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Tuesday, June 20, 2006 

Winning Online Multi Table Tournaments - Part 2

Winning Online Multi Table Tournaments
By: Adam LaBare

Part 2
Limit Your Distractions

“I’m addicted to multi-tasking, HELP!”

Online poker is unique in that you have the freedom to be doing as many simultaneous things as you like. When playing a home game or in a casino, you’re obviously limited to the interaction you have while sitting at that one table. You’re not buying in to several tables/tournaments and running across the room trying not to miss a hand. Imagine an entire poker room at The Bellagio with people running from one table to the next…chaos. But somewhat funny to imagine.

When you’re playing online poker, you have the freedom to play several tables, several tournaments in several different poker clients. You could be running 3 tables on PokerStars.com while playing in two different tournaments on PartyPoker.com. While your doing this, you could be surfing the internet and reviewing sites like digg.com or better yet, poker blogs! Beyond that, you may also have the television going with a fairly interesting plot line on ABC’s Lost (one helluva show if I may say) all the while your 3 dogs are plotting where the next batch of throw up will hide itself in anticipation of your wife to stepping in it thus resulting in a bad case to Tourette Syndrome. Then there’s always the wildcard door bell and phone call on top of those few things.

The thinking here is that when you’re playing poker online, it is very easy to be doing too many things which results in decreased focus which leads to increased loss monetarily. The solution? Limit your distractions! Or in the words of my Father, “Keep it simple, Stupid”.

I can’t give you the simple solution to limiting those distractions as I face them every day myself. I’m literally a multi tasking junky. I can’t sit still just doing one thing. I don’t think it’s adult ADD. But if my attention is not entirely utilized, it’s easy for me to get bored. Drives my wife insane. But I have been successful in limiting those distractions and here are a few things I do that contribute to my success.

  • If you’re like me and play poker on your laptop out in the living room to ensure you’re spending time with your loved ones, stop. Well, not entirely, find a happy mix. Trust me, your significant other does not consider this quality time. Instead, spend time in a different room away from typical household surroundings. Venture in to your second bedroom, or office and just be alone with your poker. You would be surprised how this has helped with larger, more important tournaments in my past. If you choose this path though, you better make darn sure you emerge from your cave and spend that lost time with your loved ones. Trust me!
  • Limit the background noise. Personally, I don’t really mind the T.V. going, but it HAS caused unnecessary distractions which very well may have contributed to an early tournament knock out here or there. This may sound odd, but I have had far and away more success when I’ve been listening to music vs. having the television on. While I can’t show you the science, it works for me. Perhaps you can compromise, turn your t.v. to your music channels. My cable company has a great line up of music choice. I also have Sirius Satellite radio streaming in to my home entertainment system. I LOVE this service. And, if I’m really in the mood to geek out, I have my ipod often plugged in to my Xbox 360. If music can soothe savage beasts, it may have a slight impact on us surly poker players.
  • Play on a full stomach. Yes, simply eat a snack before you sit down to that 6 hour tournament. The hourly 5 minute breaks don’t last very long. You’ll find that the less you have to get up and do normal, human stuff, the more focused you can remain on the game.
  • Use the bathroom before sitting down to those longer tournaments. Granted, if you have a lap top, you can work something out…and you lap top owners know what the hell I’m talking about. Don’t lie! But seriously, take care of business before hand-your several body parts will thank you for it.
  • Drink in moderation, or don’t drink at all. And for that matter, if you partake in ANY mind altering substance…if you’re playing poker for profit, I caution you to seriously consider partaking during or right before a tournament. Now I’m not suggesting you stop your binge drinking, pot smoking Saturday’s, but I am saying that I very rarely win a dime while playing intoxicated. You’ll see many poker players comment on a few beers or drinks relax them allowing them to play a better game. Okay, perhaps this is true…but if your in a marathon session, 2 crown and cokes can easily turn in to 9 resulting in you waking up at 4 in the morning with your laptop on the ground next to you. Then you ask yourself, how the hell did I get on the ground, under the coffee table? And why is my face sticking to the floor? And why is PokerStars still running? You get the picture. I remember one night I “fell asleep” a few years ago to wake up the next day and realize I finished in the money yet I had absolutely no recollection of participating in the tournament. I think that was part of the “growth process” and learning ones limitations. Needless to say, I very seldomly drink alcohol while playing. Maybe a beer or two every now and again. But even then, when your up running to the bathroom between hands…it get’s tedious.
  • Let the dogs out before you get started. Trust me.
  • Keep your cable modem and routers nearby. My cable company updates my IP about once or twice a week which means that I have to hard reset my modem and router manually. This has happened several times during very important tournaments. I've gotten the reset process down to a science and can be back up and running in about 60 seconds.
  • If you’re playing in a large tournament, play in an empty house. My wife has been very supportive of this without even having to ask. When she finds out that I’m playing in the stars 1 million tournament on Sunday’s, she’ll often get out of the house for the afternoon. She’s great when it comes to that. I just find that with larger, more at risk tournaments, the less distractions, the better. I’m just lucky my wife understands. Plus, it probably helps that she realizes a first place finish in this tournament could alter our lives quite a bit.
  • Relieve Stress. Easier said than done I realize. But when I sit down to a tournament, I do significantly better when I have less taxing things on my mind. For example, if I know on a Friday that I’ll be playing in the big tournament Sunday, it helps if I preemptively prepare at work. Meaning I’ll take care of open items in the workplace that Friday so that I won’t have to deal with them Monday morning. If your anything like me, Sunday afternoon’s can suck just knowing Monday is a work day. The less you have to stress about, work related, the better you will do in that tournament. This category can cover so many things…but other items that can impact your play:
    • Outstanding bills. Don’t go in to a tournament knowing that you HAVE to win to pay financial obligations. I keep my poker bankroll entirely separate from any outside financial obligations.
    • Sex. If your horny, get it out of your system before the tournament. Better yet, if your significant other is horny, make them happy before the tournament. It can be quite the dilemma when you run in to the bathroom during a 5 minute break and she say’s to you, “come here” from the bedroom as you head back to the computer. I’ll leave it at that…but you can see the problem this might present. Plus, the whole “you’d rather play poker than be with me” argument is a very slippery slope. Barry Greenstein had a great section on this topic in his recent book. A very good read I might add.
    • Double booking. Don’t plan to be somewhere at 8pm if your tournament starts at 6pm. Unless you want to fail which is just stupid and I which case, you deserve to fail. Playing with the added pressure of having to be somewhere really is setting yourself up for failure. Take care of your obligations before hand.
Most of these thoughts are common sense and may seem fairly obvious. But the reality is, we can never fully prepare for the unexpected. By limiting your distractions, you are in essence giving yourself an upper hand against an opponent who may not be so prepared.

Hey man,
Good point you make there regarding tournament play and prep. I have to admit the payouts are awesome on the tournaments. I think the reason I look to the "steady grind" for income is I get PISSED when I just miss the money and feel that although my bankroll is fine, I didn't make any money that day. I play about 3-5 SNG tournaments per week and get into a few large ones on occasion.
Thanks for the marriageg well wishes. I will try to get some pics on soon.
Keep adding to the bankroll!!


This was so interesting to read. I face each one of these challenges everytime that I play in a tourney and funny thing is, the only time I cashed is when I kept my distractions to almost ZERO. It is SO important!

Thanks for reminding me how important it really is.


Bit of a letdown here, unless you've got more coming. I was quite interested in your take on MTT's since I don't do well in them at all but do quite well in NL ring games (I do okay in fixed limit, but find it terribly tedious and not nearly as profitable).

Now my measure of ok in NL is that I at least double the max buy-in by the time I cash out. I stay at near max as long as I play, so if I get taken down to 0 and rebuy, then ok means triple the buy-in, etc. I look to win one big hand an hour and cover my blinds and flop calls with a sprinkling of small pots. Usually I double every hour or two. I see about 36% flops, fold about half of those, and win above 60% at showdown, though I don't see a lot of them since I prefer to win ambiguous hands early. Most of the 40% I lose at showdown are nothing hands with a lot of checking. I don't hard bet ambiguous hands on the river.

This is profitable play in live action, but doubling up repeatedly is required to win tournaments. I suspect I play way too tight in tournaments, but when I have won anything (finishing in the money), it's not from playing any looser, but actually from playing tighter than I normally do. I've finished in the money with tighter than normal play repeatedly in large online MTT's (~1500-2000) but rarely get to the final table. In the end, it's not profitable play, but a good way to kill a couple of hours with little at stake and the potential to win something.

I'd like to understand how to adjust what is obviously solid ring play to produce equivalently solid tournament play. I was hoping you'd discuss that in some meaningful fashion.

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