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Poker warm-up and cool down: How to build a routine around your sessions

Poker warm-up and cool down: How to build a routine around your sessions

Athletes stretch. Actors get into character. Singers perform vocal exercises. But how should poker players warm up before a session?

Moreover, how should we then cool down once the session is over?

This is a topic that BBZ Poker’s performance coach Frank Hamel recently covered in one of his BBZ Daily Seminars, and we think it’s worth taking a closer look at.

Hamel has put together a performance framework specifically for poker players so that we can not only be our best at the tables but away from them, too.


How do you like to warm up before a poker session?

Some players opt for a light warm-up. This could mean refreshing themselves on a certain subject–checking charts for button open ranges, for example, or watching a video from one of BBZ Poker’s Bundles–without going into too much depth and expending energy they’ll need for their performance shortly afterwards.

Other players like to go a bit more in-depth with their warm-up. This could mean watching a minimum of two hours of BBZ’s Daily Seminars or going over at least 50 spots on an app such as DTO before beginning a session.

Whatever you do, just make sure it works for you. If you’re not happy with your current process, one of Hamel’s students offers up their own: A-GAME.

A – Activate your mind

Don’t try to break new ground or learn an entirely new poker concept. Simply try to get your brain thinking about poker by watching some content or having a light review of things you’ve recently learned.

G – Goal setting

Make your intentions clear before a session.

A – Assemble things you need

Prepare your food before you play so you don’t have to rush on breaks. Make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated. Whatever you need when you’re playing poker, assemble it before the session starts.

M – Meditation

Meditation helps us relieve stress and stay calm so we can get into a good mental state and think clearly during a poker session.

E – Eliminate distractions

Put your phone away and close all the tabs on your computer so you can focus solely on your poker playing.

A – Activate your mind
G – Goal setting
A – Assemble things you need
M – Meditation
E – Eliminate distractions

But just because this works for some people, doesn’t mean it’s best for you.

“I work with some players and when they sit down for meditation before playing, what happens is that all the difficult emotions [we feel] rise to the top,” says Hamel. “Then they start to experience all of these emotions when they would instead like to feel calm, relaxed, and in control. So for them, meditating before playing is not a good strategy. It’s just something to be mindful of. For some players, meditation might work better as a cool down.”


Following the pre-session preparation on Hamel’s framework comes execution, i.e. when you’re actually playing your session. But for the sake of this article, we’re going to skip ahead to the cool down.

Hamel points out three major intentions for a successful poker cool down: reflect, accept, adjust.

“We reflect and look at things that we want to adjust. You then have to accept your situation, perhaps you’re on a downswing or you’ve had a bad day. Finally, we have to adjust and try to change things for the next day or the next time you’ll be playing.”

How do you cool down after your poker sessions?

Perhaps you like to review the hands you’ve tagged during your session immediately after you finish playing. “That’s one way to evaluate your game and make some small adjustments before your next session,” Hamel says.

Another of Hamel’s students suggests looking through your HUD to dig into the nitty-gritty of the session. That way, you can find out how it really went.

“You’re reflecting on how you felt when you performed and what actually happened when you look at your stats and results. I think that’s interesting,” says Hamel. “You’re making sure you’re not biasing yourself or creating some false interpretation of the situation.”

Or maybe you like to detach yourself from poker as quickly as possible in order to get your mind into a relaxed state. “Relaxing the mind and body after a gruelling session with yoga or meditation,” suggests Hamel.

But how do you take this session and make adjustments before your next one? Hamel poses three questions to ask yourself:

What went well?
What was more challenging/what needs improvement?
What do you want to focus on tomorrow/next week?

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