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Staying Focused in High Pressure Situations

There are times at the poker table when the pressure cranks up on us. This could be at the final table of a big poker tournament, it could be when we try to play a higher stakes game, or maybe we’re just against some tough opponents. No matter the reason, if you’re feeling uneasy or nervous, you’re going to need a strategy to stay focused.

Start by asking yourself if this is a rare or common situation. If it’s rare, then it’s probably unavoidable—it just happens. On the other hand, if you often find yourself feeling the pressure, then you probably are afraid of making mistakes and losing your chips.

So, what’s the best thing to do? At the end of the day, you want to make the right play.

That’s your job. And, in order to make the right play, you need to study a lot.

Out of Game Routine

Poker is a mathematical game, so you need to approach it like any other math problem. That means taking the time to work through calculations, practicing shortcuts, and, most crucially, getting used to manipulating all the different variables. This study needs to happen outside the poker table because when you’re there, you’re under pressure to execute your strategy.

A big part of this is pre-game and post-game routines. For your warmup routine, start by clearing your mind. Work out, meditate, or address any pressing issues. If your mind is on business, chores, or any of life’s other stressors, then you won’t be able to focus as much on the poker.

For the post-game routine, review tricky hands and spots that you aren’t sure about. This will help you grow as a poker player and give you a clear path to improvement.

In-Game Strategies

While you’re playing the game, however, your main goal is to play like nothing is different than any other situation. The circumstances shouldn’t matter; all the matters is making the right play.

Ask yourself why you’re getting nervous, then try to take some deep breaths and focus back in on the game. By simply knowing that you’re going to play the game to best of your abilities regardless of the context is a huge step towards mastering high pressure


Focus on the game, and remind yourself that you’re going to review the game once it’s over. This keeps you in that growth mindset and enables you to do what you need to do.

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