Anyone who plays online poker will agree that it requires nerves of steel, whether you take the game seriously or simply see it as an entertaining way to pass the time. Regardless of the reason why you play poker, you need to go into every game with mental clarity and confidence to optimize your chances of beating your opponents!
For instance, it is important to learn to stay calm when playing strategy-based online casino games or to maintain focus and manage your emotions at the virtual poker table. There are many ways to do this and according to experts, meditation is one of the best. While it may seem like a highly unconventional poker tip, you’ll be surprised to discover just how effective a concentration technique can be. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Meditation and What Are Its Benefits?
Meditation is an ancient practice that involves quieting the mind to achieve mental clarity and a sense of calm. There are a variety of techniques you can try when you first learn how to meditate. Some find it best just to sit quietly and focus on emptying the mind of all thoughts and emotions – which can be more difficult than it sounds and requires lots of consistent practice and dedication to get it right. Others choose to focus on a mantra, which can be a single thought, sensation, object, sound, affirmation, the feeling of grass on their skin or a flickering candle flame. The point of focusing the mind on a mantra is that it empties the mind of all other competing thoughts.
The main benefit of meditation is daily stress relief as well as mental and emotional regulation. When you learn to do it correctly, you can use it to remain calm in stressful situations rather than having to calm yourself down after the fact. This is an excellent tactic for poker players who may become anxious when they need to make an important decision or when they’re up against an intimidating opponent. Your meditation skills will help you to clear your mind of all other, irrelevant thoughts, stabilize your emotions, draw on your self-esteem and think objectively.
How To Meditate
Along with stress relief and improving focus, meditation also increases self-awareness, enhances creativity and problem-solving, and improves your quality of sleep – all of which can add up to taking your poker strategy to new heights! In fact, counter-intuitive as it may seem, regular meditation is one of the top tips for keeping your head in the poker game.
Follow these easy steps to start meditating the traditional way:
- Step one: Choose a quiet place, free from distractions, where you can sit or lie down comfortably.
- Step two: Set a timer. Start slowly by meditating for two or three minutes at a time, gradually increasing the time until you can practice 20 minutes twice a day.
- Step three: Get into a comfortable position. If you choose to remain seated, your spine should be straight and your shoulders relaxed. Feel free to sit on a chair or cushion to achieve this. If you prefer lying down, your spine should also be in alignment, with your arms and legs comfortably falling open beside you. Relax your body and bring your awareness to the present moment.
- Step four: When you’re ready, close your eyes and focus on your mantra, for instance, your breathing. Observe the natural rhythm of your inhalation and exhalation. Allow your thoughts to arise and pass away without getting mentally or emotionally invested in them. Whenever you find your mind wandering, gently and without judging yourself, simply bring it back to your mantra.
- Step five: When your time is up, slowly bring your attention back to the space around you. Keep your eyes closed as you gradually pay attention to your senses again. Take note of the subtle noises around you, the smell and feel of the air as it fills your lungs and how your body feels.
- Step six: Open your eyes and remain in your position until you feel ready to stand up and continue your day.
Why Poker Demands Mental Resilience
Poker is about much more than just the cards you’ve been dealt. Mental resilience, for instance, plays a huge part in securing your success at the table. Self-doubt can creep in during play, causing you to falter in your strategy and make impulsive decisions that could impact the outcome of the game. Mental clarity often means the difference between winning and losing.
By aiming to boost your mental resilience and using meditation as a tool to help you do this, you will soon find yourself calmer when playing under pressure. You’ll be more focused, self-confident, self-motivated and, most importantly, able to analyze and improve your performance without allowing emotions or negative self-talk to cloud your judgment.
Professional Poker Players Who Practice Meditation
Professional poker players such as David “Devilfish” Ulliott and Kathy Liebert are some of the most vocal advocates of meditation in the world of poker. Ulliott credits this practice as a major contributing factor to his professional success in poker, stating: “If I was losing concentration in the middle of a big poker game, I’d take myself off to one side, have a little time out and meditate.”
Liebert says it helps her enter “the zone” – the relaxed, highly-focused state in which she feels most able to maximize her playing potential. She explains, “Meditation taught me how to stay centered in a tournament, regardless of whether I was winning or losing. When I was playing in the moment and paying attention to what my opponents were doing, I could look at every decision much more clearly.”
Both Ulliott and Liebert are committed to regular meditation, even during major poker tournaments. This practice helps them maintain a positive attitude and the focus necessary to reach the level of success they have enjoyed. Liebert has shared the way in which she regularly starts her morning: “I typically wake up around 6 a.m. and I usually start my day with a 20 – 30 minute meditation practice. It sets the tone for the day and prepares me mentally for anything I may encounter at the poker table.”
Overall, it’s clear that meditation plays a significant role in the success of professional poker players such as Ulliott and Liebert. Through regular meditation, these players are able to access the concentration, composure and focus necessary to succeed in poker. As Ulliott explains, “With poker you don’t have time to take a step back, so I have to have the focus already inside me and that’s what I get from meditation.”
Other Ways To Improve Your Poker Performance
Clearly, this practice is an excellent way to improve your poker game. Still, there are many other ways to boost your performance in online poker tournaments while at the same time improving your poker tournament strategy.
Here are a few ideas:
- Consider hiring a poker coach.
- Sign up for an online poker course.
- Read books about playing poker.
- Follow professional poker players on social media for the best online poker tips.
- Watch free poker training videos and tutorials on YouTube.
- Join an online casino community and chat with other players on the forums.
- Train your brain to focus better by completing crosswords, solving riddles and building puzzles.
- Use software to track and analyze your gameplay decisions and overall performance.
Keep Calm and Play Poker at BetMGM
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Beginners can check out our online poker guide for a rundown of the rules before taking to the tables.