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Blog Post on Focus


Heather, I enjoyed your post on improving focus during a long session at the table. I have always, almost instinctively, avoided the cell phone during poker time. The only time I text is during a break, if I have time to send a quick update to interested parties. And my focus is a reason that I typically don't like it when I am playing and people at the table start talking about politics or something else non-poker. I also don't like lengthy on-topic discussions, like post-mortems on previous hands. Although, sometimes there are nuggets of information to be gained from these.

I have two other issues that present varying degrees of challenge for me in this area, however. First, I am diabetic. This can be a major distraction in two ways. If my blood sugar drops too low, my whole game goes in the toilet. But the first thing to go is concentration. So being aware of this, I am sometimes distracted with trying to manage it during play.

A while back I played a tournament at Mohegan Sun and absolutely destroyed my table. I was running good, both getting good starting hands and hitting flops and draws. I was also playing well, taking full advantage of the good cards. I busted several players and amassed a huge stack. By the time we went to the final table, I probably had close to half the chips in play. But just as I sat down at the final table and handed my chip racks back to the floor manager, I started feeling some of the symptoms of falling blood sugar. It was a half hour before the next break, so I just sat there and tried to keep playing. I was trying to get the server to come over so I could get orange juice. And in general, when I needed to be really focused and concentrating on the new players and the dynamics of the new table, I was distracted and physically unable to get it together. Knowing the situation, I just tried to stay out of hands and wait for the break. But I got blinded down a bit and missed not only chip up opportunities, but valuable information. I did end up getting something to drink and felt better after the break. But I finished fourth. I will always wonder how I might have done had I been able to just keep my focus sharp throughout.

To combat this now, I always have something to eat in my bag at the table at all times. If I need to do something about my sugar, I can address it quickly. I have also started wearing a continuous glucose monitor that sends regular updates about my sugar to my phone. So I can more easily monitor and act on any anomalies. And I am trying, as a general solution, to have better lifestyle habits and make better meal choices before and during games.

The other issue I have is that I can't really join the headphone brigade with you. I am visually impaired, and I really have to be able to use my ears to keep up with the action on the table. I am considering giving bone conduction headphones a try, just to have something soft playing in the background. So I'll see what happens with that.

I am curious, however, as to your opinion on the things you might miss with the ear buds in. Do you think the value outweighs the cost in that situation?


  • hnallen68


    First of all, thanks so much for the comment.

    My daughter (22) is actually a Type I diabetic and my first response was going to be "is there any way you can get on a CGM?" I'm so glad to hear that you have been able to do that. I know that it has made an immense difference in my daughter's life and her ability to control her sugars. One thing that you might do when you are going to be in a big tournament would be to set your low alarm a bit higher so that you "top up" before the symptoms of the low start hitting you. If you are on an insulin pump, you can also set a temporary low basal during the tournament if you find that you regularly go low from the long hours of concentration.

    In terms of the earbuds, I am always watching. If I see that a discussion is going on about the current hand, I will pull one out and listen. Sometimes, if I feel that the table is talking about hands (i.e. revealing what they had to other players), I will keep one earbud out for an extended period of time. This, like your bone conduction headphones, gives me the ability to pick up information while still getting the relaxing focus of my music.

    On the other hand, last weekend I was on a nightmare table for about three hours. There was a lot of boasting and insulting going on. People giving others unsolicited advice. And then the political discussions started. I went in the other direction and put on the soundtrack to "Hamilton" to completely immerse myself in the music and keep me from losing my mind. I may have lost some information in that tournament, but staying off tilt was more important to my overall game.

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