No matter where in the world Vanessa Selbst travels for poker tournaments, she seems to find a place to exercise. In particular, she finds basketball or tennis courts and tries to get in a few games during her stay.
She's not the only one. Many poker players decide to join her in a session of shooting hoops, and she often uses Twitter to round up a team.
Why, you ask, would a poker player in a city as beautiful as Barcelona or Monte Carlo spend time doing such things? Fitness and physical health are inextricably tied to mental awareness and stamina during a poker tournament. And it should be no surprise that Selbst has nearly $7.4 million in tournament earnings to date.
There are other benefits as well, as Vanessa reveals: "Even though traveling the tournament circuit is an unconventional job, I try to keep life as normal as possible when on the road. That means I'll often opt to rent an apartment in a city rather than staying in a hotel, and I try and find a way to work in some form of exercise while on the road. There's a danger in treating every poker trip like a vacation and veering too far from a healthy routine, but that's not good for me or my game."
Exercise is so important that she'll often choose access to facilities rather than convenience. "Finding a place with a gym is really important to me, and is often a major consideration when picking a hotel or apartment. If I have the choice between the hotel with the gym included and the one without a gym, I will always pick the former, even if it lacks in other areas, such as being farther from the casino, etc."
Tennis is the "perfect sport," according to Vanessa, because it's easy to find one opponent and the game doesn't require much equipment. The game is close to her heart, as she played since middle school and on through high school and her first year of college. It's not the easiest task to find tennis courts on the road, though, but she added, "Folks on the circuit know which places have accessible courts, so a few of us will usually bring a racket."
Basketball is easier in some cities, as she uses a website called CourtsOfTheWorld.com to find local places to play. "Someone will often just send out a tweet the day before, telling people when and where to meet, and usually enough people will show up to get a little game going," she said.
Vanessa's dedication to the games includes packing a racket for her poker trips, and even sometimes a basketball and pump. She definitely packs her sports equipment for a trek to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, as she knows there are ample facilities for basketball, tennis, and golf.
As for the current European Poker Tour season that is beginning in Barcelona this week, Vanessa will be there with workout clothes and tennis shoes. And she has some advice for other players:
"You just have to prioritize fitness and fit it in any way you can. You can do crossfit workouts online, you can get up that hour early to head to the gym. It's also really beneficial to find a grocery store on your first day in the city and get some healthy snack and meal options. This year in PCA, I brought an entire suitcase of food from home, just so I wouldn't need to eat three meals a day in a restaurant."
But perhaps the best way to combine fitness and travel is to explore. "Honestly," admitted Vanessa, "one of the best things you can do is just explore the city you're in. The EPT has such beautiful and amazing stops. Walking around the city on my day off is one of my favorite ways to get in a little exercise."
When you see Vanessa in Barcelona, London, Prague, or the Bahamas, follow her to the local gym. It will benefit your game in ways you may not have imagined. And who knows ... maybe you'll pick up some good mojo to use at the poker tables as well.
Jennifer Newell is a PokerStars freelance contributor.