Last month I was watching the WSOP Main Event final table and noticed at one point that at least four of the remaining players were chatting, had eyes glued to their phones, or were otherwise dividing their attention. These guys were playing the game of their lives and were not focused on the game!
This made me think about my own game and what advantages I might be losing by dividing my attention. My regular game these days is a tournament with 30 minute blind levels that typically lasts close to 12 hours if you make it to the bitter end. Over the last month I have created some new rules for myself when I play with the intention of honing my focus over the long hours:
- No more texting while playing – As I looked back, I was spending way too much time keeping my husband (also in the tournament) filled in on my big hands, and responding to updates about his. I was missing enormous amounts of information at the table in order to learn that my husband had just hit the case Jack on the River, saving him from immediate elimination. Good for him, but in the end, bad for me.
- No checking emails or peeking at the news on my phone – More often than not, my email has something stressful to share with me, and the news is never relaxing. Why allow more stress into my brain? Figuring out whether or not to four-bet all in with my pocket Queens is stressful enough. When I’m in the poker room, the world can stay at bay.
- I have become one of the headphone people – I have always been chatty at the poker table. But my social instincts have been robbing me of focus on the game. Particularly early in tournaments, I want all of my focus to be on how other players (especially those new to me) are playing their hands. Every time a player whose tendencies are a mystery to me shows down a hand, he reveals information about his game. If he raised pre-flop with a K-7 offsuit, I want to know that. If he’s limping with KK and AA, I want to know that too. If I’m chatting with the player next to me about the weather (or the game on TV) I’m going to miss the showdown. And that could have dire consequences for my game down the line. So while I have not yet invested in Beats by Dr. Dre, my earbuds are typically in my ears delivering some soothing tunes.
I have found all of these alterations helpful in allowing me to play my best game. I have not yet moved on to the hoodie / hat / sunglasses brigade, but I have learned to never say never!
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I believe that lots of things need to change, in tournaments and regular cash games. Not paying attention while your playing because you are either texting or emailing needs to stop, I find it disrespectful to the other players and the viewers. It would be nice if a dress code can be implemented for the bigger tournaments, it would give the game and the players a much better image. When I see the big players , the big names in poker you should be given an example to the rest of the poker community, they are our ambassadors, they are celebrities in their own right and have the responsibility to carry themselves properly. After all we look up to them, at least I do.
A dress code is an interesting thought. Frankly, I’d be happy if someone would just rip those ski goggles off of Phil Laak.