Concentration essential to poker success



Poker is a competition. It’s not a zero-sum game. There are winners and losers. Like any competition or completive job, preparation is essential. Playing poker for fun or profit is a fast-paced, multiple-decision-making endeavor. It’s almost nonstop gathering of information. Players who take the game seriously are as intent on observation when not in a hand as when they are playing.

The old image of a poker player eating fried foods and drinking constantly is losing favor.

First, a serious player has to be fit and have stamina. Some tournaments require 10 or more hours of concentration and patience.

Try to eat healthy; be mindful of diet; understand spikes in insulin and sugar crashes. 

Exercise, take breaks at the table, don’t confine yourself to sitting for hours without a stretch. These are issues of self-care. They also avoid burnout.

Use headphones to block out annoying players but don’t get distracted to the point where it could cost you a hand or two.

I see many people watching movies on tablets and other devices while playing. When I ask them, they say the game doesn’t need that much attention, that after they see their hole cards then know exactly how everything will play out. Sometimes they are good players. So, whatever works, but don’t fool yourself. I think some of them are fooling themselves. 

As a culture, we have fallen prey to multitasking. Something as easy and seemingly unimportant is wearing layered comfortable clothes, particularly in a tournament, can mean increasing attention and concentration. A player who thinks about comfort and how to manage it is a person who’s taking the fun-profit continuum seriously. One doesn’t have to be fanatic, but this certain is an easy idea.

After that, it gets harder and requires some effort on your part. Learn to feel confident even in defeat, but don’t get arrogant.

Be prepared to deal with setbacks: Focus; be patient and follow your strategy. Set realistic goals, use positive self-talk and use the peak-performance skills you have practiced before getting to the table.

Don’t come to the table after a major personal crisis. This is not the place to work out your issues. This is a place to have fun and make some money.

And, as always, keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine