WSOP preparation

WSOP Prep: Building Mental Endurance

This year’s World Series of Poker will be my sixth as a mental game coach for poker players. Prior to poker I worked with high level golfers and athletes, and have realized the WSOP is as mentally demanding a competition as The Masters, Wimbledon and The World Cup. The series is seven weeks long, every day is incredibly long, the fields are huge, the competition is tough, and not to mention dealing with the cruelty of variance along the way. You need to be both physically and mentally sharp to be successful at the WSOP. Mere poker skills on their own are not enough. You and many other players know this and yet amazingly, very few take your mental and physical stamina seriously enough during the series. Although more players wake up to this new reality every year, some of you remain unconvinced. Perhaps seeing the parallels between poker and sport will help you to see why taking steps to ensure that more than just your poker game is in great shape when you arrive in Vegas.

Energy level

Poker in not as physically demanding as sports tend to be—poker rooms aren’t really full of “athletes.” However, that doesn’t mean that being in good physical shape isn’t important. There is new scientific research that links mental and physical performance. In my new book The Mental Game of Poker 2, physical energy is cited as one of the main factors that’s needed to consistently get in the zone. That’s because physical energy is the foundation for mental energy. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when you’re exhausted physically, you’re also in terrible mental shape. So, it’s logical to assume that getting your body in to better shape gives you more physical and mental energy. That means you’ll read the action, make decisions, and focus with greater ease. Getting in better physical shape can be simple. For example, try going to the gym one more day/week or walk for 15 minutes every other day. Plus, having a routine for being in good physical shape is critical when you’re at the WSOP and need to stay in good shape for 7 weeks!

Increasing Mental Endurance

You need a lot of mental endurance to compete at a high level at the WSOP. If you currently are only used to playing three-hour sessions each day or playing single day tournaments, expecting to consistently play well for 12 to 16 hours a day for several days is a fantasy. You may be able to do that once, but unless you’ve trained that level of mental endurance eventually your mind will break down. Many players do not realize that mental endurance can be increased in similar way to how physical endurance is increased—steadily over time. I have successfully coached 9 players to SuperNova Elite on PokerStars and every one needed to increase their mental endurance. Try this: In preparation for the WSOP, steadily increase the amount you play. If you play four hours a day, play for 30 minutes longer for the next several sessions. If you find the quality of your play dipping in those extra 30 minutes, work hard and push yourself mentally to keep the quality of your play high. Then when you can do those extra 30 and play well more easily, add more time. Rise and repeat. You don’t have to build all the way up to playing 12 hours/day before Vegas, the excitement of playing in the series will give you an extra burst of energy.

More and more, you’ll hear the top poker players talking about excerise and eating well. They realize how important it is to stay sharp throughout the long grind each day and the  series as a whole. Don’t go crazy trying to get in perfect shape or add a ton of mental endurance—you simply need to be a bit better than you are now. Every edge matters and at the WSOP even a small one like this can lead to a life changing result.

Jared Tendler
Jared Tendler, MS, LMHC, is the leading expert in the mental game of poker. He’s coached over 300 players from around the world, including some of poker’s top players, Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt, Niman “Samoleus” Kenkre, and Ben “NeverScaredB” Wilinofsky (Winner of EPT Berlin). He has worked with players from 38 countries as well as thousands more through online training videos and forums. The combination of earning a Masters degree in psychology, being a licensed mental health counselor, and over seven years of experience as a performance coach has given Jared a unique approach to helping players of all skill levels improve and exceed their goals.
Jared Tendler
Jared Tendler

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