PokerBaazi Blog Post #9
State of Flow
PokerBaazi Team PRO
In every sphere of life, the aim is to be in that sweet spot of the zone or in the state of flow – where work becomes pleasurably effortless, personal relationships are joyfully synergistic, and healthy living is vibrantly conscious.
As we all know, living with this kind of focus in our daily lives is not an easy feat and we may not even realize it when we do somehow get into the zone. However, it is a state of being that all self-help gurus advocate and try to help us attain through meditation, guided hypnosis, audiobooks, and more. Anthony Robbins, in his book, Awaken the Giant Within, urges his readers to write down goals and read them twice a day to build a neural pathway to achieve those goals. Basically, this is to tune yourself to get into the zone in your daily lives.
Attaining the ability to get into this flow state quickly and for a sustained period of time is especially important for athletes who need to have a level of focus which is different from regular folks. Sports superstars including Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Usain Bolt, Viswanathan Anand, Saina Nehwal, Serena Williams, Pele, undoubtedly know how to tap into the flow state and use it to play their best, always.
As Poker players, we are a unique group of gladiators who need to stay focused for not just hours but for days on end - for example, playing the WSOP Main Event, where one needs to get through 5 days and an average of 6500 competitors to reach the final 9.
The major Indian online poker tournaments, which are now daily fare, need us to stay focused for at least 8-10 hours if we want to have any possibility of reaching the top 3 positions. Cash game players play sessions which can go on for days without much of a break and need to have laser focus so that they don’t lose hard-won money.
In the last few months, I have been reading about the state of flow, how to get into the zone quickly and how to stay there for the longest possible time. Till date, the only time I think I get into this zone is when I am at a movie, eating from my tub of popcorn and suddenly I realize my fingers are scrabbling at the bottom of the tub – faced with questions like how did I finish all that popcorn, what time is it, where am I?
I’m just kidding. Kinda.
Because the state of flow is exactly like that in simplest terms. It’s subconsciously doing something that you’ve done a hundred thousand times before and doing it without trying. It will be effortless, without your mind overthinking, distracting or sabotaging.
But remember, this can only happen if you have put in hours of practice and study. Someone who is playing Poker for the first time will not be able to get into the zone while playing because they have to keep thinking about the rules, the hierarchy, calculating the bet sizes, and other things that their brain is trying to figure out.
I’m sure most of us who have been playing Poker for some time have been in the zone during sessions but the trick is to hook back into the zone each time we play. It’s not as difficult as it may sound but one does have to prepare for it and then make the best of it. Here are some tips on how to get into the zone.
Take some time before each game or session to prepare yourself for the type of tournament or cash game you will be playing. Meditate or use guided hypnosis to calm your nerves and get into a confident state of mind. Also, review a brief list of points you need to keep in mind while playing the game – things you have learned to either do or not do from your past few games or sessions.
To be able to tap into the zone, you must not have any distractions. Well, I’ll modify that – do not have any additional distractions than what your mind is already used to. For example, some of us like to listen to music while playing and this could even help us get into the zone. Others like to watch TV while playing. And most of us multi table, some even playing up to 12 tables at a time (say what?!). If these are daily activities while playing, your brain is already used to processing them as normal so you will still be able to get into a state of flow.
Focus Your Attention
Now that you’ve prepared yourself and have put yourself in a comfortable space, it is time to pay attention. Do not force the attention but let it wash over you. Be observant, get to know your table, let your mind come up with its own analysis of the players, their tendencies.
Access Your Memory
If you have been in the zone before or even if you haven’t, try to think back to the last time you played your best game. Those of you who have been in the zone, think of the last time you were in that sweet spot. Without forcing it, access your memory – how it felt to play well, how happy you were with your game, how you were sitting, how you lost track of time. Slowly, but surely, you will replicate the feeling of that last session and will access the moment of being in a flow state.
While you are trying to access your memory, you also need to let go and trust yourself. Don’t worry about bad beats or the guy who is 3 betting you relentlessly. Just know that you can use all the knowledge you have about poker in this session. It will be automatic. Learn to trust your game.
By following these tips, you will see a vast difference in how you play – in terms of accessing your poker knowledge automatically, playing hands that make it seem to others like you’re running good, and basically beasting it all the way to the final table. Who wouldn’t want to get into this state of flow if these can be your results on a consistent basis?
Shine on, you crazy diamonds.