Poker Fitness: 5 Keys to surviving the WSOP

by , Jun 24, 2011 | 12:38 pm

Jen Dunphy

Poker Life Coach

Mindset, mindset, mindset! It’s a common buzzword around poker, and with each calculated risk/reward scenario being played out inside the inner workings of the brain, there’s no doubt that a poker player’s mindset is important. If you haven’t cleared your head of hang ups, fears, negative habits and weak confidence, you just won’t go far.

But your head is attached to your body, and if you haven’t put consistent effort towards taking care of your body, your mind will be less likely to cooperate. That doesn’t have to mean running marathons or lifting weights. There are things poker players can do without dramatically altering their routines that can improve the chances that your mind will be in the right place at the right time. No matter what your current level of fitness, here are 5 simple ways for poker players to keep their bodies in gear throughout the WSOP:

Half your weight in ounces of water is the general rule for “enough water” and if you drink that much you’d miss more hands than it’s worth with trips to the bathroom. So here’s the tip: Just drink water. Drink your energy drinks when you need them (notice “need them”, which is not morning, noon and night) and lay off the soda, alcohol and anything that’s not water.

  • More water = improved blood flow (blood is thinner) = more oxygen to your brain = clearer thinking and improved focus = less stress

Please, no less than 7 hours. You need sleep. You need good sleep, and to get good sleep, you need a routine. With long nights of poker it can be hard to hit the sack at the same time so have an end of day routine regardless of what time that may be. A few things you do everyday to wind down. Let your body get off the poker track and actually relax so you’ll come back with a clear head for the next round.

  • More sleep = rest from the stress of playing = improved mood, patience, focus

Your body was not meant to be still for extended periods of time. During breaks, get up and purposefully walk around. Those are seriously long hallways inside the Rio. Walk two of them, there and back, and I’d bet you’ll hit at least a ½-1 mile. If you can, go farther and workout at least once a week.

  • Movement = blood flow = more oxygen to your brain = clear thinking and improved focus = less stress

Sitting hunched over the table doesn’t give your lungs much room to expand. If you breathe shallow, you circulate less oxygen and trap toxins in your blood stream that need to get out. Every hour consciously breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for 3 breaths.

  • Conscious breathing = more oxygen to your brain = clear thinking and improved focus = less stress

When you’re under stress — by definition any situation that makes your heart rate and blood pressure change without warning — it affects your digestion. You need fuel (aka food) to keep going and help you recover. Two simple food rules that will ensure your body gets the nutrition it needs:

  1. Avoid fried food or fatty food (fatty= pizza, red meat & cream-base such as ranch dressing; fried= french fries, chicken tenders with heavy batter, and most things that leave heavy grease stains behind)
  2. Eat 1 fruit and 1 vegetable at least once a day (and more if you can)

There’s no quick fix. It takes a combination of behaviors before a mindset emerges that leads to a consistent lifestyle. Poker players are athletes, albeit non-traditional ones, and if you don’t start treating yourself as such, you will find yourself losing a competitive edge to those who do.

Jen Dunphy is a certified life coach and personal trainer in Las Vegas, and new columnist at Pokerati. Her personalized, one-on-one Poker Life Coaching services are currently being raffled off at PokerListings, and you can otherwise find her at

2 Comments to “Poker Fitness: 5 Keys to surviving the WSOP”

  1. Pati Maez

    5 simple ways for [everyone] to keep their bodies in gear throughout the day!Thanks for the “MINDSET.” I’m working it!

  2. Anton Drake

    Great article! I find that people highly underestimate the necessity of sleep and proper nutrition in a poker-playing schedule. Breathing and movement are also crucial, and can make a huge difference to your game. Recent research also indicates that sitting for extended periods of time can trim years off your life, and can actually be just as bad for you as smoking cigarrettes.

    Stress, the body’s fight or flight response, can be devastating to poker players. Learning how to use isometrics to keep your body active WHILE playing poker can make a huge difference to your mental sharpness, focus, emotional balance and overrall well-being, which can translate to improved results in cash games and tournaments.