Maintaining Physical and Mental Health During the World Series of Poker
When it comes to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, there is no bigger stage for card sharks from all over the world to showcase their skills for everybody to see. It is most certainly the pinnacle live poker series of the year which also gathers a lot of interest from those who cannot attend. The poker enthusiasts follow the live updates to find out what is happening since just a fraction of the events will be live-streamed and if so, only during the final stages.
Leading up to that grand showdown is everything that has happened previously and while only a fraction of the action at the tables makes it into the coverage, it represents a vital part of the festivities. As such, a high quality reporting with as few mistakes as possible is required on a consistent basis and that can create a lot of stress for those who are not familiar with the environment yet.
Heading into the summer camp, I had high hopes of maintaining my usual routines that had grown over the previous years and ultimately failed with that goal. I even had this blog entry ready at the start of the series as well and never wrapped it up, which kind of showcases the lack of spirit this time around.
Now that the end of the marathon session has come to an end some two weeks ago, the time has come to put pen to paper and publish it along with an analysis along the way in order to close the chapter and disappear into an urgently needed break. The initial parts below are not altered, as they should be what others shall aim to achieve based on my experience.
Perhaps, however, I need to alter my own goals for the years to come if I decide to continue this journey in the poker industry.
In order to perform on a high level throughout the entire series in Sin City, poker players, media and staff require a balanced mental health and that goes hand-in-hand with physical health as well. There is no fool-proof system that works for everybody and the below guide is more of a general consensus and based on personal experience throughout the last few years in the annual summer camp.
Up until 2022, I was pretty certain to have found the way that works best for me but the overall circumstances changed. In a nutshell, my usual rescue net didn’t work this time as I came into the series too drained and emotionally shaken. Fortunately, my auto-pilot kicked in to get as far as the final stages and the longterm consequences are something I will worry about later on.
Regular Fitness Routine as Key Factor
The one thing that has worked best for me until now was a regular fitness routine for at least 30 minutes. While the daily walk to the venue can be considered as a physical activity of some sorts, it doesn’t replace the gym sessions I had in mind. Whether or not this had an influence on me staying semi-sick and catching migraine attacks regularly a couple weeks into the series remains unclear but certainly seems a plausible explanation.
Thanks to the consistent workouts, I was usually able to build up stamina to sail through the day and maintain a high level of concentration into the early morning hours. Unfortunately, this hasn’t really been the case this time around and that leaves me somewhat frustrated. Until I feel well enough to hit the gym again on a daily basis, the summer camp will be over and the time to heal commences.
Healthy Food Is Important, Too
Another vital aspect that contributes to the overall balance during this very stressful period is a healthy nutrition. With the new location right on the Las Vegas Strip, there are plenty of food options available but the near daily commute to these places would certainly shrink my budget and I don’t like to work for free.
Having an own apartment with kitchen should provide plenty of options to cook and prepare healthy meals but I have been unusually lazy this time. Perhaps this perfectly reflects the bad shape I reckon to be in and doesn’t shine a great light on my overall performance.
This time, even the poker players are struggling as their favourite delivery service “All American Dave” was not allowed to operate on the premises. Another business tried to take up the spot but was kicked out of the casino rather swiftly after seemingly disturbing the poker action during active play according to the word on the street.
Fortunately, we are considered as staff and can take advantage of the dealer break room which once again offers hot food every day. Sometimes it might be hit and miss, and the salad options are limited but not having to pay suddenly makes it a very attractive alternative. There is obviously lots of room for improvement but with five out of seven days per week on live reporting duty for up to 13 hours leaves little room to break free.
That leaves one other major factor up for consideration that will sooner or later become crucial during a long summer in Sin City: Mental health.
Being able to consistently get the job done for numerous weeks and rare days off in between takes a toll not only on the body but also the mind. There are times when the fatigue takes over and it becomes very difficult to focus. I have had times when migraine attacks would not stop and this has been the case once more.
A popular way to unwind would typically be a trip outside of the bustling city for a hike in the mountains or meditation, neither of which I have accomplished this time when the summer camp is almost over. During most other international events, an escape plan into the nature is doable but Las Vegas is certainly special.
The logical consequence especially as of lately was not very flattering:
Too many avoidable mistakes.
I hate every single one of them and I am tired of getting told “not to be so hard on yourself”. This is exactly what has gotten me so far and has become a vital part of what unlocked a specific reputation in a niche and very competitive industry.
While exhaustion in general and fatigue after many months on the road would be an easy excuse to use, that simply isn’t entirely true. I certainly entered the longest haul of the work trip spanning from back in February with some burdens and weight on my shoulders but the overall performance or lack thereof still feels disappointing after all.
The war in the Ukraine may have be on my mind regularly even if I tried to avoid that. However, that was quite difficult when the national flag appeared in the ad rotation of the Flamingo Palms Hotel right next door to my apartment. And the daily reminder where a part of my heart currently is was quite welcome also even if it hurt at the same time.
During the series, I once again tried to get back into meditation with very little to no success. Some players also channeled their inner peace during the breaks or before the start of the tournament days near the poker tables, which was very refreshing to see. I wish to have been capable to do that on a consistent basis as well but the attempts lasted all but a mere week.
Ultimately, all the anger, frustration, illness, and lack of physical exercise sent me into a slump and I gained three kilos as confirmed by the dreadful glance on the electronic scale back home. Perhaps, a break from all this self-made stress and live poker events is urgently needed to regain more balance.
The first step for that challenge is currently underway but that is perhaps better saved for a more uplifting blog entry.