30/08/2012

Always be Kind to Body and Mind

Christian Zetzsche

At first glance poker seems to be a rather simple card game and symbolizes raunchy back rooms where people lose a fortune, at least that is what society still thinks despite the efforts of some modern poker movies. But poker is by far more than just gambling and even though it is not considered as sport and you don't need the body of a well trained athlete, it doesn't hurt either to do whatever it takes to stay in shape and maintain a healthy balance of body and mind.

Some people say "the average poker player is almost as lazy as a Koala bear" and this statement might be correct to a certain degree, yet also overly sarcastic. Most follow strict guidelines for BankRollManagement but still prefer to be less disciplined when it comes to fitness and soon discover "the ring", not on TV with Frodo and Gollum but rather the one around your belly when you only click random buttons the whole time and barely do anything else to stay in shape.

Money comes first, but it cannot always buy happiness - yet it is a necessary priority these days because we have to make sure we can pay our bills and feed our basic needs and family. But we should use the same basic adjustment for all aspects of our life.

In order to not get lost, we need to remember what we have learned and experienced so far and transform our theoretic knowledge by setting goals:

  • Set reasonable goals that you can achieve.
  • The goals should still be challenging, otherwise we soon lose the interest.
  • Solve one goal after the other and not all at the same time.

For my part, I decided about three months ago that my physical fitness is the most urgent goal on my agenda before I can move on. Not only does being in shape help to master long sessions and days "on the grind" (work and poker) more consistently, regular workouts also trigger more Adrenaline and in combination with healthy nutrition, your body is benefiting from the flow of Endorphins to gain a higher level of motivation. This has a direct influence on the own creativity and concentration as well as alertness in the long run, stressful situations have less impact on the mindset and the focus remains where it should be.

If you have to work hard for something, you can enjoy the final result by far more and will remember the time, blood and sweat you invested. It also boosts the confidence in the own abilities and encourages the motivation to pursue further goals.

Of course there are ways to circumvent this rule of thumb and enhancers such as caffeine and nicotine also have the same effect for a certain time, yet may cause severe consequences in the long run if (ab)used systematically. We may not necessary notice it and "drugs" such as Cannabis (which can funnily enough be legally purchased in Coffee Shops in the Netherlands) are not uncommon for poker players, as they ease the way into the comfort zone and increase the focus distinctly.

Advantages of "drugs":

  • Extended attention span and enthusiasm for a short period of time.
  • Creation of patterns to get a structure in your short-term goals.

Disadvantages of "drugs":

  • Availability, restricted legality and monetary expense.
  • Can trigger addictions and may have an influence on your health.

Especially the beginning of such a severe change can be frustrating, confusing and mentally as well as physically challenging, as your body and mind has to get used to the new rhythm and still insists on the old pattern before accepting something new. The lack of practice up to that point is one aspect to intimidate the self-confidence, but at the same time we usually expect things to go as smooth as they used to by default and fear the worst. We are often afraid of what might be waiting around the corner, as the unknown implies danger and opportunity at the same time.

  • "Cold Turkey" not only applies for drugs but all our habits.
  • We tend to block negative results, yet always use them as escape to pity ourselves.

If we only stick to a certain strategy, we soon become exploitable and who really wants to be read like a book when trying to turn a profit? Poker should not be seen as a sprint but rather an endurance challenge where we have to adjust to the circumstances, mistakes may not backfire in the short run but you can't win a tournament in 10 minutes ... unless it's a hyper turbo Sit & Go.

  • Always keep an eye on other possibilities and evaluate the opinion of others.
  • Open your eyes and your mind, adjust your decisions as you learn and improve.
  • Always question your own motivation and what you want to achieve with it.

Only the mental and physical stamina dictates if you can maintain that pace consistently and thoroughly use your knowledge, experience and skills to gain an edge over your opponents. As with many things in our daily routine, being prepared does pay off and it is our own responsibility to make sure it is taken care of. Just don't wait too long, because our body may be forgiving, but sooner or later it will take whatever it needs and a Burn Out syndrome is a lesson we don't necessarily want to witness ourselves.

All of the above add a bill for our future generations and whereas our own influence might be limited to make a change in general, it should not be used as an excuse though because we can indeed make the right decision for ourselves. What we make out of it ultimately depends on us and we should have the final decision. The below should be seen as biased advice upon personal experience:

  • Don't order food, rather cook and prepare it yourself.
  • Check the ingredients of the products you buy most. Is there a healthier version?
  • Regular workouts don't require countless hours every day. Consistency and progress is what matters.
  • Don't hurry or put quantity over quality.

Last but not least I would like to share something that I picked up myself and keep reminding me of.

The key to success is the willingness to invest time, money and efforts to discover and overcome our own limits and experience a whole new world every day.