Sitting here sipping on my third coffee and having an ill-advised afternoon snack I realised I was starting to feel a bit sluggish. Being in a poker room for what feels like 24 hours a day over the last few days hasn't been exactly great for the health and it's starting to feel that way. The thing is, I probably only have myself to blame. I've been eating the wrong things, drinking too much coffee and I'm starting to crash. I've been working the poker circuit for a few years now and I should have known better than to shovel the wrong food and drink down my throat day in and day out. The poker players face the same problems as us in the media. Eating and drinking the wrong things can be the difference between finishing on the bubble and making the final table.
One person who is an expert on this subject is PokerStars.tv hostess Lynn Gilmartin. Over the last couple of years Gilmartin has been on a health kick of epic proportions, reading, studying and learning as much as she can about food and the effect of food on our bodies. Gilmartin is also currently studying to be a Holistic Health Coach. Being that Gilmartin is so involved in the poker world, it is no surprise that she has imparted plenty of that knowledge to the poker community via a series of health-inspired tweets, interviews, blogs and more. I recently wandered over to where Lynn is sitting and asked for her number one tip. That one little bit of information that players could lock in the memory banks and ensure they never busted from a tournament due to food-related brain snaps. Read her wise words below.
"Playing in a tournament is obviously a long day that is mentally and physically draining. I see so many poker players spending so much time and money on refining their poker skills and through strategy training, but if our body isn't getting the nutrients that it needs to perform at its peak, then you could be cutting yourself short," says Gilmartin. "My biggest tip is to drink water. I know you would have heard this countless amounts of times, but it's for good reason, and not to be shrugged off. Our bodies are made of almost 80% water, and the brain's percentage is even higher than that. If you're dehydrated, your brain may not apply all those strategic tools that you may have learned last week as well as you anticipated."
"I would generally suggest to bring snacks with you, to stop you from snacking on the junk that is usually available at casinos," Gilmartin added. "It's near impossible to find something as simple as a banana sometimes, so pack a great selection of brain food to keep yourself focused throughout the day and to help prevent energy crashes later in the day. In my new video series I open up my bag to share some suggested snacks."
There are currently around 65 players remaining in the ANZPT Sydney Main Event and shortly they will be heading on a dinner break. Luckily The Star has plenty of options for players to be able to adhere to Lynn's advice. Just in the Sports Bar here in the poker room there is a restaurant that has a couple of healthier options such as a Garden Salad and Greek Salad, while just a short while down the hall there are various cafes with fruit, salad and vegan options.
Food isn't the only thing players need to consider during a tournament though, and Lynn was quick to offer her advice to the remaining players about to head on their dinner break.
"Your breaks are obviously so important during a tournament, not only to be able to stretch and eat, but also to reset yourself mentally. There's no denying that the bubble is a stressful time in a tournament, and the last thing you need is any sort of influences affecting your stress levels. Perhaps you played a couple of hands incorrectly leading up to the break, or the guy to your left is tilting the heck out of you. Even life can get in the way sometimes, whether you had an argument with your girlfriend, or didn't get an assignment in on time - you don't want to carry any of this back to the table with you. So take this time on dinner break to calm yourself. The best way to do this is by taking five minutes alone, even if it means putting the toilet seat down and sitting in a cubical alone, to just close your eyes and focus on absolutely nothing but your breath. Take really deep breaths, feeling the air fill you right down to your stomach, and just notice how that feels as you do it. You will be surprised at how powerful something so simple can be. You can even do this in between hands while you're at the table. Whenever I feel any kind of anxiety, I always take a couple of really slow, deep breaths, and it puts those butterfly feelings in check, while helping me consider whatever issue it is a little clearer."
Plenty of poker players will not listen to any of the advice that has been written here, and each to their own, but I know I for one will be aiming to think twice before making a food related decision this weekend. So, with that, it's off on a 30-minute dinner break we in the media and the poker players go. Be sure to return soon to find out about the inevitable all-important bursting bubble. In the meantime, Lynn Gilmartin has recently recorded a new poker-related health segment titled 'Stay Stacked'. Check it out below!