications from social media apps, messages from friends and family or the allure of your favorite streamer can make these devices a challenge to simply put down. 

When you watch the top poker players on Twitch, they remain single-minded and completely focused with no phones in sight. You may be tempted to multitask with one eye on your phone and another on the game. But make no mistake — you’re splitting your attention when you do this. You’re shifting your focus away from one thing to another. 

The Forbes article “Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest” highlights the downsides of splitting your focus and doing too many things simultaneously. One negative effect of multitasking is that it lowers your IQ. Another even more dangerous effect is that it can cause long-term brain damage by reducing brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, affecting your empathy and cognitive and emotional controls.

7. Practice Mindfulness in the Moment

With as much preparation as possible, staying focused in the moment is one of the most difficult things to achieve. Mindfulness is a technique that’ll help you keep your head when you’re about to tilt or get distracted. 

To practice mindfulness in the moment, start by taking a pause. Just stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and take a deep breath. Focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. This simple act helps bring your attention to the present moment.

Once you’re grounded, tune into your senses. Pay attention to what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. Take in the details of your surroundings without getting caught up in judgments or thoughts about them.

The key is to be aware without judging. Let your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations come and go without labeling them as good or bad. Just observe them with curiosity and acceptance. It’s like being an impartial observer of your own experiences.

Stay present by engaging fully in the game; give it your full attention. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the present moment.

Remember also to practice acceptance and let go of judgments. Accept the present moment as it is, without resistance. If you’re losing, so be it. It happens. Just use these techniques to avoid tilting and giving in to your impulses.

The Best Online Poker and More at BetMGM

If you’re ready to take these tips and try them out in poker games online, then be sure to hit the virtual tables at one of the best online poker sites, BetMGM. You can enjoy many thrilling poker variants on site, including live dealer games. 

From Omaha and Seven-Card Stud to Texas Hold’em poker, you’re bound to find a game that suits your style. Those who need advice on how to play poker can also check out this online poker guide. With it, you can learn how to play Omaha poker as well as every other variant. 

And if you want to step away from the casino table games for a bit, you can use the same BetMGM account to enjoy even more gambling excitement with other online casino games and sports betting. 

Register at BetMGM to join in the thrills.

Concentration during a poker game is paramount to avoid making bad decisions. Here are some tips on how to keep your head in the game.