by Loki Luchs of Predictem.com
If you watch professional football, you know that there is a lot more to the game than showing up on Sunday afternoons. The professionals spend their time in practice, in the weight room, and watching film. They prepare themselves in and out of the season so that they are physically and mentally prepared to play like titans on the field. Most professionals even prepare the day of; they follow a strict routine that prepares them mentally so that theyíre in the right frame of mind for the game. Most players donít drink the night before, get to the arena early, get taped-up, stretch, and follow individual routines so that they have their minds on the one thing that they are paid to do: Win. How much of this is superstitious? A good deal in most cases; nonetheless, these players require a ridiculous amount of concentration to play at their absolute best, so whatever quirky tendencies put them in the appropriate mind-frame are detrimental to how they play.
In poker, there are some days when you enter into a game so well-prepared that you know that your opponents are going to get steam-rolled. There are other days that you donít bother to think about how youíre going to do. These are usually the days that you get flattened. Poker is as much about being mentally prepared as it is about knowing the right moves. By following a certain pre-game routine, you can ensure that your mind is on the game. This routine is different for everyone, obviously, but once you figure out what works for you, stay consistent. For instance, when I go into pre-game mode, this is roughly what my routine is:
1. Shower. If Iíve been working all day, working out, or hell, just havenít taken one in a couple of hours, I want that feeling that Iím starting fresh. This helps out for a couple of reasons; first it wakes you up. This in itself is enough to justify it. Aside from the fact that everyone around you is going to be sniffing and asking ďDid you roll around in old cheese this morning,Ē itís important not to feel gross. This may sound like common sense, but if you find youíre feeling sticky, your mind will not be anywhere near the game for the rest of the night.
2. Eat about a half of a dinner. I know a lot of people recommend a full meal, but I donít. If I eat enough that Iím not going to be hungry for a couple of hours, then Iím not going to be distracted by a rumbling stomach, but Iím also not going to have that after-thanksgiving-nap syndrome. (Avoid turkey!) Having something to eat is enough to keep the synapses firing for a few hours. I might bring a couple of power bars just-in-case.
3. I drink a couple of caffeinated beverages. I canít tell you how quickly my game deteriorates when I start to get tired. I donít have an A-game, B-game, C-game, etc. I have an A-game and a D-game. If Iím not acting lively, Iím barely alive. A few cups of tea or liters of Diet Coke and Iím off to the races.
4. Read some poker books. I take in about ten pages of one of the favorites. This reminds me of why I love the game. Poker is fun! Iím good at it! I like money! I could be cleaning out the garage! Wheeee!
5. If I have the time, I watch a couple of minutes of Rounders. Itís just a good damn movie.
6.I learn or review a-half dozen jokes. This is for anybody that I happen to be sitting next to at the table. A couple strategies I have include the ability to be liked at a table. When youíre a nice person, no one cares that youíre the one taking their money. How many times have you heard: ďAt least it didnít end up with him!Ē If the answer is zero, then youíre the ďhim.Ē People like to laugh and people enjoy poker more when there isnít a serious feel to the game. (Fish REALLY like a joking atmosphere!) The best part about learning a couple of good jokes is that while the table recycles itself, you can usually reuse them!
7. I grab my poker gear. This is a bag of must have materials that keep me focused at the table. If you donít have one, make one. Anything that youíve ever thought about at the table and then said: ďI wish I had _____!Ē should be in this bag.
Think about how often youíve lost (or worse yet), didnít make money because you werenít playing well. Prep yourself before you ever sit down so that you are more likely to be on your game! The late, great Chip Reese once said ďMy A-game isnít really that much better than anyone elseís; the thing is, my D-game isn't much worse than my A-game.Ē
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