How Does Meditation Help Poker Pros?

Someone Meditating and a Poker Hand

Poker is often made out to be a thrilling affair. It’s depicted through movies as a game where players are constantly out-bluffing each other with 2-7 offsuit.

The reality, though, is much different. While poker is still a fun game, it’s not as exciting as the movies make it out to be.

Any poker pro will tell you that playing can become a long grind. Spending hours at the table leads to boredom.

This boredom then leads to losing focus and making poor decisions. You may think that there’s something wrong with you after making bad plays due to a loss of concentration.

However, all poker players experience a wandering mind. It’s only natural to think about other things besides studying your opponent after folding a hand.

But how do you improve your concentration at the poker tables? I found that meditation is one of the best ways to do so.

Of course, I’m not the only poker player who believes in meditating. In fact, a number of players who are far better than me believe in this practice too.

Why are so many poker pros practicing meditation, or at least dabbling in it? Keep reading as I discuss the poker benefits of meditating.

Poker Pros Who Are Big Advocates of Meditating

Successful poker pros don’t get to where they are by staying still. They instead constantly look for new ways to improve their skills.

Most of the time, their improvement come from learning actual poker concepts. However, they can also use techniques from outside gambling to become better.

Some of the world’s top pros have tabbed meditation as a key to their success. They’ve practiced meditation and have discovered how it helps them stay on their A-game.

Daniel Negreanu is the most-famous poker advocate of meditating. He’s discussed the matter through both interviews and blog posts.

Kid Poker believes that meditating can help players stay calm in stressful situations. Doing so is especially important with regard to avoiding tilt.

Faraz Jaka is another poker player who has discovered the benefits of meditating. Jaka, who has over $6.2 million in live tournament winnings, considers meditation to be a very important part of his life.

Andrew “LuckyChewy” Lichtenberger, who has more than $9.3 million in tournament winnings, has actually discussed meditation and his book Yoga of Poker. He believes that meditating is not only great for poker, but also for a healthy lifestyle

What Does Meditation Do for Poker Players?

Meditation offers a number of general benefits, which I’m going to discuss later. But how does it directly affect your poker game?

Focus is the biggest area where meditation can help a poker player improve. Being able to pay attention to the current hand on a regular basis is an invaluable skill.

Having this focus allows you to better understand what’s going on in the moment and make stronger reads. It also helps you during study sessions, when your mind may wander when you don’t immediately pick up a strategy concept.

As mentioned before, meditation is also an excellent way to combat tilt. As you may know, tilt refers to an emotional state where are you suspend better judgment and make bad plays.

You’re likely aware when you’re making bad decisions based on emotions. But this is the challenge with tilt: it’s hard to avoid even when you’re aware that it’s happening.

Unfortunately, meditating won’t help you identify an opponent’s three-betting range or determine the perfect point to make a value bet. You still have to learn traditional poker concepts in order to improve.

Meditation by itself won’t help you become a winning poker player. Instead, it should be considered a supplement to poker strategy.

But if you feel that you’re missing a key ingredient on the path to poker success – especially when it comes to focusing – then meditation may be exactly what you’re missing.

General Benefits of Meditating

Meditation already has plenty of benefits for your poker skills. However, this technique is even more worthwhile with regard to the advantages it offers beyond the game.

Meditating can help you do everything from reduce stress levels to become more self-aware. Check out these benefits below along with everything else that this practice can offer.

Stress Reduction

Being under constant stress has many negative results. This emotional state increases cortisol in your body, which leads to disrupted sleep, higher blood pressure, and more anxiety.

If you’re constantly stressed, then you may want to look towards meditation as a solution. This practice has been shown to reduce stress and promote better emotional and physical health.

Improved Self Awareness

It’s oftentimes harder to figure yourself out than others. One reason why is because you likely don’t sit and dwell on your own thoughts.

Meditating puts increased focus on observing and understanding your thoughts. You may eventually start to figure out why you engage in destructive behavior, then work to fix these problems.

Increased Attention Span

I discussed how meditation can help you maintain focus in poker. But having a better attention span goes beyond just the felt.

Imagine being able to finally sit down and work on all the pursuits you’ve dreamed of doing. Meditating helps you work on the projects that you’ve been constantly putting off.

How Do You Meditate Like the Poker Pros?

Now that I’ve thoroughly built up meditation and what it can do for you, it’s time to actually discuss how it works.

Many people don’t even consider meditating, because they think it will be difficult. They picture some enlightened Buddhist monk meditating for hours on a mountaintop.

The good thing, though, is that you don’t have to be a monk just too enjoy the benefits of meditation. In fact, you can get started rather quickly without learning anything at all.

Mindfulness meditation is used by many people across the world. This style refers to focusing on a single aspect, so as to center one’s thoughts.

Most people focus on their breathing during mindfulness meditation. Breathing serves as a useful anchor so that one can stay focused during the process.

However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t fixate too hard breathing patterns. Don’t sit there and repeat, “breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out.”

It’s perfectly fine to have this mindset in the beginning. After all, everybody needs a starting point.

But the goal is to reach a level where you’re focusing on the breathing without paying too much attention to it. Essentially, you’ll be zoning out with a light focus on your breathing.

Your mind will wander while you’re meditating, so don’t worry if you’re not 100% focused in the beginning. In fact, even those who’ve been practicing meditation for years still deal with this problem.

When you feel your mind wandering, gently pull it back to the present. Go back to your anchor (breathing) and continue as you were.

Of course, it’s much easier to maintain focus when you prepare yourself for success. Remove anything that may serve as a distraction during your meditation and sit in a comfortable position.

Distractions include everything that could disrupt your thoughts. A smartphone, TV, and people can all pull you out of a meditative state. Regarding the latter, you’ll want to choose a time where you’re completely alone.

The way you sit is somewhat left up to interpretation. However, most meditators like to set with their spine almost straight, their hips and knees open, and their shoulders relaxed.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like a great method for you, especially if you have back problems. In this case, you can stand or lie down. Just be aware though that lying down can make you feel tired during the process.

Most people close their eyes when meditating, because it reduces the chances of visual distractions. However, you can also keep your eyes slightly open and fixate on a point in front of you.

Meditation Is Like Weight Training for the Mind

Meditation isn’t something that you do once a week and suddenly become a master of your mind. It’s instead something that provides more benefits as you continue doing it.

Meditating creates a positive snowball effect that’s similar to the following:

  • You start meditating.
  • You’re able to stay more disciplined and focused.
  • You then have more minutes in the day for meditation.
  • You become even more focused as a result.

It might be hard for you to get started with meditation in the beginning. You may think that you don’t have time to meditate today and you’ll simply do it tomorrow.

I know from experience, though, that tomorrow can be weeks or even months away. The longer you put off meditating, the longer you wait to experience the many advantages it offers in poker and life in general.

Luckily, you don’t have to start meditating for 30 minutes or an hour right out of the gate. Instead, you can ease yourself into the process by meditating for five minutes or so.

Mindfulness meditation is especially handy, because it can be done virtually anywhere. You can use this meditation when washing the dishes or taking a slow walk.

Ideally, you’ll be seated in a comfortable position at home, alone. But again, it never hurts to meditate whenever the urge strikes and you can comfortably do so without being interrupted.

Oftentimes, you’ll find that your mind wanders the most when you’re doing boring activities, such as folding laundry or paying bills.

It’s perfectly fine to think about what you have to do that week or any upcoming problems that you’ll have to deal with. However, the same random thoughts can start to creep up when doing important stuff.

If you can focus your thoughts during boring activities, though, then you’ll be better able to maintain concentration at the poker table.

More Types of Meditation beyond Mindfulness

Again, mindfulness meditation is a great way to get started in this journey. You can practice mindfulness while doing a number of daily tasks.

However, this isn’t the only style of meditation available. Here are a couple of other ways that you can prepare for poker success.

Mantra Meditation

This style of meditating helps strengthen concentration the most and eventually achieve a desired goal. You engage in mantra meditation by repeating a word or phrase again and again.

Eventually, your mind will move closer to achieving the repetitive phrase. For example, you might say over and over, “I’m going to become the world’s best poker player.”

Obviously mantra meditation doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reach this goal. However, it can at least change your mind set about success.

Guided Meditation

You’ve likely seen somebody teaching meditation on TV or through an online clip. These teachers are often instructing their students in the ways of guided meditation.

This concept is about trying to achieve relaxation and clarity. By using a combination of visualization and sensory recall, you can hopefully gain the skills to deal with any stressful situation.

Is Meditating Ever Bad?

Based on everything I’ve discussed here, meditation sounds like it’s the key to unlocking success in poker and other pursuits. Therefore, it seems like you would want to meditate anytime you get a free moment.

But as they say, too much of a good thing can be bad. The same is true of meditation, which can lead to the following negative consequences.

Meditation Can Bring Up Repressed Feelings

Meditating isn’t only about zoning out so that you can clear your head and eventually concentrate better. It’s also about getting in touch with your own mind and observing your thoughts.

Continued meditation leads to learning more and more about yourself. Unfortunately, this process can sometimes bring up negative emotions that are buried deep within.

Meditation is often stereotyped as something that leads to complete calm. But when negative emotions surface, it can instead bring up feelings of anger, jealousy, and/or hate.

You must be prepared to deal with these emotions if you’re going to meditate on a regular basis. You’ll most likely improve as a person by working through these thoughts, rather than keeping them buried.

But while you’re experiencing these emotions, you may suddenly begin to think that there’s something wrong with you. Moreover, you’ll have to deal with unpleasantness until you can move past the negativity.

You May Feel Like a Failure in the Beginning

It’s important to understand that there’s no right way of meditating. Despite what gurus who make money selling courses may have you think, meditation can be done in a variety of methods and sitting positions.

Until you fully understand this, though, you might feel like a failure when trying out meditation. Your mind is going to wander like crazy if you’ve never tried this practice, which makes it seem like you’re doing everything wrong.

Nobody likes failing. Meditation is no different because it can leave you feeling inadequate when your mind bounces around like a ping-pong ball.

Meditating Can Become Addicting

Having an addiction to meditation is much more preferable than binge drinking, smoking, or abusing drugs.

However, any type of addiction can lead to negative consequences. Meditation is no different, despite its overall positive image.

Meditating for up to 60 minutes every 1-2 days is a healthy activity. However, meditating for multiple hours on a daily basis prevents you from improving your poker game and enjoying life experiences.

You May Start Feeling Detached

Detachment is part of the meditation culture. The goal is to step back from your everyday mind-wandering and begin pondering your thoughts.

But at some point, all of your meditation may leave you feeling different from the average person. You might see all of their anger, frustration, and missteps and have trouble relating.

One goal of meditation is to properly look at and analyze your own thoughts without judging how others behave. However, it’s tough to still identify with other people when you’re moving closer to enlightenment.


Many poker pros have discovered the benefits of meditation. I highlighted a few of the most-successful players who balance meditating with winning.

This practice offers multiple benefits for poker players. It helps you maintain focus at the table, concentrate better during strategy sessions, and avoid tilt.

Meditating is beneficial outside of the game too. You can reduce your stress, become more self-aware, have stronger emotional health, and gain an increased attention span.

Of course, you actually have to meditate on a regular basis before experiencing its offerings. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to get started.

This style involves focusing on an anchor, such as your breathing. You want to maintain a light focus on your anchor while gently keeping your mind from wandering too much.

Your mind will definitely wander – especially in the beginning. However, the goal is to continue pulling it back and avoid fixating on random thoughts.

Obviously meditation has a lot to offer. However, it can also have some negative consequences too. Pulling up repressed feelings, detachment, and meditation addiction are all problems to watch out for.

Overall, though, you’ll find that meditating is a healthy habit. Moreover, it’s one that can help you win more often in poker!

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.