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Compared to online poker, live poker can be a real gold mine, especially if you compare win rates you can have playing a single table of these two formats.
However, playing live poker does not come without its challenges.
One of the top challenges in live poker for most players is maintaining the focus and staying patient during the long sessions.
Since gameplay can be so slow in live games, it is not uncommon for players to stay at the table for eight or more hours. But how do they stay focused for so long?
In this article, I explore the top five methods top poker players use to maintain their focus and their massive edge at the live tables. Let’s see what they are!
5. Limit the Distractions
Live poker can be extremely slow-paced, and there will be times when it seems like you haven’t played a hand in two hours… Because you haven’t!
With the action going so slowly, it can be easy to start looking for a distraction. Many poker players will listen to music, watch movies or YouTube videos, or play video games to entertain themselves.
I highly recommend keeping such distractions to a minimum.
Listening to music at a live poker table might actually help you focus since the room might otherwise be somewhat loud. Apart from that, I would say you should not use your phone too much.
If you do fall into the trap of texting, playing games, or watching YouTube while playing and you realize it, put your phone away, take a short break, and come back to the table with your full focus and ready to play the game.
4. Consider Your Lifestyle
If there is one common problem that many poker players share, it is a fact they live unbalanced and unhealthy lives.
The lack of any need for physical activity in the actual game, combined with many late-night sessions, can easily lead you to a lifestyle that will have you feeling drained more often than not.
I recommend tackling this problem head-on and actively thinking about ways to improve your lifestyle as a poker player.
This starts with trying to have a good schedule and living your life by it.
I know this can be easier said than done for a pro poker player, but sometimes leaving a juicy poker game to go to sleep is a good idea.
Furthermore, you should make sure to eat a balanced diet and work out at least a couple of times a week. The game will have you sitting down for the most part, so make sure you get some activity away from the table.
If you are having problems with your mental game and focus, various meditation techniques might help you keep your mind sharp.
The Primed Mind app is a good way to get started with meditation and exercises to help you use your mental potential to its fullest.
3. Pay Attention to Your Opponents
I already said you should limit your distractions, but you may be wondering what exactly you are supposed to do while sitting at the table and folding your cards.
The answer, of course, is to keep tabs on your opponents.
By paying close attention to the hands your opponents are playing, you will be able to get a good idea of their general playing styles and even pick up some specific poker tells.
In live poker games, you will likely be coming up against the same group of opponents over and over again. This makes any reads you can have extremely valuable.
If you can get a good read on an opponent you play with often, this is something that may pay dividends for many games to come.
The more you know your opponents, the bigger your edge in the game will become.
It costs nothing to pay attention to how others are playing, even when you are not in the hand. Try to figure out what kind of hands they are c-betting, when they are opting to donk out, or how aggressively they play their flush draws.
This kind of information can help you significantly narrow down your opponents’ ranges in hands you will play with them in the future, which means you can make some extremely accurate calls and folds down the line.
2. Leave Emotions Out Of It
I have seen it happen time and time again, and I have fallen victim to it myself. I will be playing great poker for hours until one hand throws me off balance, and I go off the rails!
Poker is a game in which patience plays a major part since the variance can be quite brutal.
For this reason, you should make sure to try and maintain your composure at all times, even when the going gets really rough.
There will be times in poker when it will seem like everything is against you, and it is very important to remember it’s all just a natural part of the game and not take it personally.
If you allow your emotions to get the better of you, you will be thrown off your game very often, and you will not play the best way you can.
Leaving emotions out of the game can be difficult, however, especially in live games where you will have to suffer through your opponents collecting your poker chips. When it gets too difficult, I recommend you take a break.
1. Take Breaks
Taking breaks is the best possible way to stop yourself from tilting away your money in the short run and keep you sane in the long run.
When I say take breaks, I mean both during and between sessions.
Taking a break during a session can help you re-focus and come back to the game playing your best. Taking breaks between sessions gives you the time to actually have a life beyond the poker table.
Players who spend their entire time playing poker can often get burnt out, and gradually their game can deteriorate as well. It is very important to keep busy away from the table and try to have a healthy life out there.
I recommend taking a 5 – 10 minute break every couple of hours in a live game and taking at least one or two nights off from poker every week, just as you would if you were working any other job.