I had been spending too much time on the road and missed playing online poker. Not just the physical act of playing, but also the entire ritual behind my sessions. It had been almost a full year since I would be blessed with two straight weeks in New York City without having to travel somewhere for work. I finally had regular chunks of unstructured time where I could lurk around the fish-infested waters for several straight hours. When I'm on the east coast, I prefer to play during three specific different times of day. Late afternoon/early evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), prime time (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.), and late nights (1 a.m. to 4 a.m.).
Sometimes I play all three; hitting and running during two spots and grinding out a lengthy session into the wee hours of the morning. It is essential to have a clear and peaceful mind before you do anything in life, whether it's driving a car, attending a sales meeting, having a family dinner, or playing poker. Especially in poker, when your money is on the line and some of your opponents make a living from your mistakes and lack of mental well being.
I always look for the people on tilt at the table to pick on. That's my edge. Fleece the weak.
If you sit down and play poker after getting into a fight with your wife or girlfriend, or if you're on life tilt for some other reason, then you're not going to play optimally. The availability of online poker makes it so easy for anyone to play, which means that more often than not, your opponents are distracted.
That's why I set up a routine to ease myself into playing and to make sure I was in the right frame of mind. I seek out a comfortable place to play. I have friends with laptops who like to play on the couch, lying in bed, or even at Starbucks. That's fine for an hour or so, but for a serious session, you need to be comfortable. If you're playing a long tournament, you have to maximize your break time and situate yourself close to a bathroom or kitchen.
Next step, I make sure there are no distractions. The door is closed and locked. The cell phone ringer is off. The instant messages are turned off. I even shut down the entire player chat on the site where I'm playing in order to focus better.
Lack of focus has always been my problem. When I used to play, I would watch the Yankees game, chat with friends, and answer emails all at once. I got sloppy and started losing. I play my best poker when I limit the distractions, block out the external world, and focus on the task at hand.
Music is the next step. The right kind of music is important. I set aside three or four albums such as Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. You can never go wrong with Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan and American Beauty from The Grateful Dead, which are two favorites of mine. Recently, I have been religiously listening to Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers Band. That really puts me in a great mood to play poker.
Playing online poker in the comforts of your own home allows you to control your environment. Being comfortable puts you in a better mindset to win. If you play live poker in a casino, you have so many external entities beyond your control such as slow dealers, drunks on the rail, smelly people sitting next to you, and the loud obnoxious noises that the slot machines constantly give off.
But when you play online poker, you have the advantageous opportunity to create your own perfect harmonious bubble. If you have been losing recently, try finding yourself a new place to play. Limit your distractions and put on some of your favorite music in the background. Trust me. It works.