Enhancing Your Focus as a Poker Player

Most people don’t understand and accept the reality of poker, which is that you’re going to lose frequently. Knowing this, the first mindset shift to take on is to play in order to give it your best.

There’s so much potential in increasing your performance, and your ability to focus is at the center.

Training your brain to only focus on one thing at a time is something that we’re very unused to today because of all the distractions in the modern world. Just doing one thing at a time requires the rewiring of your brain and discipline in all areas of life.

It can be meditation, where you just focus on your breathing or something like standing outside, or taking a walk without your phone. But mainly focusing on one thing: yourself.

Lately, I’m trying to place my focus on one thing such as drinking coffee on my balcony without my phone. In the end, if that is stressful or there is resistance that’s good because it means that you have to develop that discipline.

It’s going to come in to help when you are at the poker table, when you realize you feel the urge to get some other stimulus or focus on something else.

Developing awareness of where your focus is at the moment and how to improve it is something that a lot of poker players can benefit from, but it’s not something that just comes easily.

Just because it is hard to accomplish doesn’t mean we should give up. Because you’re competing against players who are focusing on many things at the same time, it can be a very powerful edge. 

It will pay off for sure.

Challenges

You can only grow beyond what you’ve been before if you are challenging yourself.

So, welcome the challenges and do the things in your power that you can control so you’re ready for their arrival by being mentally strong and accepting it. By saying that whatever happens, you’re going to work on yourself and you’re going to grow through the experience.

I usually deal with it by just acknowledging that a lot of negative things will happen in my life that I cannot control, thus being aware that variance is gonna hit me one day as well.

Bad things happen to you and all you have basically is your inner strength, so in moments of great variance, in moments where you are running on expectations, those are good moments to build up your mindset.

I went on a Hell Weekend as part of my mental preparation for the Omaholics Series. There, the body and mind were put to the test over a 3 day span. It was pretty brutal, but then I got back home and everything felt so comfortable and easy compared to it.

Consequently, I had great focus playing in the Omaholics, and even got to a final table in four events. Here is a video with highlights from the $10k Super High Roller final table.

Positive and negative things will both occur in our life and trying to avoid either of them is just not a good idea.

Remind yourself of how good things are at the moment for you and at the same time never assuming that this is the way it always will be, but knowing that you will have the inner strength to go through whatever comes at you and you will grow to the experience.

Hold on to your rituals and habits and continuously work on yourself. If you go through a downswing and maybe lose some confidence in the process, that’s the bigger issue.

It can happen very often in poker. A negative event hits you and triggers ten more negative events and then you look back at your life. The reality is you can put a stop to this, especially if you have the inner strength and you work on yourself on a consistent basis.

One of the best things you can do to build your inner strength is to “callous your mind“. David Goggin’s mantra to confront yourself with all the things that make you feel uncomfortable, and embrace pain to the point your mind is not affected by them.

Inspiration

If you’re not excited about what you’re doing you need to think about why. You need to change that and it’s either going to be by changing the entire path or by changing your approach to it.

What you absolutely can’t do is just accept that you’re not excited and keep doing it, that’s not a long term solution.

Maybe you are on the right path but you’re still procrastinating and you’re distracted. There are many things in life that can take away focus from what you actually want to do and would potentially enjoy doing.

If you’re working on something and you focus solely on that, the relationship and enjoyment will be much higher than if you do it while juggling your attention with other things.

If you live a very distracting life overall, you won’t be able to perform a single task essentially. You can’t just turn your brain on and expect to be easily focused, when it’s the same brain that you’re constantly overflowing with distractions throughout the day.

You shouldn’t undermine this idea, especially in the most important and repetitive activities you do in your life.

If you’re going to be distracted with your grind today then it will most likely happen tomorrow as well as the next day, and so on. Then, after a couple of months, you’ll ask yourself why you’re even doing it because it will not be that exciting anymore.

Emotions

There are so many emotions at the poker tables. But just cutting your emotions off is not working through it, it’s working around it.

You need to learn how to deal with it in the moment without suppressing it and accepting that emotions will come in. As you recollect yourself in and go back to the path of what you are trying to do, stay calm with a focus on accepting the emotion.

That’s the reality. If you ignore it, it will haunt you afterwards, so you need to work through it. In my experience, the more you do that the smaller the emotional bursts.

On the other hand, if you suppress it even more, there are some really bad side effects, like monkey tilt, or being extremely overconfident or underconfident that the emotional swings become higher and higher, suppressing you.

So the more often you face those emotions, the lesser the effect will become and they will feel less intense. They will never go away completely, so it would actually be a huge waste of time and energy to try to get rid of them.

Reflect on it, use it as an advantage, and be glad that it comes up.

Conclusion

Think about what you want out of life, how to get there and what you’re doing or not doing that helps or hurts you.

Find excitement in what you do and always seek new challenges. Focus on one thing at a time and work through your emotions, not around them.

Keep working on your strategy and your mental game, that’s what you can hold on to, your own inner strength. 

That’s all you really have in store.

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Fernando Habegger

Fernando Habegger

As a PLO poker pro I've coached a lot of players, developed high-quality learning programs, and wrote a book about Mastering Small Stakes PLO. I love helping players figure out the game, transform their minds, and achieve success in life and poker.
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A poker player at a poker table.

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