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December 1st, 2008
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Poker Lesson: Recharging for Better Results
Author: Matt Vengrin
One of the great things about poker, especially online poker, is that the game is always there when you're ready to play. It's not like being a baseball player, where you're at the mercy of your team's schedule, or like being a doctor, where you have to respond to emergency calls. With poker, you can walk away from the game for a little while, and it will be there when you get back. That's why I strongly advocate taking breaks occasionally, especially if you pick up on signs that your play isn't as sharp as it should be.
The main sign to look for is that your desire to play is waning. You should play poker when you want to play. It sounds obvious, but too many of us inexplicably keep playing even when we don't want to.
I also find that when I'm experiencing a lot of negative feelings, that's a good time for a break. If I'm feeling negative, not just from poker, but maybe from something else going on in my life, that's going to affect my play, usually for the worse.
The other thing I keep an eye out for is when I'm gambling more than usual. If I'm playing tournaments and I'm finding that I'm too willing to get all my chips in on a coin flip, that's a sign that I'm not playing my best and I need to walk away rather than let myself burn out.
Whatever your particular signs may be, the fact is that if you're consistently losing, chances are there's a reason for it. A lot of players will say, “Oh, I'm just running bad,” but it's rare that that's all there is to it.
And when I take a break, I really take a break − I totally distance myself from the game. I don't play at all for a few days. That allows me to take a step back, get a different perspective, and come back hungry to play well.
At the 2008 World Series of Poker, a situation arose where I called upon my discipline to take a break even though a part of me really didn't want to. My favorite event was coming up − Half Omaha/Half Hold 'Em - but I could feel myself getting burned out. I hadn't cashed yet and I'd finished on the bubble three times, so I was really demoralized.
Half Omaha/Half Hold 'Em is my favorite tournament and even though I was really looking forward to it, I knew if I played, I wasn't likely to do well and I would make myself tired for other upcoming events. So instead of playing, I headed to Malibu for a couple of days and visited a friend; I went to the beach and totally distanced myself from poker. And the first event I played when I got back was Event #29, $3,000 No-Limit Hold 'Em, and I placed third for a payday of more than $165,000, my biggest live tournament cash to date.
Basically, I liken a poker player's mental processing to a battery: when a battery's life runs low, you need to recharge it. And the best way to recharge is to take a little break from the game. You'll find that some of your best results come when your mind is fresh and when you're playing because you truly want to be playing.
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