Ergonomics and Online Poker

Published on Jun 24th, 2008

Let's face it: online poker is addictive. Not to mention, tournament levels are getting longer, starting stacks are getting deeper, and having multiple tables open is becoming the norm. I mean, really, who plays one table at a time anymore? The thought of that is probably too boring for most online players - dare I say positive EV?

All this leads to more and more time gripping that mouse or hovering your hand above the laptop touch pad. For some people, no problems will ever occur. However, some will start to feel pains, pinches, tingling, and discomfort stemming from symptoms of what is formally known as Repetitive Strain Syndrome or RSI. I personally fight RSI on a daily basis and have for five years now.

The purpose of this article is to convey a proper setup for the long hours of online poker, offer tips and suggestions that I have learned in my battle with RSI, and also suggest equipment that may help you avoid this very painful and frustrating syndrome. I must mention that although some of us for unexplained reasons will never have this problem, prevention is the best policy.

The proper setup must include a good chair with upper back, lumbar support, and adjustable height. Your back is full of muscles that are very strong and have been conditioned to hold up your spine, head, neck, and shoulders. However, nature had no idea we were going to attempt to play online poker for 15 hours straight (thanks WCOOP!). The entire time you're sitting staring at the screen, possibly leaning forward to better see the screen, your back muscles are becoming more and more fatigued.

Having a chair with proper support will allow you to give these poor muscles time to relax, as the chair will be doing the work of holding everything up. Further, you must be able to adjust the height of your chair so that your eyes are level with the screen. Putting the stress and strain of your fat head on your neck muscles over an extended period of time is a recipe for disaster. Your upper arm and forearm should meet at a 90 degree angle when using the mouse.

I know you have seen a million of these posture pictures, but you really should take a few

minutes to examine your own posture and adjust to this advice. It is not something where you will notice a difference immediately, but over time it will make an enormous difference in your posture and susceptibility to RSI.

You must make sure the screen you are viewing the tables on is at eye level or else you will put at an incredible amount of unnecessary strain on your neck muscles. This is very hard to avoid with laptops because as the name laptop lends itself to having the screen much lower than recommended. In the case of a laptop be sure to get an external mouse and/or keyboard and place a laptop in a location closer to eye level, perhaps boosted by a book or stand.

Arguably the most important technique to avoid RSI or general stiffness and discomfort when sitting in front of the computer is to take breaks! Yeah we all have moments where we want to play through the breaks but in reality they are there for a very good reason. The break should be used to stand up stretch move those tired muscles around and get the blood flowing, give it a try. In the end, you will pick up whatever routine is personally acceptable to you (aka. taking a brisk walk to the fridge for a beer, etc.) but you should take breaks and give your body a much needed break!

Finally I would like to recommend some alternative products to control the poker tables aside from the mouse. I have used all of these products personally and they come highly recommended for their unique form and function. Please feel free to contact me about any of them, you would not believe the list of mice and input devices I have purchased and tried, it is quite a collection.

Upright mice - These devices can certainly help to take the twisting and torque pain from your forearm and wrist. They will not completely solve your problem though, if you overuse these mice (or any device for that matter), you will develop problems. Be sure to switch up mice from time to time.

RECOMMENDED: The Evoluent VerticalMouse 2 or EM500 3M Ergonomic Mouse

Trackball mouse - These are excellent choices for those who are experiencing some slight pain, but need to take some of the strain off of gripping and moving that slider bar around. Again, like the upright mice, if you overuse these mice (or any device for that matter), you will develop problems. Be sure to switch up mice from time to time.

RECOMMENDED: Logitech Cordless Trackman Wheel , Logitech Marble 4-Button Trackball , Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman

Voice recognition - This is a brand new, up and coming technology that boasts the best alternative to using your mice and keyboard: NEITHER. This technology is still in the works, yet works quite well. It can manipulate the tables without needing the mouse and keyboard at all. The downsides include: requires patience to learn the effective use, playing more than 4 tables can be challenging, and most of all most people are just not used to it so it feels goofy at first. For the player that needs this type of support, however, it can be a godsend.

RECOMMENDED: Hands Free Poker

Foot mouse - I have used this mouse for emergencies and when the pain in my hands and wrists were at their worst. It does however work, just can be a bit tedious to move the cursor around, etc. I would call this a last ditch effort, but still should be mentioned.

RECOMMENDED: Hands Free Mouse

Best of luck on the tables and always remember to practice moderation and listen to your body signals!


  1. <p>cool article</p>

  2. <p>Thx for article</p>

  3. <p>How about the steaming hot laptop on your lap?  How do people deal with that? A small pillow only works for so long.</p>

  4. <p>Hey MALS6,</p>

    <p>Get a laptop stand of some sort.  I use one made of plastic that I set on my lap when I'm playing.  They also aid with heat regulation, as they allow the fan to expel hot air that a pillow will trap.</p>


  5. <p>  If you lift weights and exercise regularly you won't end up with these type of stress disorders. Simple as that. If you take good care of your body then you will reap an enormous amount of benefits especially as you become older. These type of stress disorders are caused because people sit in front of the computer all damn day and are too fuking lazy to exercise.</p>

  6. <p>the downside of lap stands is the angle on your wrist using the touchscreen is even worse and hurts much faster. i sit on a sofa playing so my back does not hurt but a place for the mouse surface that it will actually work on is harder to come by. i would be curious to know what other people use for this.</p>

  7. <p>That might be the best article I have ever read on P5's, at least for me personally and the good it will do me. I definitely have RSI, and haven't talked to a doctor about it yet but am on the verge of needing to do so. The advice in this article will definitely save me some pain!</p>

  8. <p>reply to skisteve:  I have a software box about 3.5 inches deep and I put a mousepad on it and set it next to me on couch or in my lap if using  a stand.  It takes all the pressure off of my wrist.  Even use such arrangement while at desktop so I can lean back in my reclining office chair.  Agree strongly that regular excercise is key.  </p>

  9. <p>This comment is for slizza420, whose post was borderline insensitive...</p>

    <p>Certainly regular exercise and strength training is the key, however sometimes people get into situations from things such as a job that forces you to work in front of a computer, a hobby (such as online poker) that keeps you there, or an injury, that forces you to adjust your setup incorrectly or NOT be able to work out at all.  You have to understand that people come from all sorts of background and take all sorts of paths through life...</p>

    <p>so please be careful calling injured or hurting people lazy....that is a very strong statement!</p>



    Thread Starter
  10. <p>Slizza's comment wasn't insensitive...just ignorant.</p>

    <p>Most carpal tunnel, RSI and other similar conditions are caused by tendon or nerve damage in your fingers and wrists.  Every free weight in every gym in the world isn't gonna make a damn bit of difference unless you're doing finger curls or something.</p>

    <p>We could all use more exercise, to be sure.  But there are millions of regular exercisers who also have issues due to excessive computer keyboard and monitor use.</p>

  11. <p>Oh, and seriously good, informative article.  I'm fortunate that I work with computers all day, then am on the computer for several hours many nights, and haven't had a problem.  But I know many people, including my wife, who have.  It's not an easy thing to live with.</p>

  12. <p>so let me see if I have this right....laying on the sofa with laptop perched upright on bent knees, mouse in one hand and dinner in the other, multitabling for twelve hours a day isn't good for me? damn.</p>

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