Playing poker online is not only about learning the game's rules and strategies. It's also about control: controlling your emotions and being on top of the game every step of the way. But how can you get into the right mindset to master this side of poker? Some players will tell you that mindful breathing is the answer.
Doing some calming breathing exercises can influence both your mind and body, helping you relax before you participate in an intense poker session. But what is mindful breathing? How do you perform those exercises? And how does it really affect your ability to play poker?
Learn the answers to those questions and find out whether deep breaths can bring you one step closer to a successful poker career.
Everything You Need to Know About Mindful Breathing
The secret to mindful breathing is awareness. The goal is to focus 100% of your attention on your breathing, thinking of nothing other than inhaling and exhaling.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Find a quiet spot – situate yourself in a room where you can practice your breathing with minimal distractions.
- Pay attention to your breathing – while some people might be able to focus on their breathing patterns quickly and easily, others might find themselves getting distracted by random thoughts. If that happens to you, try counting your breaths or actively saying the words "inhale" and "exhale" to focus on the exercise. You can even listen to a YouTube instructional video to better concentrate on the task at hand.
- Go with the flow – got distracted? Don't be too harsh on yourself! Acknowledge the feelings or thoughts that popped into your head and re-focus on your breathing.
- Use your imagination – imagine the oxygen you inhale spreads through your body to take deeper breaths and exhale slowly through your mouth.
You can do the breathing exercises for one minute or for ten – the number of breaths you take doesn't matter, as long as you manage to reach the desired level of relaxation. And once you're able to get into the right state of mind, your poker skills will be sharper than ever!
How Breathing Affects Your Mind & Body
Wait a minute. We've taught you how to practice mindful breathing, but why does it matter? How can it affect your ability to play poker?
Well, according to studies, breathing exercises can positively affect your body and mind, thus better preparing you for the challenges that come with playing poker.
First of all, since playing poker can be construed as a stressful situation – especially when you face experienced players, and you have to make tough decisions on the river – your "fight or flight" instincts might kick in. That means your heart rate might go up, your breathing will become irregular, and your entire body will be prepared for battle.
This constant state of alertness and stress can be tiring, and that is where steady breathing comes in. It was proven that breathing might help you reduce cortisol levels – which is the main stress hormone in our body. Therefore, regular and evenly timed breaths can lower your heart rate. As a result, all your systems would calm down, allowing you to relax and enjoy your poker session.
In addition to that, studies have shown that breathing exercises improve your sustained attention, thus allowing you to remain focused on your poker session for a prolonged period of time.
Inhale, Exhale, and Play Poker
The next time you decide to play poker online, take a deep breath and make sure that you're able to approach the game with a calm and focused mind. Are you ready to place your bets?