By Alex Fitzgerald, Featured Coach
As I mentioned Monday, I am currently creating a video series on a recent big tournament win. It’s not for sale yet. I will be introducing it in a free webinar (sign up here) on Monday on Advanced Poker Training. In the meantime, I am sharing some tips to help you run deep in your next tournament poker game. You can find my previous article, with tournament tips 1 through 3 here.
Sleep, Caffeine Intake, and a Standing Desk
If you want a burst of energy during your tournament, you need to manage your sleep the night before. Try to not drink caffeine after 2:00 PM the day before a tournament day, so that it doesn’t interrupt your sleep that night. The increased sleep quality will help you play better.
Humans did not evolve to sit at desks all day. If you can afford it, Veri makes a $700 adjustable desk. You can convert it to a sitting or standing desk easily with the push of a button. If you’re drained during an online tournament session, shift to standing and move around when you can.
During my $250,000 GTD win I was packing up to move cross country. Most of my apartment was in boxes. I had no standing desk. The night before I had been out to dinner with my friends. Since I was not planning to play the next day I had an espresso with dessert, then I went home to watch the Canelo fight. I was hurting during most of the thirteen-hour session. I’m experienced enough that I can deal with playing without a standing desk or great sleep. But I would not recommend it.
Unbeknownst to me I also had a root canal fail the day before. Root canals have a 98% chance of succeeding. This one did not. Talk about running bad!
I did not sleep well, I was at a makeshift desk, and I was pounding ibuprofen to get past my tooth pain. How did I make it to the dentist appointment the next morning with $55,000 in my pocket?
Easy. I was meaner than the other guy.
Never Give Them an Inch
When I play online poker, the process is generally relaxing. I have practiced the fundamentals so many times that it’s like breathing to me. Like playing chess in the park. I like winning. I like beating my opponents.
People have told me before that they don’t understand how I could say poker isn’t about the money to me. But if you’re only thinking about money, then you’re likely to freak out when the payout jumps come. The narrowminded focus is going to bite you in end.
This is my fifteenth year in the game. I have supported my disabled mother and other family members through my winnings. The money means plenty to me, I assure you.
If you focus on loving the game the money will come.
But I don’t love the game the same way other people do.
You know why I love the game?
I love watching grown men give up.
You might have better teeth than me. You might have a better education. Your family might be rich. You might have every advantage on Earth. But you will not outwork me. I will watch you break.
Tournament poker is largely about who is tougher. It’s not about who is the best poker player. It’s about who can play the best poker for the longest period of time. If you are an incredible poker player for the first four hours of a poker tournament but then you give it away in hour five, you’re a loser.
I love knowing that an infected root canal won’t change how I play. I love seeing how soft other poker players are. One hand doesn’t go their way, and they throw the tournament away. I three-bet twice and they desperately shove their terrible hand into me. I love watching them break.
It’s All About the Fundamentals
This is why practice is so important. Everybody in poker wants to analyze super sexy river bluffs endlessly. Do you know how rarely those hands come up? I recently found a couple of them in my database for a teaching lesson. They were there, but it was hard to find situations where that could even be applied.
Do you know what I obsess over? Opens. Three-bets. Continuation bets. Double barrels. River value bets.
John Wooden, the legendary NCAA basketball coach, spent 85% of his practices on passing. Why? Good passing increases shot selection. Shot selection increases points per possession. Increased points per possession means more points per game. Good passing means fewer turnovers. Denying your opponents possessions decreases their average score.
Fundamentals. That’s what gave Wooden ten championships.
You know what I do when someone keeps three-betting me? I wait for a hand that would love to be three-bet. Then I check-raise the flop for value. I bust the guy half the time because he’s so sure that I’m mad. He calls down with third pair and won’t let go.
I don’t care if you three-bet me. It’s tournament poker. I’ll be at a new table soon. I can wait.
Playing the Long Game
The tournament took thirteen hours to win. You know what I did during most of it? I listened to an audiobook on my speakers. I picked it because it’s not that intense. Since I was single-tabling it was easy to follow the action.
Anytime I wanted to play a hand I paused the book. I focused on the specific hand. I talked myself through a few decisions to wake myself up. There’s no law against talking to yourself. Bruce Willis does it in Die Hard. Tennis stars talk to themselves constantly because their coach is not allowed to be there with them. You are in the same situation.
Whenever other players were playing, I listened to my book. I replayed every single hand after it was done. When I needed to take a note, I did. I watched the hands on the other tables. The audiobook played to help me get through the early morning hours, but I wasn’t paying much attention to it.
I was chilling, sipping my coffee and water. Completely relaxed and in my element. I didn’t get nervous if I didn’t win a pot for a few orbits, or if one of my continuation bets failed. I’ve been in that spot before. I’ll be in that spot again.
I was too busy re-watching hands, taking notes, and formulating a plan to win. There was no time to worry. I was too focused on winning.
I knew exactly why I made every move. That’s how much I had studied before I got to this situation. I wasn’t learning on the job to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I had already gotten in my practice
People tried to drag me out into a brawl. I declined. Instead I focused on my bread and butter bets. I executed.
Once I got to the final table, I turned the audiobook off. I didn’t rush anything. I took it one hand at a time. That’s how I won.