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  1. First, let me give a quick and painless description of my poker background. I've played online poker for about three years. I started playing small stakes SNG's and multi-table tournaments, and eventually worked up a big enough bankroll to comfortably play mid-stakes cash games and tournaments. These days, I grind 200NL, playing anywhere from 8 to 24 tables at a time, four hours a day, five times a week. Sometimes I play MTTs or SNGs just to mix it up and stay intrigued by the game. I'm competent and competitive enough to use poker as my sole form of income, and I consider myself a professional poker player and grinder. However, I also know that I'm not amazing at this game, and I doubt I will ever be at the level of many of the ranked players on PocketFives or the cash game grinders playing the nosebleed stakes. Luckily, none of us have to be world-class players to understand that staying "fresh" is an extremely important element of being successful at poker. So with that said, this article is for anyone that plays poker at least semi-frequently and thus are at risk of "burnout" - which is almost everyone reading this right now. "Staying fresh" and "avoiding burnout" are one in the same. To avoid burnout - an exhaustion of physical or emotional strength usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration - we must find and implement different strategies that will allow us to be and remain confident and ambitious poker players. Some of these strategies we'll use on a daily basis, while others may only have to be utilized when we're going through the most difficult situations (i.e. a particularly long and difficult downswing, and all the stressful side effects that come with it). Knowing exactly how and when to use them simply takes a little effort and some experience. Hopefully this article will shed some light on this topic, and allow everyone reading it to feel more confident that the next time they think they just can't take the variance anymore, they now have some ammo of their own to fire back at the bad beats and suckouts. So let's get started... The first thing we need to do is consider what kind of poker player we are at this moment in time. A good sized portion of us are simply Recreational Players (RPs) and may only need to use some of what I like to call the "Stay Fresh Strategies" (SFSs) every once in a while - or maybe never at all. Others may currently be RPs who are looking to get more serious about the game and have legitimate long-term poker goals. We'll call these players APs, which stands for "Aspiring Players." I advise that these players take heed to the SFSs and really get a deep understanding and appreciation for them, so that they are better prepared to handle the times when poker is just plain stressful, and are also better prepared for if/when they become the next variety of player. The final type of players is, of course, one who is already a Professional or Semi-Professional Player - we'll call him or her a PP/SPPs. While there can be a big difference between being a professional poker player or a semi-professional player, I feel that SFSs are extremely important to both types. So for the sake of this article, I'll just consider them one single category of players. So now that we've classified ourselves as recreational players (RP), aspiring players (AP), or pro player/semi-pro players (PP/SPP), we can move on to the actual SFSs. I've numbered them one through eight - not based on rank of importance, but based on a loose chronological order that makes sense to me. Also, I'm sure it wouldn't take much effort to think of some other SFSs that aren't listed below, but I think these are the major ones and certainly the ones that have helped me the most through my poker career up to this point. #1) Prepare for burnout ahead of time. This is the most basic yet possibly most important SFS. Just think of it this way: If you're playing a lot, burnout is going to happen. So naturally, if we're ready for burnout before it rears its ugly head, we'll be much more likely to squash it before things get too out of hand. Accept that it's going to happen, and you'll be able to move forward much more efficiently. Also, if you're a PP/SPP, it's important to realize that the potential for burnout is exponentially higher than for someone who plays less frequently, so being prepared for this is that much more important for you. So, how can we prepare ahead of time? For those who have little experience playing, I suggest that you simply follow in the footsteps of the APs and PP/SPPs. The first thing the APs and PP/SPPs should do is recall and diagnose problems that they have had in the past which caused them to think of poker in a negative light. For example, think back to the last time you went through a tough downswing, then think about why it was so difficult, and try to remember what changes occurred that helped you get out of that negative situation. Of course, running well in a few tournaments may have been the main solution to your problem. But you may have also decided to buckle down and make concerted effort towards fixing a couple big leaks that you had not noticed before. Or maybe that was when you first subscribed to a poker training website. Another possibility is that you simply put one of the other SFSs to practice, and you just didn't realize it at the time. Whatever the reason (or reasons), make note of it and figure out how it might be able to help you once again. #2) Make a conscious effort to stay positive AND be realistic about the game and your situation. This might be the most difficult one to master. The trouble with staying positive and simultaneously remain realistic is that they can be very difficult to keep balanced. The reason for this is because they usually work against each other. For example, when we're going through a downswing - which, as we've touched on already, can lead to burnout - it's not easy to stay positive. We have a hard time realizing that the high frequency of suckouts and bad beats that we're experiencing, while probably higher than we're used to, likely isn't all that strange. It's not easy to think that, realistically, we're not running any worse than lots of other people. There are actually people who have been unluckier than we are! So it's when we're running our worst that we need to stop licking our wounds and, instead, remain positive in order to have a more balanced psyche. #3) Make sure our surroundings create a positive environment. This SFS is based on practicality, experience, and common sense, and will enable us to have a better chance at playing poker successfully and staying fresh. The environment I'm talking about can be the room we sit in while we play, as well as our entire present life in general. The small environmental situations that are easy to change are often times based on trial and error. For example, maybe we don't play well when we have heavy metal music blasting out of our computer speakers. To remedy this, we might try switching to a more mellow type of music, like soft rock or classical. These smaller negative environmental variables are pretty straight forward, and most people get comfortable dealing with them pretty quickly. But how about the bigger ones? Negative occurrences like getting in a fender bender, or having a bitter argument with a close friend, or receiving a poor grade on an exam can obviously be pretty depressing. And whether we realize it or not, it's things like those that will also affect our poker experience. So how do we avoid letting those kinds of things influence us when we're playing? People deal with this differently, but my best advice is to simply take a break, rather than ignore them. Don't turn to poker when negative things are on your mind, and you'll avoid the risk of tilting brought on by those negative thoughts. If you wait until you're feeling better about the situation, then your outlook on other things in your life - including poker - will likely take a turn for the better as well. More on this in SFS #8. #4) Obtain a more enriched knowledge of poker. There are lots of ways to do this - we can talk with poker friends about various strategic topics, read and post about similar things on forums, read any number of poker books and online publications, purchase memberships to training sites, etc. We're using this SFS so that we can continue to better our game, which will, in turn, keep us excited about playing. Knowing that we can keep improving everyday is pivotal if we want to avoid losing interest in poker. And it's a sad day when PP/SPPs feel like they've hit a plateau and can't progress anymore. But that's a day many of us have experienced, only to realize later on that those feelings were ignorant and even pompous to begin with. Always have this notion in the front of your mind: I Can Always Get Better! - it will be a lot more difficult to feel burned out if you're fully aware of and intrigued by all the information you have yet to learn. #5) Create realistic and attainable goals for yourself. I'm sure that everyone reading this article has set at least one poker goal for themselves in the past, and/or are looking to create new ones in the near future. Increase your monthly profit by 20% next month, have a higher ROI this year than you did the last, set up prop bets with friends - there are countless types of goals you can set for yourself, and they're extremely likely to help you stay motivated and happy about playing. #6) Help/coach another player. I think this is a fantastic SFS that many people probably don't think of right away. We're trying to keep our own game fresh, so why would we concentrate on helping someone else, right? Well in my experience, it's been very humbling to help a less advanced player with his/her game. Naturally, I had to go back over and discuss more fundamental aspects of poker - some of which I realized I needed to improve on anyway - and we wouldn't have noticed had we not decided to help someone else. Ultimately, teaching can be a very mentally stimulating endeavor for both the student as well as the teacher, and that's exactly what we're trying to accomplish. We're trying to stay excited about the game! #7) Learning and/or improving on a different game. Sometimes when we get bored of one game, the best thing to do is try another one out. After all, variety is the spice of life! So if you're growing sick of playing Hold'em, give Omaha a try. If you want to play with even more cards than that, go for one of the Stud variations. Changing games may cause us to feel more enthusiastic about playing cards altogether, and this enthusiasm will hopefully transfer back over to our bread and butter game. Also, brand new strategies that we discover and learn playing this new game may also be relevant to our main game as well. And on top of all that, it's never a bad thing to become a better all-around poker player, right? #8) Take a break! Everyone needs a break from poker sometimes - Everyone! Yes, even the most skilled and experienced PP/SPPs get sick of poker sometimes, and they've all taken breaks before. But how long should we stop playing? That's a difficult question, and is entirely dependent on one's own psychological and/or financial situation. For example, one type of person (particularly RPs and APs) may be far more affected mentally by a downswing than someone else, and therefore may need more time to pass before they feel like playing again. Also, while an RP might be financially able to take a two month break from poker when he/she is particularly burned out, a PP/SPP may only be able to take a few days off because of his/her monetary responsibilities. Each person and every situation is different, and we usually just have to "play it by ear" and figure it out as we go. As with everything else, the more experience we have going through the tough times, the better we'll be able to plan for the next one. I hope this article was helpful and I encourage you to come back to it when times get tough. There are practical ways to get through downswings, and it's always best to be prepared for them ahead of time. Good luck at the tables! shanetrain22

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