Keeping your focus

One of the hardest things to do in any form of poker, be in tournament or cash game, is keeping your focus. I can usually play for two hours no problem playing as well as I know how but I notice that once I pass a certain threshold my play starts to slip or I start making poor moves. I get impatient, something a poker player can not afford to do, especially in the later stages of a tournament. So how do you combat this?

1. Listen to music. I know a lot of people, sometimes including myself, hate it when people bring iPods into a game. It slows down play, makes that person despondant and no fun, and sometimes they act out of turn or play incorrectly. Listening to music used to really help me, and then I broke my iPod, haha, but I also enjoy the conversations I have when I’m not listening to music. My one piece of advice if you choose to bring your iPod: keep the volume low. Have the music be in the background, something you can sink back into, not something that overrides your senses. Make it low enough to hear the conversation at the table and know when it is your action and what the actions of your opponents are.

2. Get up, walk around, stretch. In lots of poker games a player can get really ingrossed in the play and sit down for hours at a time. As for myself, I start to feel a bit stiff in the neck, and generally a bit bored, after a few hours. I quick walk around the room or trip to the bathroom helps refresh me. Word of advice though, if you’re going to leave for the restroom make sure you aren’t going to go through the blinds (in a cash game moreso than a tournament). In a tournament I’d be more likely to leave during my blinds because position is so important in tournaments.

3. Pay attention to other players’ actions. Use your off time when you’re on a cold streak to watch other players play. One way to keep yourself focused is to act like you were in the hand. Put your opponents on hands and see how close you were, pick up tells and mannerisms, and get a feel for your table. It will help you tenfold by the time you start playing hands again, and they’ll have no information on you!

Finally, if you are feeling bored or drained at a poker table and these things aren’t helping, then leave. Don’t put in your money when you’re not at your best, even if you still think you can beat the table, they may end up taking everything you worked hard to get up to that point. Take your chips and wait for a better place to put them into play. Good luck!

I've been playing poker for almost four years now (well before it was legal for me, woops!) Besides poker I enjoy playing the guitar and I'm very enthusiastic about pursuing Dentistry as a career. I'm currently at The Ohio State Univeristy studying Microbiology, living with three of my close friends. I'm dating a lovely girl from Australia and am looking forward to the oppurtunity to study abroad over there as well.

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