I wrote the below thoughts down a few days ago and was tossing up between keeping it to myself or sharing it. It was written for personal use and I had to change the writing from first to second person but I decided to share it not only because sharing is caring (oh you better believe it is), but because there is nothing ground breaking or revolutionary in what I am saying and it is nothing that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Specifically you can find it where I did: in Jared Tendler’s book The Mental Game of Poker but if not in there then given how avidly he works contributing to the community then undoubtedly there are one or more likely many forum posts scattered around with the same thoughts. Or even if there isn’t then someone else who has read the book or been a student of his has written something similar. Or someone has come up with similar thoughts independently. Or someone has applied these thoughts learned in another discipline to poker. This is simply my approach to the topic; regurgitating and perhaps only slightly modifying what Jared has better written in his book.
There are tremendous benefits to including a pre session warm up each time you sit down to play poker. First and foremost it adds structure and creates a routine for what is otherwise generally a highly unstructured and scattered activity. It helps invoke a sense of responsibility both for your attitude towards your game/mental game as well as for the actions you make throughout you session. Spending a few moments warming up before each session will fill you with an air of accomplishment and confidence that is difficult to attain going into a session via anything other than randomness and luck. Lastly, each time you warm up you are working on your mental game and each time you warm up it is improving. Each time you warm up you get better at warming up. Following through with a routine of warming up and using your previous warm up to better your next one is almost as powerful to your mental and overall poker game as compound interest is in the world of finance. The magnitude of how powerful this is cannot be understated.
Getting closer and more practical the benefits become even clearer and powerful. A warm up will get you into a better mindset going into your session than if you were to simply “jump in”. This mindset will give you the confidence to play better from the first hand. The alternative is to spend the first X minutes of you session scattered and trying to focus – and while you may end up at the same place (though often times it will still be an inferior position to a post-warm up one), you will have played a vastly inferior game for 10, 15, 20, or more, minutes. This is unacceptable.
Oftentimes you get “bored” during a session of poker. Your mind wanders and you begin to desire entertainment in some way or form. Generally this is chatting via an IM program, browsing the internet or watching a TV show or movie. All of these are distractions and WILL hurt your bottom line. Including a warm up will help you re-focus on what you are working on – it can bring back excitement to the monotonous grind. It will help to show improvement over time as you work on and develop your poker abilities.
Not warming up before every session is idiotic. It is almost literally lighting money on fire. Some men just want to watch the world burn; some wish to burn with it. Some do not. You should warm up before every session. Your warm up will include a review of your notes from previous sessions as well as a short depiction of your current state of mind; your mood and attitude. You will know after your session how well you played – did you lose focus? How often? How badly? Were you making good decisions? Was your mind elsewhere? Did you reach a new A game? If you played bad, was your B or C game better than it was a week ago? A month ago? Did you run good or bad? Not just in an EV line sense – but in terms of hole card distributions, coolers, failed bluffs, unfortunate valuebets. Did you table select well? Did you adjust to your opponents or were you on auto pilot? These aren’t easy questions to answer. They become easier, though, by warming up.