Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
This might seem like one of those subjects that’s commonsense and not worth thinking about but, as in life, we often stray from commonsense thinking in poker, and it’s absolutely a good idea every now and then to remind ourselves of the obvious.
So, whether you’re a new or inexperienced player, or consider yourself a veteran of the game, this article should prove useful. I’ll bet my bankroll that many of you who have been playing for years will, when forced to contemplate your (bad) habits, reluctantly resign yourselves to the fact that, however self-explanatory the subject of fatigue in poker is, you’re guilty of breaking the rules – and to the detriment of your bankrolls and egos…
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all” was one of many noteworthy quotations from the great US Football coach, Vince Lombardi. In a poker context, fatigue can be even more harmful – it might well make us cowards in that it prevents us from being able to think sufficiently clearly to make bold decisions, but tiredness negatively manifests itself in all sorts of ways at the poker table.
Beware! Fatigue can hit without us knowing
It’s important to remember that the effects of fatigue can manifest themselves imperceptibly, and that this can impact on our play even more negatively than if the signs are obvious. Rather than feeling like we could fall asleep at any minute, in which case we’d be kind of lucky in that it would actually force us to take a break or even stop playing altogether, we start to play differently – almost like we’ve gone in to ‘low battery’ mode. The result is that when in what is essentially auto-pilot we might well be playing a passable level of ABC poker, but we’re not applying ourselves optimally.
Without any proper analysis or nuance or engaging in a deep(er) level of thinking, our general lack of focus means that we’re simply not getting enough out of a hand – whether that be in terms of odds, pot odds, fold equity, exploiting a positional edge and so on, or simply gaining as many chips as possible (or, conversely, losing as few as possible!). This is a problematic issue because there’s a danger that this creeping manifestation of fatigue could affect our play for quite a while – and cause considerable damage – before we notice. Countless online poker players around the globe are at this very moment playing hand after hand while suffering the many damaging effects of fatigue. Scary stuff, but, of course, the easiest remedy would be to avoid getting into this situation in the first place!
Always Set Time/Session Limits
This is yet another ostensibly obvious condition that we should be automatically setting ourselves, yet in reality it’s another instance of not practising what we preach. Depending on what our favourite form of poker is, we should plan in advance both when we might take breaks and when we should ultimately stop playing.
Tournament players, of course, should be prepared to be playing for hours – hopefully! – and, if staying alert and suitably focused seems unlikely when the time comes for the tournament to begin, then the prudent course would be to simply give it a miss. As we know, online poker affords us the flexibility of being able to hit the virtual tables 24/7, every day of the year, so it would be foolhardy to play for the sake of it when we can perform optimally another time when we won’t be susceptible to fatigue. It’s interesting that one of our partners, GGPoker, has given this issue some thought, now providing in the tournament info pages an advanced estimate of the tournament’s duration. In fact, this is further broken down into how long it could be until making the money, how long until the Final Table and even the Final Table duration!
Cash game players also need to be fully alert in order to keep an even keel. Apart from the fact that it’s incredibly frustrating to actually be aware that we’re beginning to make mistakes here and there that weren’t happening at the start of a session, there’s the ‘hard’ evidence that fatigue is our ruthless enemy in the shape of our diminished stack.
Poker is a cut-throat game in which the overall result of several hours’ play can hinge on a few seconds worth of poor judgement. Or should we say AVOIDABLE poor judgement? If you usually play on just one table, then plan a session of an hour, for example, and stick to that plan unless there’s a very good reason not to, and as long as you (honestly) feel fresh enough to continue. If you prefer to play at, say, three tables simultaneously, then 30 minutes might not seem like much time, but in fact it’s plenty.
It’s true that at YourPokerDream we’re constantly looking for ways for players to have maximum opportunity to boost their bankroll, but we certainly don’t advocate playing in any other than the best conditions. It’s easy, with rake and various promotions and offers to take advantage of, to get carried away in an effort to make as much money as possible by filling every available hour with poker. But a level of balance is needed.
It all boils down to being a case of quality over quantity, and taking breaks is the best way to achieve such a balance. Eating, freshening up, going for a walk, sleeping… there are countless things to do to recharge before returning to the tables, while simply stopping for the day is equally sensible – nobody ever lost money not playing poker, remember…