How to Bring Your "A-Game" to the Poker Tables Every Single Time
One of the biggest reasons why the most successful poker pros win so much more than everybody else is because they consistently play at their very best every single session. In other words, they always bring their "A-game."
If you want to succeed at poker on a large scale, then it is necessary that you learn how to do this as well. As a 10-year-plus poker pro myself, I am going to give you my top strategies below for bringing your best game to the tables, every single time.
Let's get started!
1. Be Physically Prepared
Much like other professional athletes, poker pros know that what you do away from the tables will have a large impact on your results. And this all begins with how you take care of yourself physically.
The first thing that you want to do is make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. For most people this means getting seven or eight hours of sleep per night. This is why it is important that you keep good hours and get to sleep on time.
Being fully rested is incredibly important for tilt control, in particular. The American Psychological Association points out that people who get poor sleep are significantly more likely to be irritable and have less patience. It makes sense, then, that not getting adequate rest will make it much more difficult for you to deal with bad beats effectively.
Secondly, it's important that you take care of your body with proper nutrition as well. Eat a well balanced diet of real food and stay away from highly processed, high sugar products. If you are fueling your body the right foods, then you brain is going to function at peak levels and it will show itself directly in your poker results.
2. Be Mentally Prepared
Another way to make sure you are ready to play your best poker is to be in the right state of mind. The poker table is not the place for you to work out your frustrations. Nor should you be playing if you are feeling depressed or anxious.
It is very important that you bring a positive and clear mindset to the poker tables. This is why I strongly suggest doing some form of meditation on a regular basis and ideally right before your poker session.
By doing some mindfulness meditation, for instance, and slowing down your thinking for even 10 minutes, you can see very positive benefits at the poker tables. Getting a massage is another great way to relieve stress and improve mental functioning (not to mention likely benefit you physically, too).
3. Have World-Class Confidence
Now that you know how to prepare your body and mind before you start playing, how do you actually focus on playing your best at the poker tables?
Well, this all starts with a world-class level of confidence. You see, most poker players think they are good, but there are very few who truly know they are. When you truly know that you are good, then you are going to be able to pull the trigger on the best play all the time, no matter what.
Of course, having world-class confidence isn't the same as having a huge ego. It's actually all about preparation and experience. If you have played a large number of hands and also put in the time away from the tables studying your own play and that of others, then this is going to naturally going to lead to a lot of confidence.
Putting in the time and effort is also naturally going to lead to great results at the poker tables. There is definitely a compounding effect at work here, too, because the more you win, the more confident you will become.
That said, even if you are brand new to poker you can still learn to be confident in your play. You do this by starting at the lowest limits like NL2 online where you will find some of the weakest opponents around.
The bottom line is you should always know that you are the best player at the table any time you sit down to play. This starts with experience and preparation, but also by playing in the right games.
4. Be Fully Bankrolled
One of the biggest keys to always playing your best at the poker tables is being financially prepared as well — in other words, ensuring that you have the right bankroll for the games you play.
Your bankroll is comprised of the entire amount of money that you have set aside to play poker. It is important to note that this is totally different from your personal savings and day-to-day spending money. The money in your poker bankroll is for poker and poker only.
These days I recommend having at least 30 buy-ins for any game in which you are playing, although having 40 or 50 is quite frankly a lot better. By "buy-in" I am referring to 100 big blinds which is the maximum amount you can put on the table in most online cash games. For example, if you're playing poker online in the $10 NL games, then you should have at least $300 in your bankroll.
This might seem a little bit extreme to some, but when you understand how variance works (the natural ups and downs of the game), then you will realize how important this is. Downswings of 20 buy-ins are a commonplace occurrence these days, even for solid winning players at the lower stakes.
Making sure that you are always fully bankrolled for any game will alleviate a lot of the stress concerning the ups and downs of the game. You should never have to worry about going broke when playing poker.
5. Focus on the Long Run
The final way to always bring your A-game to the poker tables is to stay 100 percent focused on the only thing that actually matters in this game — the long run.
What is the long run? Opinions differ, but in my experience playing online it represents having played at least 100,000 hands of poker. This means that it can sometimes take this many hands for you to overcome basic variance (good or bad) and get to your true results.
It is very important that you not get distracted by the day-to-day ups and downs that all poker players go through. There will be days when you play your absolute best and still wind up with a loss. There really is nothing that you can do about this. Some days you just can't win.
For this reason, something many poker pros do is to ignore their immediate results, only checking once a week (for instance). If you are properly bankrolled like I recommended above, then you never need to worry about what your poker funds are, anyway.
You should also always stay focused on your long term results. I regularly look at my graph in poker tracking programs over hundreds of thousands of hands in order to remind myself that this is what is really real. My results are often all over the place during the short run. But over the long run, I always win.
Making sure you consistently bring your A-game to the poker tables every time you sit down to play is one of the most important keys to your success.
No matter what stakes you play, this always begins with being physically and mentally prepared to play. You should be well rested and be eating the right kinds of foods as well. You should also be in the right state of mind, peaceful and in the moment.
You should also be full of confidence and ready to win. Having such confidence begins with the right preparation and experience, but also comes from choosing the right poker games in which to play, ones with weaker players where you are a significant favorite.
Lastly, you always want to make sure you are fully bankrolled when playing poker (at least 30 buy-ins) and completely focused on the long run as well. When you remove any financial barriers to your success and learn to view the game with a long term mindset, then you will finally start achieving the results that you really want.
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.