Get Grinding: How to Play 12+ Hour Online Poker Tournament Sessions

Every tournament poker player in the world has at least two things in common: they want to win as many tournaments and make as much money as possible. Once a player has established that they are winning, playing a volume large enough to reduce the length of downswings and maximize profit is key.

The easiest way to maximize profit is to figure out how to be most efficient in terms of time spent playing.  Playing the most possible tournaments in the fewest hours is very important to your hourly winrate.

mousenailsSince multi-table tournaments (especially those boasting a guaranteed prize pool) occur at staggered times throughout the day, it is most efficient to play long sessions. The danger of playing short sessions is that you may only have the time to load up a few tables in order to stop playing by a certain amount of time.  This generally leads to a lower hourly win-rate since you can play many more tournaments in one twelve hour session than in three four hour sessions.

Hypothetically, the most efficient division of playing forty hours a week would be in one long, grueling block.  Obviously this is not realistic, but what can be achievable for most players is playing very long sessions—clocking in at twelve plus hours.  This way, you can play just 4 days, and focus your play on Saturday and Sunday, since they are widely regarded as the days with the highest guarantees and the largest percentage of recreational players.

Tips for enabling yourself to play the longest sessions:

1.      Create a space you will be happy to spend over 12 hours in.  Keep things around your desk that will help keep you in a happy mood even in the most tilt-inducing sessions, such as family pictures, and photos of things that inspire you. Having a tidy and inspiring desk will go a long way in helping your mind to play optimally.

2.      Playing long sessions can be tough on your body. Invest in an ergonomic chair to help avoid back-pain. Away from the tables, indulge in massages. To reduce eye-strain, play on high resolution monitors. Keep preservative-free eye drops handy, as well as any item that you find yourself reaching for a lot (for me, that means cherry Chap Stick and a nice hand cream with a pump for quick access).

3.      Have a plan for eating and drinking.  In my office I have a small fridge stocked with water and iced tea. It takes only a few seconds to swivel around and grab a drink.  I eat a meal before I play, and then keep nuts and berries around to snack on if I get hungry.  Finger food is obviously a ton easier to eat than anything with a knife and fork when playing, and the temptation is to reach for chips and other junk food.  However, this should be avoided as a sugar-crash can make you feel very tired when you need to maintain your energy.  It helps to have a nice husband or roommate willing to bring you an easy-to-eat healthy dinner to keep you going! I also love having a vegetable “party tray” since it is easy to pull out of the fridge and have access to fresh veggies. If you like coffee, keep a small machine by your desk.

4.      Plan your work space so that it is easy to run to the restroom.  My office is set up in a bedroom in my house, and the bathroom is only about 10 feet away.  It may sound crass, but as a multi-tabler proximity to a bathroom should be one of the biggest factors when deciding where to put your grinding setup.

5.      Make the most of the synchronized 5 minute breaks. I like to run outside for some fresh air, and do a few jumping jacks to wake my body up (I also find it a good idea to get some exercise before I start my session as it helps me feel focused and keep myself healthy.) Play with your dog for a minute, and do a mental check to insure that you have put any hands you misplayed or bad beats out of your mind.

6.      Make the most of all the available tools that can help you make the best decisions in the least amount of time.  Utilize a Heads-Up Display (HUD) to give you important statistical information about your opponents that will influence how you play against them.  Play with a calculator that has a large display.

7.      Make sure to get plenty of sleep.  Staying out until 5am and having a wild night doesn’t mix well with a long grinding session.  Schedule your fun nights so that you are not playing much the next day, and do not start a session (if you can help it) without feeling mentally and physically energized and able to play your best.

8.      Schedule a poker study session before you start your weekly grind, during your days off from poker.  Use this time to be critical of yourself and evaluate what you can do to continue to improve as a player.  This is a good time to have a coach or poker buddy to help you honestly evaluate your play. In lieu of that, review your tournaments in a replayer, post and respond to other’s hands in poker forums, or watch online poker training videos. Use this time to question what you can do better so that you do not have to use any undue mental energy while playing.

9.      Allow the length of your sessions to be somewhat flexible.  If you are three hours into a session that you planned 12 hours for, but feel very tired, tilted or for any other reason unable to play your best, then stop loading games.  Use the time that you would have spent playing to address what stopped your session short.  Have tilt issues?  Read one of the many great psychology poker books. Tired? Take a nap and figure out how to go into your sessions with more energy.

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