In my last article I mentioned many forms of exercise that a good poker player can do away from the table. Let me touch on some exercises that you can do at the poker table.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE: ISOMETRICS
Yeah, really! You can exercise nearly every muscle with simple resistance exercises that will not be noticed by others at the table. I find that it's helpful to start with one body part and work my way up. So I'll start with my left leg. I position it on the outside of the front left chair leg. I then push inward with the leg, holding it as tightly as possible against the chair leg for a count of five. I release it and then repeat this three times. I then move on to the right leg. I then cross my legs so the feet are reversed and push outwards, one foot into the other. I repeat this with each of my arms, first the left pushing inward on the chair, and then the right. I finish by putting one hand behind my head and pushing my head back against my hand, repeated three times with each hand. It takes about ten minutes to complete this routine. I don't know if it does my muscles any good, but I feel better and more energized when I'm finished.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE: LEG LIFTS
I'm not in great shape so I can't sit in my chair and lift both of my legs at the same time. I'm a little concerned about looking weird too. No matter. I lift the right leg up about five inches and then the left one. I repeat these about twenty times then pause for a few seconds and repeat it. I generally try to do three reps of twenty lifts for each leg. I find that this allows me stay at the table at least a little longer than I normally would be able to stay, which helps when the game is good.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE: NECK ROLLS
I tend to get very tense in the neck and trapezoids. I find that slow neck rolls help me to release some of this tension. This looks weird after even one so I tend to do them intermittently rather than repeatedly. One or two in a row every thirty minutes generally does the trick.
PHYISICAL EXERCISE: ABDOMINALS
I have no idea if this is any good for anyone else but I find that to relieve back tension it helps to strengthen the abs. So whenever I think about it I sit back in the chair and try to press my lower back into the chair by compressing my abs. I try to hold my stomach in this way with maximum backward pressure for ten seconds, relax for five seconds and repeat.
MENTAL EXERCISE: MEMORY
I watch the cards as they are dealt and then try to quickly put them into rank order as they are folded in turn. I do this even when I'm not in a hand, just to keep my mind sharp. I try to add in cards as they are folded during the play of the hand. I also try to keep a rough tally of how many are out of each suit by saying the number of a suit that have been folded when I notice it. So if, for example, three spades are folded on third street I'll say to myself, "three spades". I don't consciously memorize the number of each suit that are folded, I just make a mental note of what I observe. I find, invariably, that doing this is enough to let me know whether it's likely or unlikely that someone has a flush at the showdown.
MENTAL EXERCISE: PUTTING PLAYERS ON HANDS
This is the most important mental exercise – and the most fun. Focus on a player and try to guess what he will turn over in a showdown. See how close you come. Also, keep track of whether you tend to overestimate or underestimate the quality of your opponents' hands (I tend to give them too much credit).
MENTAL EXERCISE: NAME GAME
Try and remember the names of each of your opponents. This is an old dealer trick. I find that it works in a few ways. First, it helps sharpen my memory. I've found that mental exercise in one way helps in all ways. Second, by remembering their first names you'll be better able to remember the type of player they are – whether they're loose, tight, aggressive, or passive – since you'll be able to put the type of player they are together with their name. This can only help you the next time you face them at the table.
MENTAL EXERCISE: KEEPING TRACK OF THE POT SIZE
This is a great exercise, especially for those of us who are not mathematically inclined. Try to keep a running count of the pot as the bets go in. You'll soon discover some shortcuts such as simply multiplying the size of the bet by the number of players who enter the pot on each street. If you don't already, you'll soon be accurately counting down the pot by automatically adding in the total on each round based on the number of players remaining. Three on fifth is $120 in a $20/40 game. Four on third is $80. These numbers will become second nature to you, giving you a leg up when you try and figure out pot odds.
Finally, a word of caution. You can become so wrapped up in one exercise or another, physical or mental, that you lose track of the game itself. Just remember that exercise, like most things, is best done in moderation. And it's okay to let your mind wander away from the game every so often. Even the best-conditioned athletes are entitled to some down time.