Finding Your Poker Focus by Joe Beevers

Have you ever found that you start some tournaments well, but in others you just can’t get “tuned in”? What should you do about it?

Let us consider a trained athlete just before he/she runs in the 100-meter final at the Olympics. What do they do? Are they in the bar having a beer or chatting with their friends in the crowd? Not usually. They’re typically going out of their way to block out all outside interferences. They may be sitting with their heads in their hands or standing with their heads bowed.

What do they think about? Winning. Having that gold medal placed around their necks.

How do they achieve the focus that everyone talks about? They probably mentally go through races that they’ve won. They pump themselves up by recalling past victories in their minds.

Let’s apply this to poker.

First though, go through all the hands that you’ve played badly (this will take some people longer than others). Think about hands that you’ve played that have knocked you out of tournaments at crucial stages. The time that you played A-Q (or even that lousy A-J) against a good player’s pre-flop raise, hit the Ace on the flop and then decimated your chip stack. The time that you called a raise for all your chips with pocket sevens or the time that you made an early position raise with pocket nines, fell in love with them and refused to pass for a re-raise on your left.

Now that that’s out of the way, think about hands you’ve played well: The perfect reads that you’ve put on opponents because everything seemed so transparent, the final tables that you’ve made and the tournaments that you’ve won. Can you remember the way you played through those victories, how quickly the time seemed to pass, and how confident you felt? This is how you can gain the “poker focus” that you need and slip straight into your “A” game at the start of the next tournament that you play.

Mike Caro once said that when you join a poker game, you should say to yourself, “I am a great poker player; a powerful winning force surrounds me.” I believe it’s a technique worth trying.

In the Great British Poker Tour Grand Final in Bristol back in December 2007, I found myself up against several really good players at the TV final table. Roland de Wolfe and Barny Boatman were both there, as well as Neil Channing and “Bambos” Xanthos. It was a while since I had won an event and I wanted that feeling back.

I tried to remember which victories had felt the best, and the one that came to mind was winning the Irish Open. I took myself back to that table in Dublin and before long found that I was playing with renewed confidence and using all my strengths to my best advantage. You know what’s kind of funny as well: When you get into that zone, you kind of seem luckier. That’s what players mean when they talk about making your own luck!

Joe Beevers