Managing Tilt

Poker and Meditation: Reducing Stress and Managing Tilt

Someone asked me recently to speak a little more about poker and meditation. Once I began, I realized I have a lot to share, so I’m going to break this up into multiple entries. Here are some ways meditation has helped my own poker game.

  • managing stress and tilt
  • improving concentration
  • expanding the field of view
  • putting things in perspective

The most immediate benefit meditation can offer is managing stress and tilt. Often there is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent meditating each day/week and how much less things bother you. Meditation is grounding. It helps pull you out of the turmoil of your mind into what is happening right now, in the present. Even for someone new to meditation, in only a few sessions you can start to realize some benefits, possibly even after one.

A Simple Technique

Try this. Find a quiet place to sit. When I can’t find a quiet place, I will sometimes use ear plugs. It actually makes it even easier to hear your breathing. Assume a comfortable seated position. This can be cross-legged on a pillow or on the couch or in a chair. It doesn’t have to be some fancy, pretzel-legged posture. You want to be comfortable. Sit up straight but with relaxed neck and shoulders.

Let your arms and hands rest somewhere naturally, perhaps on your thighs or in your lap. Again you don’t need to do anything special with them. Close your eyes or relax them to small slits.

Take a couple deep breaths and notice how your lungs rise and fall. Notice how the breath feels coming in and out of your nostrils. Notice your belly moving in and out. Now, let your breathing continue naturally. You’re not trying to control your breath, rather you are letting your body breath normally and observing this process.

From here you can try a few things.

  1. You can softly, quietly in your mind say the words “breathing in” as you breathe in. And “breathing out” as you breathe out. Or simply: “in…out….”
  2. You can softly say (in your mind, not out loud) “breathing in, I calm my body” and “breathing out, I smile”. I find this one VERY effective for relaxation and improving attitude.
  3. You can count your breaths. Either 1 for in, 2 for out, 3 for in, etc. Or 1 for in, 1 for out, 2 for in, 2 for out, etc. Once you get to 10. Start again at 1. When you catch your mind wondering off, as it surely will, you start your count over at 1. This exercise is great for revealing how very busy our minds can be. Or how busy it is at this particular time. When I’m particularly stressed or my mind is racing for some reason, I have trouble getting past 2 or 3 before my mind has wondered off. Try not to be judgemental or hard on yourself. It is what it is, and you are simply observing.

Go for as long as you like with one of these exercises. I find even 5 minutes beneficial. You could set a timer or your phone to chime after your chosen time period.

When to Do It

This might be a great thing to do just before you start a session to get in a good headspace. Or it could be something you do after a particularly tilting session to try to calm down. If you try this, I’d love to hear what you think or how it works for you. If you’ve done some meditation before and have something to add to my suggestions, please feel free!

Looking for More Good Articles?

Now that you’ve learned to manage tilt and helped yourself relax, how about reading about my best strategy to minimize downswings. Or check out my poker strategy guide full of pro poker tips.

  • Brian

    great post!

    tip while grinding: if you get heated, do one simple thing: sit up straight,
    and notice that you are sitting up nice and straight (this brings you into the present)

    after that, another good tip is scan all your tables and ensure your table selection is good. (fish on right, no tough opponents on left) and reduce # of tables if you have too many on the go.

  • Dustin Wallington

    Cool post. I’m going to try the counting 1 in and 1 out technique! I can see how this would be difficult as my mind is constantly in the go.

  • If I could pick only one post that everyone read and followed, it would be this one. 🙂
    And yes. It can be difficult, but maybe that means the process is working?

  • Buenosaurus

    I find meditation to be a quick and crucial part of my day in both my professional and personal life. I use a free app on y phone that does guided meditation sessions that are anywhere from 3 minutes to 20. Check it out here:

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