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Improving Your Mental Game - Biofeedback for Poker

It is obvious that poker requires a little luck and lots of skill. To play well you must be able to understand probabilities, and the logic of poker strategy. Other than that a good poker player must also have full control of their emotions. It's important for poker players to master their mental and physical health in order to rise above the competition. Factors such as resilience, determination, energy, concentration and mood are vital and crucial in achieving high level success in poker. So how can you improve the mental side of your poker game and play like a pro, without a coach or psychologist? Start by following these five basic rules.

Rule 1: Focus on mastering your game first
The most important aspect of mental skills in poker is being able to assess your poker play honestly. You must learn how to evaluate yourself as a player so you can improve your weaknesses. Many amateur poker players tend to focus on the other players first. They are trying to read their emotions, poker face, bluffing style and body language.
This is a recipe for failure. Why? The answer is simple. Just imagine you are trying to win a tennis match without any appropriate tennis skills, just by analysing and focusing on the mistakes of your opponent. You'd find yourself getting outplayed very quickly!

Rule 2: Develop the right mind-set

Poker is an exciting game but it can also be very frustrating and emotionally draining. There can sometimes be brutal swings that put a dent in your bankroll, and the daily grind means that you may sometimes miss out on having a good time with friends and family. If you are having a bad session or are feeling frustrated, stop and take a break. Negative thoughts will lead to bad play, so only play when you are in the right state of mind.

Rule 3: Spend time on preparation
Preparation is the gateway to success. Every professional athlete, artist or speaker knows the importance of preparation.  Having the tools needed to succeed, a plan to follow and a clear goal in mind is the recipe for success in any venture, whether it's sport or poker. You can't simply turn up for a marathon and start running straight away, without any stretching or mental preparation. So why not to prepare for your poker game too? Tiredness, poor diet, dehydration, excess of alcohol or lack of sleep may significantly affect your decision making. Your ability to sustain attention will deteriorate, and you will make poor choices and, react with anger. Make sure you play the game feeling mentally and physically fit, with a clear and energized mind.

Rule 4: Set up your goals
Determine what you aim to achieve in poker by making clear and realistic goals. Before you start playing decide how much time and money you are willing to set aside for it. Set daily goals to stick to them without excuses. If circumstances work in your favour and you are playing your "dream game", you may not be ready to stop just because your pre-planned session time has ended. When this happens make an agreement with yourself to finish playing when you start losing, while still making sure you end the game in profit. Be very specific with the numbers, otherwise you will stretch the boundaries until you lose everything.

Rule 5: Learn to play under pressure

In order to become a great player you must learn how to handle the pressure of the game. If you can't manage your mental state and control your emotions, it leaves you vulnerable to external circumstances.  If you have too much negative energy your game may become impulsive and irrational, or you may end up playing with fear expecting to lose because of bad luck.

Instead, you should became more aware of your mental and physical state and learn to observe any negative signs of anxiety or stress in your body and mind. You may feel tension in your stomach, a lump in your throat or, a faster heartbeat All of these maybe be due to a loss of focus and attention, fatigue, or a range of other factors. Regardless of what caused it, they can all lead to negative thoughts and bad play.
Being able to control your emotions and mind state takes knowledge, practice, and a healthy body and mind.

Your emotions and thoughts lead to changes in physiology that are both measurable and controllable by using a unique method which helps to connect the dots between mind and -body interactions, called biofeedback. Biofeedback provides vital information, and helps you to benefit from it. Through various exercises, biofeedback helps you to gain self-control step-by-step, until you are fully able to control what happens in your body.

What is biofeedback for poker?

With Biofeedback, you get exactly what's in the name -– a biological feedback. Biofeedback paints you a very accurate picture of the processes in your body, based on physiological data such as blood pressure, temperature and pulse or muscle tension. People are able to control their bodily processes to some extent and biofeedback helps you to practice gaining such control over your body. Biofeedback is often used to treat chronic pain, high blood pressure, tension or migraine headaches, but it can also be successfully applied to sports, where performance is what matters the most. For more information on how to apply Biofeedback to your game click here.

Have a comment about anything you've read in this article? Let us know in our 'Biofeedback for Poker' forum.

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