Many people do not pay attention to warm up. They just wake up make a coffee and jump right into the action. I also did it for years before I read poker mental game book from Jared Tendler titled simply “Mental game of poker”. This is a great book with many valuable information and I already mentioned it my previous article here.
Today I will not mention other aspects of Jared book and I will focus only on warm-up. So why is it important ? How important is it? What does warm-up consist of ? Actually it is hard to answer very precisely all these questions. It depends from person from person. I will try to give you some guidelines for best possible results.
So ok what is the difference in for example working in IT company and working as professional poker player ? Difference in approach is huge because you probably have some fixed salary or maybe you take percentages of income like in most jobs. Only vocation where every your slightest mistake,lack of concentration, frustration or over confidence can cost you serious portion of your income is poker. So you do not have luxury of warming up on the way. You have to come to the game mentally sharp, well rest, focused and prepared for anything.
Poker mental game mistakes
This was one of the classical bad scenarios when I was just starting with poker. I wake up, have a coffee maybe eat something on the way or bring breakfast in front of computer and start to play. I start semi focused and totally unprepared for bad start. And if I start session with few bad beats and bad card runs before I even woke up properly, I just start tilting and playing much under my capabilities and make catastrophe of a small losing or even break even session.
Nowadays I always start with my warm-up and that is what most top pros do. There are always exceptions to the rule of course. My close friend “Sale” and top poker pro for some crazy reason never tilts. Not even slightly. He can lose or win any amount and just keep playing his game.
When I asked him how can you stay mentally sharp after losing that many buy ins he responded simply: “Why would I tilt ? These guys owe me money” 😀
So sure. I get it. But most of us can not keep their cool for infinite amount of time. Best poker players usually tilt much harder but still have breaking point.
Other big mental game mistake is over confidence. So if you start you session with big winning you can easily make -EV decisions because you just feel lucky so your + session will be less + than it should be. So to avoid all this obstacles you need to prepare for your session.
My poker mental game warm-up
So first thing – I never start a session if I did not have enough sleep. Sounds simple ? Sure but it is very important factor that you should keep in mind. You do not have to play every day if you do not well like it. So if I was partying last night and drinking I will just skip my morning poker session. I will play in the evening if I feel well rested. If not I will just make a day off and play longer session next day.
Second thing – I never start a session before my morning exercise. I am into kick boxing and yoga for years. In the morning I just do a short 20 minutes yoga stretching exercise. These exercises are very beneficial for everybody but especially for poker players. They will relieve you from stress, increase your concentration and stamina and push higher your tilt limits.
One of my favorite quick morning exercises are 5 tibetan rites. These are 5 simple exercises all found in yoga but with slightly different routine and breathing.You can watch many youtube videos about 5 tibetan rites and see how to perform them or read original book about them by Peter Kedler. Title of the book is “Eye of Revelation” and reissue version is titled “Fountain of Youth”
If you are not into yoga just do any exercises you like. It can be just short 10min fitness exercises to wake you up, raise your awareness and lower your stress level.
You will be surprised how much this quality habit will increase your quality of play and of course your win rate. Make it a daily routine before your work and raise your edge.
Third thing – I never start my session before I finish my breakfast. If you are hungry your stress level is higher and your tilt point is lower. So do not eat “on the way”, during the play, later or after. Do not rush your favorite morning tourney or start right away to chase yesterday loses or continue your winning streak. After your morning exercises just take 10 minutes for yourself and eat in peace and quiet and start playing relaxed and tilt free.
Fourth thing – I never start with full number of tables. If I play 16 tables for example I will start with just 8. If I am playing usually 6 I will start with just 2. So start slowly be observant about table selection, your mental state and other opponents. Adapt slowly and after you feel comfortable after 10/20minutes than increase number of tables to number you are comfortable playing.
Fifth thing – Never check instagram/facebook/twiter/ANYTHING while you are playing. It will distract you and lower your edge. If you have a habit like most of people nowadays to check your social networks in the morning than do not start your tables at the same time. Take your time, check anything you need than start playing fully concentrated.
This was my poker mental game warm-up you do not have to do the same everything as I do. Make your pregame routine is comfortable for you. Maybe your will include also listening to the favorite song or going for a walk or anything else that makes you mentally sharp. The goal is to make best possible plays anyway you run that day and make your tilt limits high and unreachable. Do not rush into the games. Come prepared and mentally ahead of your opponents because of your poker mental game warm up. Do not be lazy and keep up this good habit .
Good luck 😉