It is astonishing to me how many players travel from destination to destination to play poker tournaments in an unintelligent manner. When it is time for them to go play a tournament series, they simply plan the trip with little to no preparation. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, in my opinion, if you are trying to get the most equity out of each and every tournament you play, you should ensure your mind is in a good place before sitting at the poker table.
Especially if you do not play poker on a regular basis, I suggest you spend some time studying the game before you go play a tournament or a series of tournaments. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as reading books, watching videos, or discussing poker hands and concepts with your friends. By thinking about poker before you play your first hand, you will ideally be in a solid poker mindset, ready to play your best.
Another important thing you should do when preparing for a tournament series is to get off all mind-altering substances, at least a few days before the event starts. This will give your mind some time to get back in a clean, natural state. I do my best to avoid caffeine and alcohol a few days before a series. I don’t smoke or do drugs, so those are not issues for me. I also make a point to be in good physical shape. If you have no stamina and cannot think clearly, which is often the case when you are in bad shape, drunk/hungover, or drained due to caffeine, you will not play your best.
You should also monitor your sleep. I attempt to get on the right sleep schedule before I play any major tournament. I try to wake up a few hours before the event starts and go to sleep an hour after it is scheduled to end. Suppose I know I am going to play a tournament that starts at noon and ends at midnight. While I normally wake up at 6:30am when I am at home and taking care of my son, I adjust my schedule and wake up an hour later each day until I am waking up at 10am when I know I am going to play poker soon. This ensures I am fully rested and thinking my best. While being a few hours off your sleep schedule usually isn’t a huge deal, when you travel from America to Europe or Australia, if you fail at sleeping properly, you will leave a ton of money on the table. I once had the brilliant idea of going from the PCA in the Bahamas to the Aussie Millions in Australia then to Borgata in Atlantic City during a month-long poker trip. That didn’t work out too well for me.
Finally, I suggest you get in the proper state of mind such that you really want to play poker. Poker should be your primary concern. If you are burnt out from playing too much, you should consider taking some time off. If you have business that needs to be attended to, perhaps playing poker is not the best idea. If you are having a fight with someone important to you, make it right. You want to be able to focus on poker as much as possible. If your mind is elsewhere, you will miss many profitable spots.
Next time you know you are going to play a tournament, plan ahead to ensure you are prepared to play your best. While preparing ahead will likely not make you a significantly better poker player (unless you are spending a lot of time studying), it will ensure you play your “A” game more often than your opponents, allowing you to make more money than equally skilled players in the long run.
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