WHEN IT COMES to understanding the zone, poker is behind the times. Sport psychology routinely helps athletes across the sports world reach the zone, but in poker, it’s barely even discussed. Whether reading forum posts, books, or articles, mentions of the zone occur as randomly as a player actually reaching it. In general, poker players are driven to play their absolute best, but when it comes to the zone, they don’t know where to begin. They feel like the zone is a place they can neither influence nor control. In believing this, they fail to recognize a crucial fact: By building a formula that is tested and dependable, they can entirely control their ability to reach the zone consistently.
One reason poker players often struggle to understand how to get in the zone is that they confuse it with running well. While running well, all your decisions work out and poker seems easy. The same thing happens in the zone. However, when you’re running well, your sense of reality can get skewed and cause you to believe that you’re also playing amazingly well. You may think that you made a genius value bet, but in reality, you were just lucky that you ran into the bottom of your opponent’s range.
Another reason the zone is so mystifying is that it’s hard for players to pin- point. This is in part due to it being experienced in different ways by each
individual person. However, there are a number of common similarities:
- The game feels easy and decisions are made automatically.
- You have gut instincts, senses, or feelings about the right decisions, but can’t explain their rationale.
- You’re able to consider more factors than normal, and process them more quickly.
- You feel calm, patient, and at ease. There’s no stress or difficulty; even with things that normally would cause tilt or anxiety.
- You are totally engrossed and in the flow of the action. Any thoughts of the past or future are purely strategic and involve reflecting on past decisions and planning future streets.
- Your perception of time is altered and you lose a sense of it. For some players, time flies by; for others, it slows down dramatically.
- You’re focused purely on execution and not results.
- You don’t experience any outside thoughts or distractions, including the mental game issues that typically creep in. The zone is a state of heightened mental functioning, awareness, and concentration that allows poker players to perform at the highest pos- sible levels. It can be mystifying, but in looking at sound theory, logic, and scientific research, it can be brought back down to size. As this happens, a path for you to reach it consistently begins to emerge.