How to Build a Winning Environment

Creating a solid environment to play poker is just one of the many edges that can help you win – and win consistently. Your environment is integral to your results, but it’s often overlooked – even by some of the most talented players out there. No matter how good you are at the game, if you don’t feel good when you play, you’re bound to make some poor calls out of frustration. It’s like trying to run with a pebble in your shoe. Sure, you can do it for a few blocks, maybe even a couple miles, but if you’re in it for the long haul, that pebble is going to be all you can think about and it’s going to affect the quality of your run.

Here’s what you need to consider when building your ultimate space:

Your workspace should make you feel good.

Keep your space clean and free of clutter. You don’t want to be thinking about the mess you should have cleaned up before you started playing. Decorate the area with things that are pleasing to you, but not distracting.

If you’re the kind of person who likes playing in solitude, make sure no one else is around. If you like an audience, have them there and make sure they won’t take your attention away from the game. The idea is to optimize your brainpower, so you want to clear the area of anything that could suck it away from your main goal: to play at peak performance.

Finally, inject some inspiration. When I was going for my triple crown that Sunday when I final tabled the 6-Max, I had a picture of Elky mixed in with my tables. This reminded me I was trying to achieve the same thing (i.e. a triple crown) this guy did. With that picture, I reminded me that I could see myself achieving the same distinction. When I was playing the WCOOP, I had a picture of Greggy with the bracelet for motivation. Seeing someone you respect – someone who has achieved what you’re aiming for – will give you a constant reminder of why you should play your best.

Invest in a good chair.

Playing poker is strenuous, and your body is going to feel the effects of sitting in that chair all day. It’s going to feel the pressure of every decision. You want to put as little stress on your body as possible, so it will have good energy reserves. The more supportive your chair is, the less support is needed from your muscles and the more energy can be put in to making profitable decisions.

You are also going to want to sit up straight. This may be hard at first, but it’s important, not only to the flow of oxygen (especially to your brain), but studies have shown that sitting up straight can also lead to reduced stress and increased confidence.

You don’t need to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a chair, but you do need one that provides support, encourages proper alignment and promotes good posture. It will pay off down the road. I promise. I personally use a Herman Miller.

Monitor height and placement.

Look straight ahead. If you’re looking to the side, you’re detracting from the smooth path of the spine. Set your monitor at a height that won’t require you to look way up or way down for extended period. Also, if you’re going to play multi-monitor, looking up and down is better for your neck than side to side, so keep that in mind when you’re placing your screens. Strains and adjustments will happen, but you want to set up your station to minimize them.

Get the right mood lighting.

Sitting in the dark with a glowing screen is not just bad for your eyes; it also tricks your brain. The brain reacts to light. When there’s a lot of light, your brain thinks it should be awake and active. This is what you want when you’re playing poker: an active brain. When it’s darker, your brain releases hormones encouraging sleep. Obviously, this isn’t what you want when you’re grinding it out. Ideally, you want to play with as much natural light as you can, but as the sun goes down, supplement with artificial light. I like to use dimmers so I can transition from natural to artificial more smoothly. Also, put your desk by the window if possible to capitalize on sunlight while it’s there.

SAD lights are helpful too, but the best thing you can do is get some of that natural sunlight when it’s out. Catch some glimpses of it at sunrise and sunset, and of course mix in movement as often as possible between work sessions (every 30, 60, 90 minutes). This will keep the blood and oxygen circulating, and Keep you feeling alive and well.

Regardless of what the mind is up to, body knows what’s really going on, and every little bit of attention to it helps (frequency trumps effort), so a lot of a little bit of love is better than rare moments of intense tough love.

Keep what you need close by.

Healthy food and drink is best for optimal play, and it should be close by. In tournaments, you only have a five minute break, so you don’t want to be spending most of that time scrounging around for sustenance. Have it ready, have it handy.

It all comes down to doing as much as you can to feel like a winner. The more you do what winners do, rather than what lazy people skip, the more likely you are to achieve victory and accept victory when the opportunity presents itself. You’ll know you deserve it. Doing the preparation will also help calm your nerves when you get to a high pressure situation, because you’ll know you worked for it and you’ll know you’re ready for it. Your results are an accumulation of all the little things you do on a daily basis. Treating your environment with respect is like treating your body with respect. You get out what you put into it, Gripsters.