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MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Mental Toughness
by John Reger

There is a great scene in the movie "The Hustler" when Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason are playing their first match together.

After countless hours of playing, the dawn breaks through the painted windows and the endurance of both men is being tested.

Newman, who had been winning, is spent. He's drunk, tired and believes Gleason is about to give up. Gleason walks into the bathroom, methodically washes his hands and face, comes out of the bathroom refreshed and says, "Ok, Fast Eddie, Let's play pool!"

Poker players can take a lesson from that classic scene where Gleason's character has beaten his opponent before they even begin to play again.

The same mental toughness and cunning are valuable skills to have when playing poker, especially over a long stretch of time.

The most I have ever played at one sitting was 26 hours, and by the time I was done I didn't even know my own name. Fortunately I was in college, playing a $1-$2 table and didn't lose much money.

My friend used to play for days on end. He played poker at a club for three days straight one time, but he was an anomaly.

Another friend of mine owns the Guinness Book of Records mark for the longest time sitting at a poker table. Larry Olmsted, from Vermont, endured seventy-two hours of non-stop play with only occasional breaks to visit the bathroom. He played seven card stud for that time and reportedly drank more than 30 cups of coffee in that time to stay awake.

Whether you are going to sit down for three hours or three days, you have to know your limitations.

There are also a couple of common sense things you can do to limit your mistakes.

The first one seems so simple, but I see so many card players fail to adhere to it. Be well rested when you come to play.

Friday nights at the card club are called sucker's night because so many guys show up after work with their paycheck. They possess the perfect combination of money and fatigue.

The last thing you want to do is to sit down at a card table after working 8 or 10 hours. You might not feel tired, but trust me, you are and you are bound to make stupid mistakes.

Don't go to the club right after work, go home, take a nap and a shower, eat something and then go to the club. That two hours of down time will save you a bunch of money later on in the evening.

The same goes if you are playing online poker. Come home from work and plop down in front of the computer and you are going to make mistakes.

Another common mistake I see players make is they don't take breaks while they play. I am guilty of that as well. I will sit for two-three hours at a stretch and not even get up to stretch.

That is a big mistake. You should get up at least once an hour and stretch and walk around. If you don't want to miss a hand, just walk around the table while the dealer is shuffling. Or if you fold a hand, get up and take a little stretch.

My routine is I get up right after the button has passed me. I drink a lot of ice water to stay hydrated so I usually make a visit to the bathroom. Then I wash my hands and face and do a little stretch as I make my way back to the table. I usually only miss one hand, two tops, and the break is exactly what I need to revitalize me.

The last bit of advice is to know when to quit. I tend to set a deadline. I know I am good for so many hours of quality poker, and I try not to exceed that. I have seen a lot of guys play, go up in chips and then get tired and refuse to leave for whatever reason. The stacks go back down, and pretty soon they bust out before they even know what hit them. When it's time to quit, quit.

You'll make more money in the long run.


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