Traveling to play poker

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The poker community is more mobile than ever. And whatever the reason you find to travel to play, there are psychological ways to make the experience better.

First, planning your trip makes a lot of sense. Travel, hotel, food, money, clothes, etc., should all be in place before you leave. You don’t want to bring extraneous logistics to the table. If you don’t have a place to stay you may have to leave a lucrative table to find a hotel.

But it’s also important to understand the psychology of travel. Take your time, plan your trip; you don’t need travel anxiety at the table. When you get there, spend enough time “coming down” from the trip before you play. A four-hour car ride with buddies may just require a bathroom break, a cup of coffee and washing your face, then signing up for a table. A longer trip may require checking into lodging, a shower, shave and change of clothes.

When you get to the room, scope it out. Take a lap or two around the room. Get a feel for the room. Acclimate yourself to the field of combat. Pro football teams try to simulate road-game stadiums before they travel. When a team gets to a new place, it runs through its game in new environs. This acclimation is an important part of preparation.

At the new room, make sure you’re familiar with local customs. Know where the bathroom is, where you can take a break, rules about cell phones and electronics and food.

There is a psychology theory that we operate on a hierarchy of needs: that once the lower-level needs are satisfied can we move on to higher-level needs. This hierarchy of needs can apply to a poker trip and will help you do well on the felt. The needs translated to poker are:

• Biological and Physiological: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
• Safety: Make sure you feel safe and comfortable.
• Social: You want to win every cent from your new single-serving friends, while at the same time feeling social and enjoying yourself.
• Esteem: Feel good about yourself, have a sense of accomplishment.
• Self-Actualization: Realize personal potential, self-fulfillment, seek personal growth and peak experiences.

Don’t let problems with physiological, safety and social needs go unmet, because if you do you can’t achieve esteem and self-actualization. Keep these things in mind and remember to keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email questions for him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.