Never underestimate the importance of preparation for any single poker session or tournament. Similarly, never dismiss certain scientific facts regarding the human brain’s ability to function optimally. I’ve learned plenty of valuable lessons as a 15-year professional poker veteran and none is more critical than the importance of preparation. It’s a lesson I call The Rules of Eight.
Get eight hours of sleep.It’s essential. In the world of poker, it’s not heroic to try to function on a couple hours of sleep. Scientific studies suggest that the human body, and more important, the human brain, requires a full eight hours of sleep to function at peak performance. A good night’s sleep improves memory function and physical heath. Missing even one night of shuteye will impact your ability to concentrate the next day. And it only gets worse if you deprive yourself of sleep night after night.
You see, to play your best and make solid decisions at the poker table, you need to focus on everything that is going on around you. If you didn’t get a good night of uninterrupted sleep, you simply can’t play your best. Keep this in mind too: Fatigue increases a player’s propensity to gamble more recklessly, and that is not a good thing.
Try to limit your time at the tables to no more than eight hours. In some tournaments, that just won’t be possible. If that is the case, it’s especially important to stockpile plenty of sleep. In a cash game, however, make sure you keep your sessions on the shorter side.
We’ve all heard stories about poker players grinding it out for two days straight. Believe me; I’ve got stories like that of my own. But the bottom line is that these stories usually don’t have great endings. That’s because the mind starts playing tricks after a marathon poker session, especially after a losing session. The evil voice in your head tells you, “This game is full of suckers. You’re playing great. Don’t quit as a loser. Focus and you’ll turn it around.”
The fact is after eight hours of play your ability to focus deteriorates. Unfortunately, too many players are simply unaware that it’s happening to them. So decide how long you plan to play before you’re even dealt the very first hand. Remember, your best decisions are made with a fresh mind.
Eight consecutive losing sessions is rarely the result of bad luck alone. In fact, the same can be said of even five losers in a row (but I’d have to change the title of this column!)
Some players will blame anything but themselves for their extended losing streaks. It’s the dealer, or a string of bad beats, or that the cards weren’t properly shuffled — whatever. The truth is that consecutive losses at the poker table will eat away at your confidence and affect your play for the worse. If you’ve put together a string of losses, don’t pin it on bad luck. Instead, take an extended break from the game and examine your play. When you do return, you’ll feel refreshed and will play with renewed confidence.
Look, I know that poker players aren’t athletes and poker isn’t a sport. Although you may not have to hit the gym like real athletes, there is one “muscle” that you’ll still need to exercise on a regular basis – your brain. Make sure you give it ample time to relax and don’t push it past its breaking point.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
© 2008 Card Shark Media. All rights reserved.