poker mindset tip 1 - live now do now

How to Improve Your Mindset and Bring Out Your ‘A’ Game

It’s a mystery. Why do some poker players fall to the floor as quickly as they rose to the top, while others stake their claim on top of the mountain, proving superior through decades of change in the game?

Of course, this mystery isn’t specific to poker. Every field, every profession, and every sport has superstars and amateurs. Want to join the rank of poker player superstardom (or just rack up a few more chips at the table)? You’ll need to know the key factors that separate the top dogs from the rest of the pack.

In a way, it’s simple: consistently come with your ‘A’ game. Because, the minute you don’t, someone will swoop in to knock you down.

So how do top players consistently play their ‘A’ game, and how can you apply the same skills to your poker practice? Let’s take a look at 3 key practices that all elite poker players utilize.

Mindset Tip #1) Play in the Now

poker mindset tip 1 - live now do now

Now By Kalyan Kanuri (flickr), CC 2.0

You’ve heard the phrase, “live in the now.” It refers to focusing on the current event, rather than what could be, or should have been. The same is true on the felt. And it’s something all top tier players know how to do.

Top players don’t focus on outside events, whether positive or negative. They stay mentally in the now.  They allow themselves to adapt to any situation poker brings to them. They focus on any game, any stakes, any stack size, and any position. Top players play poker in the now. using all the information acquired over the years. This is how they’re able to make the best decision in the moment, whatever the moment brings. 

When you’re running well, avoid complacency. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there’s no room for improvement. Even if you’re on top of your game, wake up everyday with the intent to getting just a little bit better.

Become a poker knowledge machine. Keep your ears open to new and useful information. Study different strategies from different coaches or mentors and keep an open mind to different methods of play.

Don’t forget, there are a lot of different ways to be a winning player. Continue acquiring as much knowledge as possible and mold it into your game.

Also, forget the bad times. Everyone has trouble at home, downswings, and life off the table. Ignore it, because it’s not going to help you make optimal decisions. All you can do is make the best choice possible in the moment. Make a lot of these decisions and you’ll notice an ever rising uptick on your ROI.

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Mindset Tip #2) Control Your Emotions

Tilt, steamed, angry, pissed off, etc. Call it what you want. Getting off your A game happens to us all, but those who keep it in check will come out on top.

Poker can become an emotional game, real fast. Anybody is susceptible to feeling the stress that comes from over playing a mediocre hand, a failed bluff attempt, or something as small as waiting a ridiculously long time for the cocktail waitress to show up.

Those emotions lead to poor decisions and poor decisions lead to lost hands. Learn to keep your cool.

Want to keep your emotions in check? It starts before you ever sit down at the table. Keep a balanced life, and healthy habits and your emotions will follow suit.

Make an investment in your health. And that starts with your game. Come to the table well rested and clear minded. Cut back on drinking, and of course any drugs. Once your game is in check, incorporate healthy living into other areas of your life.

Find increased clarity with improved diet and exercise. Exercise isn’t just good for your body, but also your mind. Successful people report working out more often, and experiencing more mental clarity and decision making. A study from Harvard Health reports that regular exercise can improve memory and thinking skills.

Mindset Tip #3) Tighten Up Your Schedule

schedule page - poker mindset

The ability to win unlimited pots, make money outside of a traditional job and do it all on your own schedule is appealing to many. It’s freeing.

However, the thing that is most appealing (freedom), might also lead to your greatest downfall.

Having a solid schedule will stack the deck in your favor. It helps you focus your attention on your game while you’re playing, and your life away from the table when you’re done.

Before you set your playing schedule, set your life schedule.

What priorities do you have outside of poker? Amateurs let poker run their life. It’s not healthy and it leads to a slipping game.

Schedule your priorities. Once that’s set, schedule your poker sessions. Then, stick with the plan. When it’s not time to play, do something away from poker. Enjoy your time away, take a physical and mental break and get ready to come back to the game feeling refreshed.

We’re all guilty of playing unplanned sessions at the spur of the moment. These sessions go south more often than not. You then beat yourself up for even playing the session in the first place. Having a solid schedule for when to play and eliminating outside interference gives your mind the clarity to play optimally, every time.

This also reduces your stress on whether you should play more or not, and help you deal with any missed opportunities. You played your schedule out to the best of your ability. That’s all you can ask for.

So where do you start? Getting started on the right path is the biggest step. From that point on playing your A game becomes second nature. Here are some do’s and don’t’s to get you going down the right path.

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Reflect on your game and learn from mistakes you made. Despite your results, analyse your decisions you made in that moment and make adjustments accordingly. Becoming a member of Upswing Poker is a great place to start.

Set a firm schedule for when you can play and go at it. Let all your troubles and worries fade and just focus at the task at hand. This works great for people grinding mtt’s. Give yourself a time frame. Write down all the tournaments you plan on playing for that session and let the beast out of the cage. When it’s all said and done, accept the results.

Continue to take advantage of Upswing Poker’s content. There is a sea of knowledge here and we’re working hard to produce it, so be the one who takes advantage of it! Remember, not everyone gets help with their game. Leave these players in the dust and stay ahead of the curve.

Keep your ears open to anyone who wants to talk poker. Even talking with a novice player that plays recreationally can be beneficial. A friend from home, spouse, stranger, it doesn’t matter. It will help you think on different levels and understand what people are thinking.


Avoid the last second late night hyper turbo spree to make your buy ins back. Even the short stack buy into the biggest game running at 3am in the casino. This is a slippery slope that will have you spewing your roll relentlessly. It’s often not easy to get out of this habit especially if you got lucky a few times and were successful so don’t start!

Don’t get in the habit of squeezing in sessions when you have plans or your mind is on something else. You will play feeling rushed, annoyed, and stressed. This simply leads to bad play. It’s often tough to break away from poker especially if you’re on a downswing. Take a few days to learn and plug your leaks. This is a great remedy for success.

Remember, there will always be another game around the corner. Make sure when you show up to that game, you’re bringing your A game. Results will come because you put in quality hours away from just playing poker. learning and staying ahead of the curve.

The next time you decide to play some poker, take a step back. Evaluate everything you’re doing, on and off the felt. It will add longevity to your poker career, as well as your life. Make the proper adjustment today and you will thank yourself down the road.

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Home > How to Improve Your Mindset and Bring Out Your ‘A’ Game
Home > How to Improve Your Mindset and Bring Out Your ‘A’ Game
About the Author
Dan Petit

Dan Petit

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