Poker Warm-up and Cool Down

Poker players often overlook two of the most important aspects of peak performance: The Poker Warm-up and Cool Down.  These are what pro sports players, stand-up comics, presentation speakers and actors do before and after a performance to get the best out of themselves, and we should follow suit.  This article will help to make these aspects easier for you to do by giving you some simple and effective ways to do so, along with a tracker to use.

This is the fourth in a series of posts organized around Smart Poker Skill Development.  Please read the first three if you haven’t already:

  1. 5 Steps to Simple and Effective Warm-ups
  2. Improve Your Poker Game with FOCUS Sessions
  3. Making Money with Poker Volume Sessions

Warm-up

It’s difficult to always do a warm-up because we’re all so eager just to play.  You know the importance of warming up before playing a game of basketball or giving a presentation, and you need to treat playing poker the same way.

My warm-ups take about 5 minutes to do, and I use a sheet I created to keep me on track: the Poker Session Primer.

This primer is intended to be used each time you play and will help you keep focused on your session if used properly.  The Warm-up is the first section and it contains the following:

Strategy Focus – This is the main strategy I’m focused on for the session.  It may change on a day to day basis, or weekly (most often I change it weekly).

Combo Stat Focus – These are two or more stats that I focus on through the session.  These stats work in conjunction to give me better reads on my opponents, like Flop Cbet & Turn Cbet or 2bet & Fold to 3bet.

Affirmation – This normally revolves around tilt as it’s what I’m really trying to ditch from my game.  The affirmations is a saying that I’ve come up with that helps to inject logic into tilting situations.  For more on Affirmations, read my post on The Miracle Morning and Poker.

Visualization – This is a quick 20-30 seconds of visualizing something I want from my session.  It could be controlling tilt, making good decisions, checking the relevant HUD pop-ups, etc.

FOCUS or Volume? – Each session I play is a FOCUS or Volume session.  Focus sessions have tiled tables and I only play four tables maximum and Volume sessions are 8 to 10 tables with them stacked.

Good Attitude – This is just an additional thing for me to help keep a good attitude and my tilt in check.

Concentration – This is here to help me remember to concentrate and to avoid distractions.  I’m currently using Focus@Will to help with keeping me focused and it’s working wonders.  If you’d like a 30 day trial, just click on my affiliate link in the sidebar.

Session Notes – I often keep a paper/pen handy for mid-session notes, but sometimes I’ll write it here instead.

Cool Down (Post Session Review)

We also overlook the Cool Down.  Immediately after our session is the best time to evaluate our play, and with it being so fresh in our minds, we’ll be able to assess it most accurately.  You don’t want to think about how you’re playing while you’re playing as you just want to concentrate on playing the game.  Thinking about how you’re playing could put you too much into your head and put you off your game mid-session (think of a golfer whose thoughts on the mechanics of his swing mess up his swing).

I try not to think about the money won or lost in the session as the short-term results don’t matter.  The things I evaluate post-session are:

Rate Play – I give myself a rating of how well I played.  A, B or C-game.  Did I focus on the things I set out to do in my warm-up?  Did I avoid tilt?  Did I make good ‘in the moment’ decisions?  Any regrets on the way I played a hand?

Rate Session – Did variance effect my results?  Did I get it in with the best hand only to lose a lot?

Why – Notes on why I rated the play/session the way I did.  Often these are the answers to the questions above.

Post-Session Notes – This is here for me to make additional notes on anything important that I didn’t put in my ‘Why’ section.

Three Things – This is here as a “Lessons Learned” recorder.  If I could go back and tell myself three things before the session started, those are my lessons learned.  They are things that I need to take with me into every future session to help me play better.  Sometimes it’s just one thing or nothing, but occasionally I’ll have a real eye-opening session where three lessons come from it.

Evaluating your session is also a great way to put the past behind you.  By writing it down we free ourselves of having to remember or think about it, so we’ll be fresher for the next session.  It’s also a way to get on with our lives outside of poker without the session weighing us down.

If you adopt the Poker Session Primer in your own game, please let me know how it works for you in the comments below.

Make your next session the best one yet!

Sky Matsuhashi