The second factor when it comes to feeling and performing your best is exercise. I don’t need to lecture you on the benefits of exercise for your overall health. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before.
But what I will say is how I’ve used exercise as a tool to help me prepare for poker tournaments.
In large part, I use exercise as a metaphor for the rest of my life, in particular for how I approach poker. Being capable of pushing myself to the limit at the gym and having the mental strength to keep fighting, even when I don’t want to, is an important skill that translates directly to the poker table.
Here’s how I do it:
Those who know me personally are aware I’m borderline obsessed with efficiency.
How do I get the best results for the least amount of time?
Put simply: what’s the 80/20 approach toward fitness?
In experimenting with pretty much every workout variation over the years, I’ve found what works best is high intensity cardio, or HIIT training (high intensity interval training).
Essentially, that means you get your heart rate up for a short period of time, and then let it come down. I do this because this intense effort, followed by a brief period of rest, mimics in-game play.
I’m not merely pushing myself through these intervals for the endorphins and health benefits, that’s just scratching the surface. When done properly, workouts can be much more than that.
I use these intervals to prepare mentally as much as I do physically. During the interval, I’m pushing myself hard while simultaneously thinking about how I want to play, perform and act at the table, simulating an in-game experience.
I may even replay a hand I played during the previous session in my mind, correcting any mistakes and visualizing myself playing the hand perfectly.
Then I rest, just like I do when I fold.
While there are countless ways to do interval training, a simple and effective one is walking uphill on a treadmill or sprinting and walking.
Set the incline to 10.0 and walk for 1 minute at 4 mph or 6 km/h, followed by a one-minute rest at 2.5 mph or 4 km/h. Do these ten times, with a 3 minute warm up and a 3 minute cool down. You’ll be done in 25 minutes and left feeling great.
Bonus points if you do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach as it’s the best way to burn extra fat.
If you’re looking for an App to help you get motivated and guide you along, check out Peloton, which has personal trainers in your ear while you do your outdoor runs or treadmill workouts. It’s incredible stuff.
You could do weights as well, which I normally do three times a week, but when it comes to how to prepare for the WSOP, I’ve found that I need to eat and rest more when I lift heavy, both of which make it difficult to play 13 hour days.
The last thing I want is to get tired around 10:00p.m., right when the action is picking up and the decisions are the most important. That’s why I prefer short yet intense cardio sessions to prepare me for the long game days.