A Poker Warm-Up Routine To Improve Your Game

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A person meditating in front of stacks of poker chips.
BetMGM Jan 19, 2024, 9:39 AM

Every athlete understands the importance of properly warming up before competing; the same principle applies to poker players. If you want to know how to improve at poker, warming up before a session can help you get in the right mindset and mentally and physically prepare you. Poker is popular all over the world, with different regions donning a variety of pre-game rituals and superstitions. Regardless of your personal beliefs, a good warm-up routine can help you focus, boost your confidence, and manage your stress levels. 

Why You Need a Warm-Up Routine

A well-structured warm-up routine can significantly improve your game, especially when playing poker tournaments. Warming up before playing a poker game is an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of the game. This pre-game routine aids in sharpening focus, improving mental clarity, and fostering a mindset geared toward strategic thinking. Equally important, it aims to rein in impulsive decision-making, increasing your chances of outmaneuvering your opponents in the high-stakes environment of an online poker tournament.

How To Curate Your Pre-Session Routine

Whether you’re just learning how to play poker or are an online poker regular, a pre-game ritual is sure to improve not only your game but your experience of it. What you do in this time is entirely up to you, but focusing on three key areas will help mentally prepare you.

1. Review Hands Played

Reviewing your past hands is an effective way to learn from your mistakes and identify your strengths. In addition to improving your gameplay, it can help you analyze your mindset and inner thoughts when playing. Invest some time in conducting a brief review of your past hands before getting into a session; this doesn’t need to happen immediately before a game, but doing this practice in the lead-up will prove helpful.

2. Tend to Your Physical and Mental State

Taking care of your physical needs before a game and preparing your mental state is essential. Examples of this might include:

  • Eating a protein-rich meal before a game to provide the sustained energy needed for long hours of focused play. 
  • Incorporating a light stretching routine can help reduce tension, increase circulation to the brain, and enhance your overall sense of groundedness.
  • Practicing deep, mindful breathing is a powerful tool to keep stress and anxiety at bay, promoting a calm, focused state of mind that is vital for crucial decision-making.

3. Practice Visualization

Visualization practices can help improve your performance in any endeavor, including poker. Imagining yourself at the table and running through different scenarios can prepare you for different outcomes while ensuring that you keep your emotions in check. Visualize the environment, your emotions, and reactions to control your stress and prepare you to make better decisions.

4. Meditate

Meditation is a very effective way of calming the mind and managing stress. Just a few minutes of meditation before a poker game can help you stay focused and reduce negative thoughts and distractions. Find a quiet place, sit comfortably, breathe deeply, and focus on your breath or a particular object. Meditation will help you build clarity and improve memory and attention span.

What the Pros Say

Still doubt the necessity of a tailored pre-game routine? All the best poker players know that the goal of the warm-up routine is to prime your mind and body to perform at their highest level. Here’s what some of the top professionals in the industry have to say:

Elliot Roe:The consistency of your poker performance is only as random as you allow it to be. There are systems and routines that will take you from accidental and unpredictable to consistently bringing your A-Game.

Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt:The warm-up is essential. No matter what, I always warm up now.

Kristen Bicknell:Often, I will think about specific spots I want to work on. Spots of my game that I have problems with and want to focus on, and have been trying to play more optimally. Especially when I would play a cash game session, I would typically pick three things to think about or goals for the session. This can be from a mental game or theoretical standpoint. I’m a big believer in positive visualization, and I think it is something that is almost by nature for me as I don’t make a conscious effort to do it, but the time leading up toward playing, I am usually visualizing the session ahead.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.