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Daniel Negreanu's Poker Blog

Mindfulness in Poker
20 Jan 2015

I recently watched a 60 Minutes piece by Andersoon Cooper on the topic of mindfulness.

In it, Andersoon Cooper does a three day mindfulness retreat which included various types of meditation and unplugging from our technology addiction. I highly recommend watching it. There is science behind the value of meditation that is discussed in the piece that I think relates really well to the game of poker. After all, keeping calm in stressful situations, letting go of bad beats, being present and in the moment, are all things that would benefit you while you play.

I don't think it's a coincidence that a lot of the young players at the highest levels, playing the super high rollers and other high stakes poker, also spend a lot of time thinking about life at a higher consciousness.

Another recent piece from CNN Money covers Faraz Jaka who mentions the value he has seen from his travels as well as daily meditation. Faraz talks about happiness coming from experiences rather than material things and how he is oddly happier the less he possesses.

The group of young German phenoms have always impressed me with their thirst for knowledge and also their drive to make a difference in the world with initiatives like REG. Meditation and emotional intelligence play a big role in their lives as they look for deeper meaning.

Andrew Lichtenberger, a vegan with aspirations of developing a raw food farm in Austin, Texas recently wrote a book on mindfulness that I'm excited to read.

It isn't a coincidence to me that the these guys are successful at poker. All are brilliant minds who would likely be successful without this mindset, but I believe they are exponentially more successful because mindfulness is part of their daily practice.

People often ask me how to deal with a bad beat, and my answer to that is to take three to five really deep breaths. That in itself is a form of mediation that can help center you and relieve the body of anxiety. As you meditate more often, this practice can help you deal with these situations more easily.

When people start with meditation they often think they are doing it wrong because they are unable to clear their mind of thoughts. There is no wrong way to do meditation, thoughts will come and go, the mind is designed to have thoughts. Over time, the thoughts don't go away, but you become better at simply noticing them and separating yourself from your minds thoughts.

I've been doing a signature course at ChoiceCenter on this very topic. It encompasses daily practices including yoga, meditation, journal writing, and a daily reading. Since December I've played in 4 events and cashed in 3 of them, but missed the final table in all three. I wouldn't say that these daily practices have helped me play AQ any better, but I have noticed that I'm even more calm than before when I'm bluffing, or in high stress situations at the table.

Yoga has also become quite popular among many of the elite poker players in the world today. Yoga can also act as a form of meditation that connects your body and mind. It's not just about a good stretch, for some people it can be quite an experience when they are totally present, in the moment, and focused solely on what they are doing.

These new age type retreats are becoming increasingly more popular across the globe and I think the world needs more of it. The advances we have made in technology over just the last 30 years has drastically changed our society and the average person is addicted to it. Whether it's their cell phone, laptop, or TV, many people live their lives simply going through the motions without taking time to just... be.

Watch the links I provided, the 60 Minutes piece with Anderson Cooper was quite good and will shed some light on the value of being present. Give it a shot, what do you have to lose?

Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 Card Player Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at pokervt.com and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker


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