As we learned in the previous article, self awareness is indispensable. To that effect, I mean a truly high level of self awareness. The only way to achieve this level of self awareness is through mindfulness exercises. The most popular and the most impactful exercise is meditation. In this article I want to present you the merits of meditation for poker and your life.
The myriad of health benefits for meditation has been scientifically proven in multitude. It is well known how many extremely successful people in the world are meditating and utilizing the benefits. Tony Robbins, Katy Perry, Russel Simmons, the late Steve Jobs, Clint Eastwood, Arianna Huffington, Madonna, Hugh Jackman to just name a few.
Meditation can be a lot of different things. Most people picture old monks sitting cross legged on stones for hours; you don’t need to do that
There is no generic definition of meditation. One key element that would be part of every definition is being present in the moment, observing our thoughts and bringing the mind back to the present moment when being distracted.
Meditation can be a lot of different things. Most people picture old monks sitting cross legged on stones for hours; you don’t need to do that. Meditation is not simply sitting for a long period of time. Meditation can be as long as one single breath. Meditation is anything in which we move our focus to the inside. It can be focusing on breathing or focusing on the sensation of certain body parts. Other times simply focussing on something beautiful such as a sunset or on the ingredients you are cutting into pieces when cooking can be meditation.
It helps you to recognize much earlier when things go wrong because of your own doing.
I don’t want to go too in depth on how to meditate and why to meditate. You will find plenty of material on that online. I want to focus on how to use it and what meditation can mean to your poker game.
Why is meditation so powerful for poker? The benefits of meditation are versatile.
First of all, you will become more relaxed. Your tilt resistance is much higher. You can suffer through more bad beats than you normally would. You will be able to observe yourself and recognize when you are about to start losing control. Through meditation you will learn how to be more self aware. It helps you to recognize much earlier when things go wrong because of your own doing.
When you first begin to learn about meditation, it is imperative to understand you must not avoid your thoughts. This is simply not possible; even negative thoughts. We are not trying to avoid them. If you try, you will create more resistance and you make it worse. The intention of meditation is to accept whatever comes up. Through acceptance we are discharging the energy of negativity. We observe, recognize, accept and ultimately bring the awareness back to the present moment.
In poker, we also observe, we experience a certain outcome and often we are unable to bring our awareness back to the present moment. We start playing in autopilot and emotions take over and control our operating system. This can lead to playing your C or D game and tilting.
Of course, we still might have feelings of frustration or anger linger, but we are better able to maintain a solid game.
Meditation teaches you to recognize when your attention slips away and you are about to start tilting and allows for a higher level of awareness to this moment. It is very important to understand that we don’t try to remove or avoid negative thoughts when playing poker. It is simply not possible. In our most primal DNA settings, we need negative emotions to survive. However, we need to learn how to accept them and move on; removing any attachment. This can only be achieved by having the ability to step back, observe what is going on, accept it and ultimately bring our awareness back to the present moment. Of course, we still might have feelings of frustration or anger linger, but we are better able to maintain a solid game.
In terms of what I recommend, 10-20 minutes per day are enough. The more the better of course. It is up to you whether you meditate in the morning or in the evening. Some prefer in the morning, some in the evening. For me, it increases my energy and focus, thus I meditate in the morning.
The key is to exercise your mind every single day. No matter what. Imagine a body that doesn’t exercise at all for a very long period of time. It gets flabby, fat, slow, inflexible. The same happens to your mind if you don’t exercise it regularly. Our brain is like a mental gym.
If you don’t work on your mindset, you will have huge struggles to overcome downswings.
I also like to implement short moments of presence throughout the day. Sometimes 5 times per day, sometimes only once per day, but I try to do it as often as possible. I do this by taking 4-5 deep breaths and observing my breathing. Takes 10-15 seconds. This is extremely powerful, especially for poker players. When grinding long sessions you need to have a high level of self awareness and moments of checking in and constantly being aware, otherwise you slip into autopilot. Even if it happens you will be able to escape from it much faster and easier. You can even use an alarm clock. Start with a self awareness reminder every single 10 minutes. When it beeps you check in. You take 2-3 deep breaths and bring you full awareness to the tables. Over time you can slowly increase it to 15 minutes, then 20 and eventually make it a habit. This is especially key for someone who doesn’t really spend any time on exercising their mind and often drifts off with their thoughts.
In downswings it is even more important to have a clear mind and stay calm. Poker is a complex game and its uncertainties can drive us crazy. If you don’t work on your mindset, you will have huge struggles to overcome downswings.
Most importantly, you need to have the right perspective. In the next article I will share this underrated concept. Having the right perspective will not only give you a powerful foundation in poker, but also for your everyday life.