In boxing, fighters have an adage. “You have to learn to fight tired. It’s a different skill.”
Many of us have played a sport which has completely run us down. In the final moments of the game, when we are completely spent, we still know how to move and position ourselves. A subconscious will takes over.
We can develop that in poker as well.
If you want to play tournament poker, you will have to learn how to play tired. Day fives are brutal, especially if you’re actually paying attention to most hands. Online poker has tournaments that go late into the night. You’ll need to get your nerve up if you’re going to play these events.
Furthermore, if you play cash, you’ll often find guys lose their mind late into the night. It’s about 3:00 AM when the liquor starts saturating their mind and the money is good. You will need to be alert during that witching hour.
How do you do this? There’s a few quick tips that can put things in your favor.
First of all, this should be obvious, but keep your head clear. A beer will slow you down.
Second of all, keep hydrated. I’ve run this drill hundreds of times. Hydration seems to be the biggest deciding factor in keeping ahead of the game. Down water religiously.
Before they started making it for adults, I actually used to go to Dollar Stores and buy out their PediaLyte solutions. It tastes awful, but the electrolyte cocktails helped considerably during the late nights. Now, you can buy the stuff tailored for adults, and avoid the stares I used to get in the checkout line.
If you need caffeine, stick to black coffee or tea. All the added sugars and artificial sweeteners that come with energy drinks and Starbucks lattes seem to eventually create a spike and crash. A crash late at night when the game is not breaking is awful.
Try to stay away from espresso shots until you absolutely need them. That’s your turbo shot. If you think you have multiple guys ready to crack and you’re fading fast, go to the espresso shot. There will be a crash, but most likely the witching hour is at hand, so we’ll take that risk.
Don’t eat anything with sugar in it, that gives you that crash. A lot of those energy bars are just loaded with sugar, they hide it in the ingredients all the time. They’ll call it a syrup, say it’s a natural flavor, whatever. Just don’t go to them if you’re starving, bring a sack of almonds, and if you’re feeling ambitious, put avocado slices in a Tupperware.
Finally, let’s talk about the actual play of poker.
A very basic player can make real money during these hours, my career is a testament to this.
All you have to do is not crack. Most other guys will crack. You need to be the guy who doesn’t crack.
Think of the hand before you do anything. Imagine the hand as if you were seeing it in a hand history replayer. Get a bird’s eye view of the table in your mind. What would you do if you saw this in a hand history? Do that.
DO NOT get creative at this moment. Your exhaustion is playing with your mind. NO big calls unless you have excellent evidence. NO big bluffs unless you know the player incredibly well. Stick to fundamentals. Focus. Wait them out. Don’t crack.
At some point, one of your opponents will crack when you have something. This generally comes in the form of big calls they can’t justify. They like their hand and they’re done folding. They’ve been waiting around for hours and hours for a big pot. They haven’t had one. They’re going to force it now.
Your job is to wait until they are prepared to give up. Your job is to recognize top pair with a second kicker is good enough for the kill shot in this moment.
Your job is to take care of your health away from the table so that you are ready for these moments.
Good luck to all of you.