Keeping your mind sharp at the poker table is a must for any poker player. The reasons why are obvious. Firstly, poker is a mathematical game. To play at the top level, you need to assess the probability that other players have been dealt a better hand than you have.
Second, the game relies on a lot of stamina. You’re constantly evaluating the moves of other players. This intense level of concentration can get taxing quickly.
Professional poker players strive to enter the ‘zone’ or a ‘flow state’. Distracting thoughts of the external world do not enter their minds as they make rapid decisions in the flow of the moment. This is a place where you are purely focused on the single move you are making at any given time.
Sharpening your focus is key to improving your chances of winning. So how do you strengthen this key attribute?
Challenge yourself at Poker
One way to strengthen your cognitive performance at the poker table is to play games that really push the boundaries of your skill level. Pick the right opponents who are just ahead of you in their poker game. This is one of the best ways to improve strategy.
An easy way to find challenging opponents is to play in online casinos. Internet casinos are open 24/7 and there’s a larger pool of players, meaning that it is easier to find someone of the right skill level to challenge your game. Websites like GGPoker offer several different games and tournaments to participate in. Furthermore, players can use various GGPoker Poker Games. To keep your practice interesting, pick a variant of classic poker that you haven’t played before.
Become aware of your thoughts
To keep your mind sharp during poker games, you need to become aware of the thoughts that enter your mind. If distracting thoughts creep in (which they are sure to do at some point), you must learn to recognise these right away so that you can immediately bring your mind back to the game. Don’t fret about the fact that you’ve let your mind wander – this is normal, and it is common for this to happen when you are doing one thing for long periods of time. The ability to be aware of distractions and then re-focus quickly takes practice.
Make notes on the game
Keeping a detailed account of what each player is doing can be a great way to keep your mind focused on the game. It also helps you to analyse the playing style of your opponents so that it becomes easier to understand their motives and recognise patterns in their folding, calling, or raising.
Keeping a mental note of all that is going on can also be helpful but if you’re just starting out, there can be too much information to take in at once. A disciplined written record is much more likely to focus your mind and help you to assess the situation around you accurately.
To start off with, you should focus on one or two players around the table. Gradually, as you get better at dividing your attention between your moves and what the players around you are doing, you can expand your focus to three or four.
Keep a record of your performance
Keep a record of all your games, noting your best performances where you had just the right level of energy and focus. You should write down what you did differently in the lead-ups to those games. This will help you consciously identify and recognise the conditions that enable you to enter that ideal ‘zone’ of focus. It’s also important to keep a record of what factors cause you to drop out of this state of mind.
Once you have done this over weeks and months, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what steps you can take to enter the zone. You can build a consistent routine that gets you into the right shape for competing at your best.