When I was younger, I often played very long sessions. In fact, I remember grinding tournaments for 14 hours per day for a week or two straight. Even 8 hours long session with no breaks when I was playing cash games weren’t uncommon. If you are not there yet yourself, then don’t worry. In this article, I will tell you exactly what to do to increase the length of your poker sessions.
Everyone needs to start somewhere. It first it might be hard to play poker longer than an hour, or maybe you get fatigued after 30 minutes. With proper practice and some optimizations, you can increase that quite fast. On the other hand, if you want to increase your session by hours, then it will take a little longer to achieve it. It is not just about playing longer.
Keeping the proper focus is essential. You don’t want to increase the length of poker sessions only to be losing heavily because you can’t make correct decisions anymore. The good news is that everyone can learn how to make longer sessions and then apply that new knowledge.
Look at me; I couldn’t play poker for more than 30 minutes at start myself. And now I can laugh at those times. Often I don’t even bother playing a session if I need to go somewhere in two hours. Also, my winrate is a lot better the longer I play. This is due to having bigger stacks towards the end of sessions. If you train right, then you will be more focused than your opponent after a long time at the table.
So how exactly play long poker sessions? In this article, I will include actual things that will help you to play longer. On top of that, I will also let you know how to improve and train yourself to play longer and keep your focus. All the following tips and strategies to play longer come from personal experience.
Things that will improve the length of your poker session:
- Healthy snacks and water at the hand
- Comfy computer chair, standing desk, comfy clothes
- 3rd party software for ease of play
- Listen to music
- Improve your C-game
- Learn to deal with tilt
- Meditation and exercise
- Don’t play hungry and not too full, eat healthier
- Reduce eye strain glasses or install software to reduce eye strain (Install f.lux or similar)
- Increase the duration of poker session gradually; practice makes perfect
- Don’t drink alcohol or at least don’t play hangover or even drunk
- Battling it out with regulars is tiring, grinding on softer tables is easier
- Play when you are well-rested and get enough sleep.
How long should a poker session last?
The length of a poker session depends on you, and you should aim for what it will give you maximum results. For me, nowadays, I most often go for around 2-3 hour-long sessions. I found out that it is optimal for me to keep maximum focus. Then I take an hour or two long breaks and continue playing afterward. This gives me enough time to cook and eat or go to the gym.
When I was younger (I am only at the start of my 30’s, but that is already old for online poker community :D), the length of my sessions were considerably longer. My average session then was more like 4-5 hours, and often I would go for an 8-hour long grind with no breaks.
For live games, I still do a minimum of 6 hours session as I find it easier to keep the focus.
There is no right or wrong answer here. Just go for the length that gives you the best results. You know your body and brain the best.
How to divide poker sessions?
Like I said above, try to take at least 1 hour long breaks between the sessions. If you play full time, then you can start playing early in the morning. Then take a break to do the workout or anything that you desire and return. Do another 2-3 hour session.
Then spend some time with family or make lunch. Keep yourself busy with something that is not poker related. You can go back to the tables in the evening, that is when tables are often the best. I don’t like playing during the night anymore, but I will still squeeze in one extra session in the evening.
When is the best time to play poker?
The best time to play poker is when the poker tables are the softest. Whenever that is, it depends on your time zone and on which sites you play. If you play live and games run in the morning, then games will be best either in the mornings or late evenings when some people are intoxicated already. This holds for a casino near me but might be different for you. The best way is to go and test it at different times of the day yourself for a month. It will give you a pretty good idea when to play.
For online games, I prefer to play when there is a peak time to play for the Asian population, or there are a lot of people from the USA present.
It is very beneficial that you play when most of the other regulars and poker pros are still asleep. This will increase your winrate by a lot.
How to play long poker sessions, things you need
Healthy snacks and water next to you
No matter if you play online or live, having some snacks and water will cause you to play longer. You will not be hungry, and when you eat, you will not feel full and tired. Plus, you won’t get your hands all greasy like you would, if you would be snacking on chips.
If you play live, then ordering drinks isn’t a problem. But if you are in the middle of cash game in online games, then having water ready is necessary. You don’t need to drink if you make short sessions. But going without drinking for 8 hours, then you will feel dehydrated a bit.
It is easier to keep your mind sharp if you drink an adequate amount of water. Just make sure if you chug on a lot of water to have something ready to pee in. Surely you have heard of a term pee bottle in poker circles before :D? Or you can just sit out for a minute or two, go to the toilet and then come back, guess that also works, haha.
Poker sites online have different rules about how long you can sit out before you are removed from the table. Make sure of how long can your short break be to avoid losing a juicy table.
A comfy chair, dual monitors, maybe a standing desk. A right mouse and keyboard are also necessary.
Ergonomic comfy chair to play longer poker sessions
Sitting comfortably is necessary if you want to make long sessions day after day. I had some problems with lower back pain in the past when I was lounging on a crappy chair. You can endure it for a few days, but sooner than later, it will come and bite you back.
You need different chairs, depending on your size, so make sure you buy yourself a proper one. It doesn’t need to be expensive. My current one was for $120 or so, on Amazon, so nothing special. But it is very comfortable, and I can sit on it for hours with no problems. If you are interested in getting one, then you can check it here: link to Amazon for the chair I use right now.
More than one monitor is very useful, especially if you are multi-tabling. It is hard to keep the focus on small tables, and your eyes get tired pretty fast.
Having tables stretched to at least medium size will really make a difference. On one screen, you might even need to overlap or stack tables. It will be a disaster if you miss some crucial piece of information just because the table was covered. On two screens you can nicely tile up to 12 tables. Just don’t use the second screen to watch TV shows while you play, a bad habit I used to have.
A standing desk is not for everyone! It will take some time to get used to. This is again one of those things where you won’t see immediate benefits, but if you have back problems, then standing desk might be your solution for longer sessions. But keep in mind that at first, you will probably play less, not longer, because standing still for hours take some time getting used to.
The first time you will struggle even to play 10 minutes without stepping left and right consistently. I was getting solid 2 to 3 hours sessions standing. Just make some short leg stretches every here and there while you play. I used a standing desk for some months, but then when my back problem went away, I went back to sitting on the chair.
Mouse and keyboard
Having an excellent ergonomic mouse is vital to avoid wrist problems. I am using MX Master 2s from Logitech – link to Amazon. I couldn’t be happier. I can’t imagine playing 5 million hands and more in my poker career with a gaming mouse, for example. Make sure that your hand rests nicely on the mouse. For me, Mx Master 2s works perfectly. I even used the previous version of it, which was decent, but the last version is better.
A good keyboard is not crucial, but once you read the next tip, you will know it might come in handy.
Stretch while playing longer session
Don’t just stand still for hours or sit on a chair for the whole evening. Every hour or so, stand up and do some little stretches while playing. You can do this if you play live games also. Stretch your back, do a few steps, and continue. This doesn’t need to be longer than 20 seconds.
3rd party software for ease of play
We are talking about the tools that are allowed. Many tools will help you if you want to play longer. Always moving your mouse on the screen left and right might hurt your wrist. Luckily some software makes it easier to multi-table and to play longer.
Table Ninja is very popular. With it, you can only use a keyboard and don’t need to use a mouse at all. Your hand can nicely rest on the key, and you don’t need to move the wrist at all. I used it for years, but then I moved to poker sites where it is not supported, so having a right mouse is still a must for me.
Hand history tracking software together with a heads up display (HUD). This is a tool that every poker player uses. It gives you a lot of additional information on the tables and makes playing longer easier. Without the HUD, it is tough to follow all of the action on poker tables after a few hours. Your mind is not as sharp and focused as it is in the first 30 minutes of play. In this article, I go a lot deeper into why poker players use a HUD.
Listen to music
It might get a bit boring playing for hours in quiet. Having some good music, just like when you go for a run, can be beneficial in poker also. It will keep your mood up and help you with focus. Just don’t blast it at full power to stay awake. I have done it a few times, and it doesn’t help. Yes, I fell asleep behind the computer one or two times while playing tournaments.
I don’t think some music will hurt your winrate at all. One thing you shouldn’t do though is watching TV or youtube while playing. Neither you should be browsing the internet. I am guilty of doing all of those things in the past. It will cost you a lot of money. I folded many aces and kings preflop because of timing out when my focus was on some Twitch stream, or I was paying attention to a football match.
Especially in the last part of your long poker session, you should do all you can to stay focused on the tables. This is when your stack will be the largest due to playing for a long time on the table.
It would be detrimental to lose 2 or 3 buyins just before being done with a session, only because you couldn’t keep the focus on the table.
Improve your C-game
There are a few things that are very beneficial to your winrate that you should make sure you are doing when playing long sessions. One of them is to have a good C-game. When you play in the zone with max focus and are making perfect decisions, then you play your A-game. This doesn’t happen that often. Although you should aim to play in the zone as often as possible, the harsh truth is you will not.
It makes a lot more sense to focus on playing as best as possible when you play your C-game. You don’t need to play all the time perfectly. But you need to make sure, the times when you are not on the top of your game, that you play the best you can.
So how to improve your C-game? First, you need to recognize it. There is a great book out there that every ambitious poker player should read: Jared Tendler’s Mental Game of Poker.
You can train the fundamentals really well. So when it comes to it, your C-game will be a solid game following the proper fundamental rules. When you are losing, you will not be spewing and, therefore, not losing as much as you would otherwise. If your goal is not to spew and make big hero calls, then you are already on the right path.
Learn to deal with tilt
This continues on the point above. If you are quick to go into tilt mode, then the best decision you can make is to close tables and stop playing. In Jared’s book, he goes deep into what tilt is and how to recognize that’s creeping on you. That is an excellent first step.
Then you know to stand back, take a few seconds to act, and think the hand through with your understanding of fundamentals. If you still think your decision is correct, go with it. If not, then you know you are making the right play by following the fundamental strategy you learned and mastered.
Everyone goes on bad runs. But players who can play properly when running bad are the ones who end up being the biggest winners in the games. Everyone can win. But to lose as little as possible and not spew is what makes you money in poker.
Don’t play stressed
If you play under stress, you will start tilting a lot sooner. You will spew and get upset by even the most common things that happen in poker regularly. Loosing 3 flips (50% vs. 50%) scenarios in a row was sometimes enough for me to start tilting. I speak from experience when I tell you; you can’t play long poker sessions when you are stressed and have a lot going on in your personal life. Before you start a long session, make sure that you are in a relaxed state of mind.
Meditation and exercise
It is no secret. There has been plenty of research that, with regular exercise, you can maintain your focus for longer. Just don’t do a marathon runs, you still need to play, not go straight to bed after doing some sports. Exercise is good to maintain your focus, and so is meditation. One thing that meditation is beneficial for is to play without stress. Even basic meditation for 5 minutes before the session will help you play longer. Don’t believe me? Try it out; you will be surprised how good it is.
Don’t play hungry, but not too full and eat healthier
If you start your session hungry, then you will be tempted to finish it rather sooner than later. On an empty stomach, you can only think about food, and that’s where your focus will be.
On the other hand, you don’t want to eat a whole pizza just before starting your session. Overeating will make you tired before you even begin. It is a good idea to eat at least one hour before you start and have some healthy snacks during play that aren’t hard on your stomach.
I am sure you hear it all the time that you should eat healthier, so I won’t lecture you. For some time, you will get away with eating unhealthy, I also did. I was eating ready to eat microwave meals while grinding tournaments the whole day. On top of that, I started my day with a nice big sandwich, a quarter of white bread with salami and bacon, with some cheese and chocolate milk. I did that for a month until I realized that I became tired fast, and it started to show on my poker results.
You don’t need to be on a diet, but you need to make sure to eat healthier. Have enough vegetables, together with protein and healthy carbs. Fill your plate with 2/5 of proteins, 2/5 of vegetables, and 1/5 of carbs, and you will do just fine. You still can have ice cream for dessert, don’t worry.
Reduce eye strain glasses or install software to reduce eye strain (Install f.lux or similar)
Everyone in my family wears glasses except for me. I guess I am a bit lucky. But even I had problems with staring into the screen for 8 hours in a row. There are a few things I tested, and the following has helped me:
- Eye drops: simple and effective, it will cost you a few bucks, but you will be good for a month. I found them quite beneficial.
- Eye strain glasses: link to amazon. Glasses like these on amazon will help you look into a computer screen for many hours. A lot of people need to take a break from their poker session because they can’t stand staring at the screen anymore.
It is too hard on their eyes. Then others know that wearing proper eye strain glasses helps much. They cost some money, but well worth the investment if you are a serious poker player, looking to increase the duration of your session.
- F.lux or similar software: installing f.lux is entirely free. It works based on sunset and sunrise at your location. It adjusts the screen brightness depending on how bright it should be outside.
So if you are doing a late-night session, it will reduce the brightness of the screen, and it will make it much more pleasant for your eyes. Since I am using f.lux, I don’t need to wear eye strain glasses anymore. Try it out. It doesn’t cost you anything.
How to increase the length of a poker session? Increase the duration of poker session gradually
Maybe this one should be at the top as it is essential. If you just start running when before you didn’t even run half a mile or 800m for months, then you shouldn’t go for an hour-long run. The same holds for increasing the length of your poker session.
It will take time before your body and brain get used to grinding long hours. Instead of going for a 5-hour long session straight out of the bat, when just yesterday you were doing 20-minute sessions, you should maybe go for a 30-minute long poker session. Don’t worry, the whole process from 20 minutes to a few hours long sessions won’t take you as long as it takes to prepare for a marathon.
In a single month, you should have no problem playing for 2 hours longer, if you increase your grind time just by 5 minutes each day.
Then once you reach the desired length of a session, it is crucial you stick to it for a month or so. Then you will get fully used to it, and it will just feel normal. Even 8 hour-long session won’t feel super long, and to me, it felt like only 2 or 3 hours have passed.
If you are increasing the length of your session daily and your focus drops off significantly towards the end of the session, then maybe you are moving too fast. Then go and stay for the same length for a few days, and once your focus improves, add a few minutes again.
With this tactic, I was able to get to the point where I would play 10.000 hands in a single session back in the day when I was still 24 tabling on PokerStars. I believe my record was around 14.000 hands and 10 hours of grind with no breaks. And that was at cash games.
Now, if you play live, then you can easily take a break for 5 minutes every hour. The same goes for online tournaments and multi-table sitngo’s. For those, I had no problem playing them 14 hours per day. I would quickly eat during the 5-minute break each hour and go to the toilet if needed and then continue the grind. My favorite music songs helped me to pass the time faster.
Don’t drink alcohol or at least don’t play hangover or even drunk
If you were out partying the previous day, then it will be tough to go for a long session the next day. Try to avoid playing when hangover at all costs. Not to mention, if you go and play when drunk, you will most likely lose money and spew a few buyins.
Battling it out with regulars is tiring, grinding on softer tables is easier
If your table is full of excellent and tricky regulars, then your brain will be forced to think deeply about strategy during playing to paly optimally against them. This requires a lot of energy, and it is tough to maintain for hours.
A table full of soft weak players who play ABC is much easier to handle for hours straight. You wait for a good hand and value bet accordingly, you don’t need to worry about bluff catching too much, and you make decent money. You must look for the softest tables if you have the chance.
Play when you are well-rested and get enough sleep
Lastly, playing well-rested is a recipe for a long session. Get enough sleep, your brain and body need to rest if you are going for long sessions day after day. Well-rested, you will be able to maintain focus for much longer, thus unlocking the chance to go for a long session. After 5 or 6 days of playing in a row, take a day off from poker and just relax, recharge the batteries and come back to the tables the next day.
I have given you all the necessary steps to not only increase the duration of your poker sessions but also to go for a monster session if you wish so.
Playing longer sessions is not rocket science, but you need to stick to all of the tips above. Doing just one or two won’t bring the desired results. But if you do your best to stick to all of them, then undoubtedly you will be able to go for a long poker session in the future.
If you run extremely bad on any day, then remember, it is okay to take a break. You can still take one or 2-hour break and then return, nothing wrong with that. Your bankroll will even be grateful if you do. There were numerous occasions when I forced myself to play when I didn’t feel like continuing.
The vast majority of the time, it ended in me losing a few buyins more than I already have. I had 8.000 hands in already when suddenly my mind would wander off, and I would start to autopilot. I managed to lose in the next 1000 hands all the profit that I made that day and a little more. Do not be like me and don’t learn the lesson the hard way.
Good luck at the tables and take care.