Hi all,

A PSO member recently emailed me the following:

I'm planning to specialize in tournament play for 2013-14……. Also, regardless of stakes, one of the main problems I have is being able to stay focused whenever I get deeper into a tourney (roughly around the 2-hour mark when I drift off and just don't feel like playing or thinking any more).”

Since this is a problem that is not uncommon, I thought I’d integrate my reply into a blog post, and would welcome everyone’s feedback!

Regarding the attention problem... that is going to be a major problem for your quest to play mtt's.  Large field events take longer than 2 hours, and events with huge prize potential like WCOOP, SCOOP, the Sunday Million, etc. take a lot longer.  If you can't stay focused for more than 2 hours, then basically, you have no chance.   So that's got to be addressed.  If you're getting mentally or physically fatigued, then try to get more sleep the night before a day of mtt grinding, or take a nap before you start play.  Determine the source of the problem (I'm guessing many who suffer from this type of issue know what it is) and then identify what you can do to help increase attention span beyond the 2 hours.  If boredom is an issue, you might try working diligently on ranging opponents when not in a hand, or adding a couple more tables to keep the pace of decisions coming at a rate that challenges you to stay engaged, while not overwhelming you at the same time.

Failing a cure for the 2 hour wall problem, there are some things you can change to conform to this limitation if you must.  Firstly, you could consider working towards cash games instead.  Cash game players can set their own hours, and when fatigue or attention slips they can just sit out and take a break, quit for the day, or whatever.  They don't have to continue to play on with their B or C game.

If you prefer to focus on the tournament format, then you might chose tournaments that have a faster structure to cut down on play length of the events.  Some options here would be turbos (so work on short stacked play and push/fold ranges), and small field events like multi-table sng's... 18, 27, 45, 90, and 180-mans.   Some of these larger ones coupled with the turbo format might require right around 2 hours to win.  Single table sng's would also be a good option, a regular speed 9-man takes about an hour, and they go off frequently enough that you could get several in during a 2 hour period if you're multi-tabling.  These fit well in that you can time your registrations accordingly.  However many tables you're comfortable playing at once, simply maintain that for the first  hour or so, then stop registering for new ones (maybe 1 hour 30 minutes is a good compromise since you won't last an hour in them all).  When all done, you'll be at the 2-2.5 hour mark and then much like a cash game player, you can take a break, go do something else for a while and recharge the battery, then come back for another session later when you feel ready. The smaller field sng’s also help reduce the variance that is inherent in mtt play, which helps with growing a bankroll too.

Ultimately the best thing, at least in the short term, would be to work on both increasing your “playing endurance” while also game selecting in ways that help you manage or control the length of play.  Poker is a tough game to do well.  It helps a lot of you can maintain your sharpness and thus your “A” game during as much of your play as possible.