How To Declutter Your Mind And Play Poker Like A Pro

How To Declutter Your Mind And Play Poker Like A Pro

WANT TO BECOME A BETTER POKER PLAYER? THE TRICK IS ALL IN THE MIND. LITERALLY. HERE’S HOW TO DECLUTTER YOUR MIND SO THAT YOU’RE ALWAYS ON YOUR A-GAME.

There’s a point in every player’s poker game—usually after a looooong day or two at the table—when concentration starts to dwindle and your mind goes into complete overload. That feeling of blind panic when mindless thoughts take over, and your game goes entirely to pot. Not what you need when you’re battling it out head-to-head in the middle of a poker tournament.

Being a good poker player requires immense resilience, endurance and meticulous concentration. Players can spend hours—if not days in some of the bigger tournaments—observing, analyzing, calculating and strategizing in a state of deep focus, aware of everything that’s going on around them at the poker table. It’s a balancing act that requires a great level of skills and tactics.

As any poker player will know, having to process this mound of information can really start to take its toll—there’s only so much information your brain can actually process before it starts to feel overwhelmed. Have you ever read so much or played poker so long that you just can’t digest any more information? You get to a point where things stop making sense. If your mind is overwhelmed then you can’t concentrate, and in a pressured environment like a poker game, this is something you can’t afford to wager.

Mental exhaustion is a poker player’s arch nemesis. In any poker game, you need to have the ability to think clearly at all times. If you don’t, it could cost you the whole game.

So, the trick is to get your mind sharp before you step up to the table. To avoid any unwelcome brain fog, here are some simple simple ways to declutter your mind and get your mindset—and gameplay—back on track.

10 WAYS TO DECLUTTER YOUR MIND & IMPROVE YOUR POKER GAME

#1. BE PRESENT

This applies to either the lead up to a game or a tournament, or when you’re right in the heart of the action. It’s so easy to become distracted by outside information. Your mind can easily drift away from what you’re supposed to be concentrating on—particularly when you’ve been consistently focused on one thing for hours on end. The golden rule of mindfulness is to be present in that exact moment. It’s about focusing on the here and now, and not worrying about the outcome or what you could have done to make it better. There’s plenty of time for reflection when the game is over. Leave your time at the table to really hone your gameplay and make use of all the information that’s presented to you.

Top players always play in the moment. They’re pretty adept at blocking out any external distractions that might put them off their game. They focus entirely on the game, the stakes, the stack sizes and the positions. Being present in poker means they can easily adapt to any situation presented to them, then make the best strategic decisions in that particular moment that will benefit their overall poker game.

#2. BREATHE DEEPLY

Meditation is a powerful tool for any poker player. No matter what level you’re playing at, you’ll find that at times, it can be near enough impossible not to get worked up when you’re on a losing streak. Or even when you’re not. Poker is mentally strenuous at every stage of the game because it requires constant focus and attention. And that can be all-consuming, especially in the height of a big game or tournament. The pressure to win comes with its own set of emotions, but the fear—or the reality—of losing can be agonizing.

It’s not uncommon for players to feel an overwhelming sense of pressure and stress, so meditation and breathing exercises can come in handy when it all feels like it’s getting too much. It’s a great way to declutter your mind of any unwanted thoughts. Closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths will help your body and your mind achieve a sense of calm, and help curb any anxiety that might be washing over you.

Here’s how to get started…

  • Close your eyes and breathe slowly through the nose for 10 seconds, drawing a breath first into the stomach then all the way up to the chest.
  • Hold the breath for as long as you can (aim for 3-5 seconds) then exhale slowly for 10 seconds from your mouth.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Repeating 10 steady inhales and exhales will reset your nervous system, taking you out of the sympathetic nervous system (which triggers the fight or flight response) and instead signals the parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down, making you less tense and anxious. You’ll feel more connected to the present and able to tackle the challenges presented to you at the table.

#3. TAKE A BREAK

Time away from poker is just as important as the time you put in. It helps you digest the information that you’ve just learned, and allows your mind to have the break it deserves. Poker players are dedicated folk. The need and desire to go above and beyond is an innate characteristic in most players. But if you don’t take the necessary breaks you need, either when you’re learning new strategies or playing back-to-back tournaments, your brain will literally stop functioning the way you need it to. And as you well know, brain power is beyond crucial in poker.

If you find that your mind is wandering and you’re losing focus and attention, don’t turn to your phone or the TV for distractions. Give yourself a break to allow your mind the space it needs to decompress. Just like your body, your mind needs time to rest and rejuvenate before and after an intense workout, so give it the downtime it needs to feel refreshed.

This applies to the lead up, too. If you’re cramming too much before a game, you’ll turn up to the table frazzled and your mind cluttered. As soon as you see the warning signs, take a moment to recuperate, or engage in a welcome distraction—whether that’s reading, talking to your best mate, grabbing your runners for a quick jog, heading to the sauna, taking a nap, or ordering your favorite takeout—to speed up your recovery. We guarantee you’ll be back on your A-game before you know it.

#4. DO YOUR POKER WORKOUTS

Just like any sport, to get to a good level, you have to put in the legwork. The key to success in any sport is to develop a ‘workout’ routine that works for you. So plan your prep time and develop a routine that you can easily stick to. Then keep repeating. It’s like developing muscle memory. The more you practice your routine, the stronger you’ll get, and the more it becomes ingrained in your memory. That learned routine can be applied when you’re battling it out at the table.

Practice makes perfect with poker, so planning your strategies in advance, and practicing them over and over again, will ensure your play becomes so fine tuned that you’ll be able to make confident decisions without hesitation. Don’t get too complacent though, with every hand you’ll be taken in so many different directions, so you’ll need to learn to think on your feet. But having that foundation set in stone will help you focus and organize your thoughts, so if you are faced with a difficult challenge, you won’t lose your head.

#5. GET ORGANIZED

Now you’ve got your workouts sorted, it’s time to put those theories into practice. Those learned routines will keep you thinking clearly throughout the entire game, without having to take a few days to rest and recharge. Developing a routine that allows you to digest all that information without burning out is a masterful skill, but if you’re organized enough, you’ll be able to nail it.

Your routine is your secret weapon, so use it to your advantage. All that studying is going to come in handy, but you need to organize the way in which you’re going to use it. Plan in advance, and play out different gameplay scenarios so that you can put those strategies into practice. Poker can be unpredictable, so make sure you practice enough in the lead up and have those routines and strategies clearly memorized in your mind.

Having that plan in place before you get to the table will help you keep calm when the pressure starts to mount. You’ll soon find that you make confident, well-thought and deliberate decisions, rather than reckless ones.

#6. MAKE NOTES

The best way to get back on your A-game? Make notes and review how you played. Jot down both good and bad—you can do this in between breaks of a big tournament or when you get home after a long game. That way you can look back for some valuable insights on how you can improve your next game, and incorporate some of the tactics that worked well for you before. The act of writing these thoughts down also clears your mind of any mounting thoughts before you hit the sack. There’s nothing worse than tossing and turning at night thinking about what better strategy you should have played out. Write it down, clear it out and leave it until tomorrow!

#7. LIMIT YOUR LEARNING

We know that poker demands a LOT of attention, but there’s only so much information you can digest at once, so limit your learning to a time when you can absorb it properly. Right before you play poker is not the best time to learn anything new. Instead, focus on the things you already know, like reviewing hands, or watching a poker video that you’ve already watched a few times.

Similarly, know when to stop and take a break. If your mind isn’t able to digest any more information, it’s your cue to take a break. Once you reach information overload, you won’t be able to store any new information, so the best thing is to walk away and revisit when your mind is fresh.

#8. GET IN THE ZONE

Having too much information can also hinder your gameplay. It’s hard to get in the zone if you have a million thoughts running through your mind at one hundred miles per hour. You need to stop and clear out all that excess data that’s stopping you from reaching your mental peak. If you don’t, you won’t be able process any new information. When your mind is cluttered with unnecessary thoughts, you can easily make mistakes and miss important cues that you could use to your advantage. This is why decluttering your mind is so important in poker.

In the middle of a poker game you need to access new data that’s presented to you in order to make the right decisions for your game plan. The solution? Time to declutter. And the best way to do that is with a lot of rest.

#9. REST UP

We’ve already stressed the importance of taking regular breaks when you need to, but it’s also essential to get the rest you need to let your mind recover from its intense workout. Only play for as long as you can keep focused, then get the downtime you need after the game to relax and reboot.

#10. DON’T FORGET TO SLEEP

All the excitement of a poker game can often leave players a little restless when they finally fall into bed. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to fuel brain power, so if you’re struggling to catch your zzzzs, it will soon start to show at the poker table. Try winding down before you get to bed by reading or listening to music—avoid any blue screen electronics, as these will stimulate your brain and keep you awake.

If you do find yourself replaying poker scenarios in your head, write down what you’re thinking to extract those thoughts from your mind before you go to bed. Hopefully this should declutter your mind and help you relax.

And last, but not least, try to get into the routine of getting a full seven or eight hours’ sleep a night. It’s the best remedy for a frazzled brain. We guarantee you’ll find yourself refreshed and ready to tackle any new challenges that comes your way.