Diversions Part 2

Recently, I was talking with my fellow Team Online players about what are we doing during our poker sessions. As you can probably imagine, everyone prefers something different. Some of us prefer complete silence, others can listen to music or podcasts, and others, me included, like to always have something in the background. (You can read about George Lind's diversions here).

I guess the question is, how can you do something else in addition to your poker session? You should be focused on the work. Everything else is just a distraction and may negatively reflect in your performance. Well, I do not necessarily agree.

Think of other professions and work places. Taxi drivers always have radios on, even when they are thinking about the best route or when they overtake other vehicles. In restaurants or bars, there is always loud music, and yet the bartenders and the waiters keep doing their jobs. If you've seen the recent 'Wolf of Wall Street' movie, then you noticed that the stock brokers' work environment is just crazy loud. In almost every 8-to-5 workplace there is lot of noise - phone calls, radio, chatter, working machines, etc. And that's probably 60-70% of all jobs in the world (that's my absolute blind guess), and people have always worked like that. Why would poker be any different?

I think there are two important things to notice. First, when you are new to something, everything seems complicated and difficult. Take driving lessons. Steering wheel, brake, accelerator, transmission. It's just crazy. And then the instructor tell you to adjust the mirrors, use turn-signals, watch for blind spot, etc. And you are not even in the traffic yet. But then a few years later, you do all that automatically, don't think about it, and in the same time, listen to the radio, look for the other vehicles, and mak complicated maneuvers.

Now let's go back to our taxi driver and his radio. If he is experienced, radio will not distract him. When he needs to concentrate on road, passing cars, or finding the destination, he will simply NOT LISTEN to it. But when he is on the highway, in the traffic jam or at the lights, he will listen to every word, because nothing else is happening.

That is why I think poker grinders can listen or watch something in the background as well. When you play thousands of hands a day, 80-90% of them are the same. Or when you play just one tournament, even if you keep track of everything that happens on the table, you still will have plenty of time to use. One condition - you must be experienced player.

How does it look when I play? Most of the time, I play on one monitor (I have my tables stacked) and have something on on the other one - NBA games, late-night talk shows, or EPT live. But, in 99% of the time, I just LISTEN. I may take a peek when something really interesting happens, but most of the time I am focused on my work. When my attention is needed at the tables, my brain completely ignores what is going on at the other monitor.


Sometimes it happens that due to big number of important hands, I completely lose track of what happen in the ball game or other show, and I need to rewind. Or not, it is up to me, because the other monitor is just a background.

And now, the most important thing. I NEVER EVER play my session and watch anything that really interests me. That's why I watch Miami Heat games, my soccer favourite team, Legia Warsaw, or all the tv series that I like during my breaks.

I know people that during the poker sessions writes emails, talk on Skype or watch tv series (where you actually need to watch, listening to those gets you nothing) and that is crazy to me. Do you see the difference?

In my opinion, the most important upside of having something in the background is the fact that it helps you during the boring parts of the grind. It also makes it easier to spend longer hours of play, which can actually increase your profit even if your performance is slightly down. But is it? I remember trying to play for two months with only music and no other distractions. It has turned out that my winrate suffered as I tended to overplay my hands and overthink what my opponents do.

But as always, everyone is different, and everyone knows what works for him the best. What do you do during your poker session?