We are creatures of habit. Some of us might have a higher level of tolerance for spontaneity than others but we all crave the stability that only a predictable routine can provide. Unfortunately, in the modern world, we're constantly pressured to live faster and faster, often at a cost of our daily routines.
Some of us have jobs that are fairly unpredictable, and for those fortunate enough to make poker their profession, there's a good amount of self-regulation involved in their day to day affairs. Not every poker day will play out the same way, especially for players who employ tactics like stop-loss or stop-win. On the whole, establishing a stable, reliable routine is a tall order these days no matter our particular circumstances.
The Case For A Morning Routine
There are plenty of reasons why everyone can benefit from a solid morning routine. Let's start with one that will speak to those of you who are more empirically inclined. If you google "morning routines of successful people" you'll find a surprisingly large amount of information. Turns out that a huge percentage of notable personalities, both past, and present, recognize the value of morning rituals, and therefore it might be a good idea to emulate that tendency.
In case you prefer rationalism over empiricism, there are plenty of other objective reasons to inject some structure into the first hour or two of your day. First of all, it can greatly reduce stress. Even if you're a professional poker player, and there's no risk you'll be late to your office (which is something many of us have to deal with) you can still benefit from a few minutes of 'me time', that will help you start the day on the right foot. Even five or ten minutes of some mindful breathing in the morning can turn your first poker session from a c-game ridden tilt-fest into a solid a-game performance.
Morning routine promotes self-discipline. A sloppy morning is often followed by an equally sloppy day. If you start your day at a random time preceded by five or more presses of the snooze button on your alarm clock, your productivity will plummet. Conversely, if you always wake up at roughly the same time and you follow that up with a few routine activities, it's so much easier to get in the swing of things and maintain momentum.
Core Elements Of A Good Morning Routine
No matter if you're a baker, an accountant, a professional athlete, a teacher or indeed a poker player, there are some general habits that you might want to include in your morning routine. Keep in mind that you don't have to utilize all of them. Some of the habits listed below have the potential to benefit virtually anyone who decides to implement them, but as always, we're all slightly different, we have different traits, personalities, and preferences which will greatly affect the kind of morning activities that work best for us. Without further ado, let's get to the examples:
Wake up early. This is pretty self-explanatory. While there's such a thing as a night owl, and some of us are biologically predisposed to thrive in the later hours of the day, most of us stay up late for all the wrong reasons. The blue light emitted from various screens that we look at throughout the day messes up with our circadian rhythms, same goes for the caffeine we tend to overconsume. This problem is further exacerbated in case of poker players who choose to play on sites where it's +EV to stay up late in order to participate in the softest games possible. In light of that, most of us could really benefit from a good old-fashioned early wake-up call. It doesn't have to be anything extreme. Waking up at 4:30 AM because you think it's cool to emulate the schedule of a retired navy seal might be akin to stepping over $100 bills to pick up a few pennies. Anything in between 6-8am should be good enough for most of the population. If you're one of those confirmed night owls or if the 1:00am cash games on your preferred site are juicy beyond belief, you can still benefit from a predictable wake-up time, even if it's way past that 6-8am range.
Move around! This can take many different forms. It can be as quick and simple as a 5-minute stretching and mobility routine, it can take a form of a relaxing 30-60 minute walk combined with listening to your favorite audiobook or podcast, or you can get straight to the gym to deadlift some heavy barbells off the floor. That being said, no matter what your goals or preferences are, you should include some form of physical activity in your morning routine.
Meditate. We're not going to explain this one in detail as meditation is a subject that we often bring up in poker related articles. Still, it's just about the most beneficial thing you can do for your brain and it would be a sin not to include it among the positive daily habits that you should include in your morning routine.
Take a cold shower. Cold showers might be a bit too hardcore for some of you and that's totally understandable. They aren't exactly as simple and pain-free as 5 minutes of mindful breathing or 10 minutes of stretching. That being said, a cold shower can have a really profound effect on both our mental and physical state. The shock that the feeling of ice cold water on our skin can induce can help snap us out of the lethargic state better than a cup of the strongest coffee. Cold showers can also help us build a tremendous amount of mental toughness because they go against the default comfort-seeking mode that most modern human beings assume.
Express gratitude. This entry on the list might be a bit too esoteric for many of you, but the practice of writing down one to three sentences aimed at expressing our gratitude is cultivated by many successful people. Keeping a gratitude journal can help us put our 100k hands long break-even stretch into perspective when the first thing that we're grateful for in the morning is the fact that we can still play cards for fun and profit no matter how difficult it sometimes gets.
Lastly, eat some breakfast... or don't! The idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has some merit but it was conceived more as a marketing ploy than anything else. Some people may really benefit from starting their day with a big protein-rich breakfast as it can help alleviate anxiety. Others can enjoy a minor nootropic effect caused by a morning fast.
Morning Routine For Poker Players
As we've already mentioned, the examples provided above will work for you no matter your profession and poker players aren't an exception to the rule. When building your personal morning routine, you should start with a basic set of solid habits. However, there's nothing wrong with specializing and as poker players, we might want to include a few poker-centric activities in our morning routines.
Play a short poker session. Early morning might not be the best time to play poker as far as the quality of the games is concerned but starting your day with a short 30-minutes long session can greatly benefit some players. This is especially true for those among us who have trouble with self-discipline, and for the players who fear their sessions when they are in the middle of a downswing or a break-even stretch.
Review the hands from the previous day. If the traffic on your site doesn't allow for an early morning session this is probably the next best thing. Hand reviews are among the best ways of improving your game no matter when you perform them but doing it first thing in the morning will help you establish the mindset of daily improvement. Beginning your day with the activity aimed at correcting the mistakes of the previous one is symbolic and it's a great representation of what it takes to constantly improve both in poker and the life in general.
Short productive poker-themed procrastination. If you're just starting out or you're having trouble visualizing yourself as a poker player you might want to make a conscious effort to try to immerse yourself in the poker world. Start your day with a 10-minute look at poker related news sites and social media.
No matter which of the habits presented above you'll choose to reinforce we can assure you that it's worth your while. In the ever more competitive poker landscape, the difference between winning and losing players is often determined by what they do outside the poker table.