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Gavin Griffin -- Poker Questions Asked And Answered

Griffin Talks About Session Length

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Gavin GriffinPeople in the poker community often come up to me and ask about whatever is on their mind. Some of these questions are good questions, and some are bad beat stories in disguise. I’ve been through quite a few things in my poker career and I like to help whenever possible, and in this new Card Player series, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge. Feel free to ask any poker-related question, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the space below.

Question: What’s a good length of time to aim for a session? I feel like I should stay as long as I can to make the most value of my gas and parking fees, but I worry that sometimes my focus starts to decrease and it negatively affects my ROI. Any pointers?

Gavin: The truth of the matter is, I really struggle with this as well. I live at least half an hour drive from any casino and I have a family at home so it’s hard for me to figure out how to balance my time at the casino, which is time away from my family. Since I try to treat my poker like a job, I try to get in an average of 40 hours or more per week that I play. I also want to maximize my work to commute ratio. Finally, I want to spend as many of my wife and son’s waking hours with them as I can. This leads to me playing longer sessions less frequently. It doesn’t make sense for me to play for 8 hours, 5 days a week when that means I’ll be commuting at least 5 more hours during that week. It’s much more efficient for me to try to play 3 or 4 12 hour sessions so I’m only driving 3-4 hours a week. In addition, if I can skew those hours later, say from 2 a.m. to 2 a.m., I get to catch the juicy late night games while only missing a few hours of my son’s awake time since he usually goes to bed around 7 p.m. This way, more than half the time I’m away from home my son is asleep and my wife is asleep for usually 4-5 hours of the time I’m gone as well. This works out very well for my plan but does my hourly rate suffer because I’m not as fresh?

It’s certainly possible, but I also put in more hours this way. I know that it would be hard for me to get away from the house 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. I would definitely be fresher and more alert for those 8 hours, but with my wife’s work schedule and my desire to spend as much of my time at home as possible while still working full time, a 5×8 schedule just wouldn’t work.

So, to combat tiredness and loss of focus at the table I try to do a few things. First, I try to get plenty of sleep when I have the chance. Obviously this is hard with 36-48 hour work weeks, my wife working full time, and co-parenting a 1 year old. Sometimes I just don’t get to get enough sleep and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. When I can though, I sleep as much as my wife and son will let me. Of course, when my wife needs to sleep I allow her to do the same. Secondly, I try to work out as much as I can. I try to go on 2 or 3 one-hour bike rides per week and sneak in some other quick workouts where I can. Finally, if I’m at work and start to feel my focus slipping, I’ll take a walk around the casino. If I’m in a not so great neighborhood in the Los Angeles area or a huge Las Vegas resort, I’ll walk inside and if I’m in a good neighborhood and the weather is cooperative, I’ll walk in the fresh air to try and clear my thoughts and gather my focus. In addition, if I’m getting close to the 12 hours I’m shooting for and I feel my thoughts start to wander and my focus wane, I’ll just pick up and leave rather than cost myself lots of equity by staying and not being focused.

These are the things that work for me. Everyone operates differently. I know lots of people who can’t play longer sessions and many whose sessions dwarf mine and they feel like they play well throughout. I certainly remember the days when I was younger when I could play a 25-hour session and feel fresh at the end of it. Those have definitely passed me by. Try your best to be honest with yourself about whether you decision making is suffering from your longer sessions and be aware of any other things you can do to increase your stamina at the table and regain focus. Something I haven’t tried but I’m sure would be helpful is learning some deep breathing techniques that can increase your energy and settle your mind. Don’t worry if you look stupid doing it and if you really don’t want to do something that might make you look funny at the poker table, head to the bathroom and do it there. Anything legal that can make you a more efficient and profitable poker player is worth trying out. I hope your long sessions turn out well.

If you have a question for Gavin, send it to editor@cardplayer.com.