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What to do on your 5-minute tournament breaks

What to do on your 5-minute tournament breaks

You’re on a tournament break. Perhaps you’re waiting for your food to cook, or you’re finishing up in the bathroom. And then…


The action in your tournaments has resumed… but you’re still busy. You speed up a little, and then…


You rush what you’re doing, sprint back to your computer, and as the final bars of your precious time bank tick away, you quickly make subpar decisions on each table.

We’ve all heard the dreaded beeps while on a tournament break, right? When this happens, we can end up feeling stressed, like we never had a break at all, and this can then seep into our poker play for the next hour.

So, what should you do on your five-minute tournament breaks?

There’s no avoiding going to the bathroom or grabbing food or drinks from time to time, but is there a way we can be better prepared? And are there more efficient ways of using your break than you currently are?

This is a subject that Frank Hamel, BBZ Poker’s Performance Coach, recently discussed in one of our Daily Seminars.

We’ve already told you Hamel’s advice for how you can warm up and cool down before and after your sessions in a previous article. But now let’s look at your downtime during a session.

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Think about it. What do you currently do on your breaks? Do you wing it based on how you feel at the time? Or do you have a plan?

Going to the bathroom and grabbing a drink or some food is pretty standard. But there will also be hours when you don’t need to do any of that.

There’s no right or wrong answer here.

But one thing is definitely recommended: use the break.

“I noticed when I was playing that if I stayed at the computer for those five minutes, typically the next hour was more painful,” says Hamel.

You might find you’re flicking around social media or watching videos on YouTube instead of using the break. It might sound like you’re “relaxing”, but this isn’t always a good idea.

“Late in the session I tend to watch a video but it’s not a good break,” says one student. “It’s a distraction from a bad session.”

The problem is that sometimes this distraction creeps into the session when play resumes. Maybe the video keeps going (i.e. it’s longer than five minutes) and you finish watching it while playing at the same time. Or maybe what you watched stays with you after the video has finished, and you’re unable to get your focus back on poker entirely.

“I think going outside for a few minutes would be a better thing to do,” the student says.

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


Instead of stimulating the mind with something other than poker on breaks, try to relax it.

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One simple way of doing this is to go outside and get some fresh air. No phones. No headphones. Just walk around, or stand still and take deep breaths.

If you have the full five minutes, you could even meditate.

Let’s say the very first hour of your session is an hour of showers. If it goes bad in the first hour, a quick meditation can remind us that it’s only the first hour and there’s plenty of time to turn things around.

“Use the meditation as a way to process what’s bothering you in your mind, then start the next hour with a clean slate in terms of mindset,” says Hamel.


To keep yourself alert and focused when playing, you might want to use your five-minute break to get your body moving or reacting in some way.

This could involve:

  • Taking a quick cold shower
  • Performing jumping jacks (or any quick exercise)
  • Dancing around the room
  • Stretching
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If you still have a minute or two left before play resumes, you can still spend it wisely.

Perhaps you’ve been trying to take notes on players while playing, and you haven’t had time to finish them. This would be a great time to tidy up your notes and take ones that you haven’t got around to yet.

To help you with this, you might even want to SharkScope players (i.e. look up their playing history and results online).

“These are more focused on the technical aspect of the game, perhaps highlighting some goals or intentions you have for the day,” says Hamel.

Essentially, you should do anything but sit at the computer.

Here’s a fast framework that Hamel suggests using when entering a five-minute break.

“With feelings, we’re addressing our emotional state in a given moment,” says Hamel. “Then we can look at our actions, the quality of our decisions, the goals that we have for our sessions, or the next hour in particular.

“The sensation part is about what we sense physically, and how we feel physically. Am I thirsty? Do I need to eat something? Do I need to stretch or go for a walk?

“And finally, the thoughts aspect. What are we thinking about? How do we feel mentally? What’s our mindset?”

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