Playing Long Poker Sessions

Playing Long Sessions in poker
I had a commenter awhile back who talked about losing more frequently when playing longer sessions. He went on to say that he wish he had the ability to grind out more hands.

Finding the right session length for YOU

Like most things in poker there really isn't a definitive answer that I can give to this kind of question. It really depends on the person. But I think there are a couple of main points that apply in almost all situations.

Firstly, its important to remember, even if its obvious, that a long term winning poker player is really just a person who has made a series of quality decisions in poker hands over time. Therefore, everybody's goal during any individual poker session should be to make as many high quality decisions as possible. This is also often referred to as playing your "A" game.

Playing your A game at all times

So assuming that we sit down ready to play our A game (this is a topic for another article so I am not going to elucidate this point) what signs can we look out for that our play is starting to deteriorate?

  • loss of concentration or focus
  • irritation
  • hunger
  • tiredness
  • boredom

If you are having any of these types of feelings while playing then it is likely that you have been playing too long and should quit.

It is important to keep track of your session lengths over a short period of time like a week in order to find that sweet spot for you. I prefer to go by number of hands instead of actual time as its generally easier to keep track of.

But the important point is to find out what that x number of hands or time is when you play your best and to play roughly that exact amount each time. This gives you a clear cut plan going into your session and allows you to hopefully cut out that time spent at the tables when you know that you will start slipping into your B game or worse.

A couple of last thoughts

I will finish up by stating a couple of guidelines that work for me personally but probably apply to a lot of others as well. I don't eat or snack while playing poker. Therefore my sessions are never more than about 3 hours in length.

I absolutely don't try not to allow any distractions while playing. This includes the phone, the internet, IM's, and even music (if I'm running really bad). I try to apply a business-like approach to each session and give it my 100% undivided attention.

Lastly, I try not to look at my account balance during the session. I do occasionally glance at my Hold'em Manager stats but I have the winnings and winrate columns removed.

I am never going to play a statistically significant amount of hands during a single session or even day so the fluctuations to my bankroll are completely meaningless. If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

poker session


  1. So you don't stop playing because you lost 3 buy-ins ??? I try to have a stopping point it just works out better if i stop when i lose 2 1/2 - 3 buy-ins .

  2. I don't check my results during a session so I don't have any specific stop loss. I will stop playing if I'm having one of those sessions where its obvious that I can't win a single pot. Thankfully they are rare.

  3. iam listening to reggae radio during my sessions, it helps when you losing :D
    and yeah best is to play short session, 2-3 hours long and get a 30 mins break for food between it, when i eat i usually feel tired for a while and dont play my A game whatever i play long session these times (7-14k hands sessions)

  4. Ya, a fair bit of the advice in this article is ideally what I think you should do lol. I certainly haven't followed it very well in the past. Far too many totally tilt induced 24 tabling 6 hour sessions. Ideally...I'd like to stop doing that haha.