How Meditation Made Me a Better Gambler

By Jeff Harris in Casino & Gaming on March 3, 2018

7

Minute Read

Ever since my first few gambling sessions, I’ve been interested in finding ways to improve my odds of winning. I’ve dedicated extensive time to studying strategy for blackjack, daily fantasy sports (DFS), poker, sports betting, and video poker.

But there’s only so much strategy that you can learn in the gambling world. And at some point, you need to look for new ways to improve.

A few years ago, I noticed an increasing number of poker pros who touted the benefits of meditation. Pros like Daniel Negreanu, Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Isaac Haxton, and Faraz Jaka discussed the positive impact that meditation has in their poker career and everyday life.

After seeing enough of these stories, I finally decided to take up meditation myself. And it’s had a great effect on my gambling career!

That said, I’m going to cover how meditation has helped me win more in gambling along with what you can do to reap the same benefits.

Meditation Helps Me Concentrate on the Game at Hand

Many of us get into gambling because it’s exciting. Few things top risking your cash against the casino or other players and walking away a winner.

But there eventually comes a point when the excitement wears off, and while you may still enjoy gambling at this point, your mind will wander during long sessions.

I began experiencing this problem after spending hours with online poker, land-based blackjack, and video poker. I’d focus on the game and strategy to start with, then catch myself thinking about other stuff for 5-10 minutes at a time.

The good news is that my experience helped me continue using good strategy. But I would make certain mistakes simply because I wasn’t fully focused on the action at hand.

These gaffes prevented me from getting the maximum possible winnings. Here’s a general example that represents some of the mistakes I made.

  • I’m playing blackjack
  • I start thinking about how much the furnace repairman will charge me
  • I’m dealt a pair of 9s, and the dealer has 8
  • I choose to stand
  • The proper blackjack strategy is to split here
  • I later realize my mistake
  • The dealer busts out

While I still win the hand here, my mistake prevents me from being able to win two hands. And these gaffes cost gamblers money over the long term.

Another problem that I had before meditating included getting frustrated during losing streaks.

I wasn’t the worst about throwing a fit during a prolonged losing run, but I also didn’t handle things as well as I could have.

And when you start down this path, you’re more likely to make poor strategy decisions.

The aforementioned stories about the poker pros convinced me to start meditating. I began with 5 minutes per day and found it hard to stay focused for more than a minute or two.

I also didn’t see much of a difference in my gambling or personal life. But meditation is a mental exercise, where you become better the more you do it.

I kept up with the meditation and increased the number of daily minutes to 10. It’s at this point that I noticed a serious difference in my ability to focus on the present.

This is the best thing that happened for me from a gambling perspective because I’m now able to fully concentrate on strategy. In turn, I no longer have long stretches where I’m worrying about something else while the action is happening right in front of me.

The end result is that I can pick up little nuances about a poker opponent, find more undervalued players in DFS, think about deep stats regarding a sports bet, and avoid making video poker mistakes.

And my long-term gambling profits are more than enough payment for the combined hours of meditation I’ve done.

Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t have to battle to fight off distracting thoughts. But the battle is made easier now because my mind is better at staying in the present.

Here are some of the distractions that are easier to avoid when I’m gambling.

  • The urge to look at my phone every 5-10 minutes
  • Where I’m going to eat in two hours
  • The football game showing on a big TV located 30 feet away
  • Some guy three tables over who’s celebrating loudly after every winning hand
  • How I haven’t had enough coffee
  • Where the economy is headed
  • How I’m operating on 4-5 hours of sleep
  • The dent I found on my car in a parking lot 5 weeks ago

I could sit here and name off countless random thoughts that creep into my mind. But the point is that it’s easier to avoid worries and thinking about the past when you’re focused.

How Do You Meditate for Better Gambling Results?

I’ve discussed my personal experiences with meditation and gambling. But this doesn’t tell you much about HOW to meditate.

Some people think about taking up this mental exercise, only to stop because they fear doing it wrong.

But the reality is that meditating isn’t a complicated routine that has to be done a certain way. Instead, this is a process that you’ll become better at with time.

You’ll have thoughts that cross your mind and make it harder to focus. However, the key is to gently pull your mind back to the present each time.

Another thing that prevents people from meditating is the image. Some associate this practice as the first step towards yoga, shots of wheat grass, and wearing peace-sign shirts.

But meditation shouldn’t be viewed as some gateway towards hippiedom. Instead, a wide range of successful people engage in this practice.

Arianna Huffington, Hugh Jackman, Katy Perry, Jerry Seinfeld, and Oprah Winfrey are just some of the people who practice meditation on a regular basis.

Now that we’ve established how meditation works for me and far-more-famous individuals, how do you meditate?

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no perfect way to do it. And you may eventually develop a personal routine that works well.

But here are the steps on how I meditate.

  • Step #1: Find a single focus point – Most people focus on their breathing. When doing so, concentrate fully on your body inhaling and exhaling air
  • Step #2: Get in a comfortable position – The last thing you want to worry about is how uncomfortable your back is when meditating. Find a comfortable spot to sit so that all you have to do is fixate on your focal point
  • Step #3: Clear your mind – Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, or whatever other focal point you’ve chosen
  • Step #4: Pull your mind back – You’ll have wandering thoughts when meditating, especially when first starting out. This is when you refocus and bring your mind back to the present as many times as needed

I recommend starting with at least 5 minutes of meditation in the early going. Set an alarm on your smartphone so that you’re not worrying about time.

When you’ve mastered 5 minutes, gradually increase the amount of time you meditate to 6 minutes and beyond. You should eventually be able to go for 10 minutes or longer.

Much like skill-based gambling games, nobody is a master meditator the first time. You’ve spent a lifetime of wandering with your mind, and one session isn’t going to fix this.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have trouble staying focused the first few sessions. Just keep fixating on your breathing and pulling your mind back when needed.

What to Do When You’re Struggling to Stay in the Present

Meditating is great for focusing your thoughts during the exercise. But what happens when you’re sitting at a poker table and making mistakes because you’re not focused?

You can’t exactly close your eyes and start meditating for 5-10 minutes. However, you can use other techniques to grab yourself and return to the present.

The easiest way to do this is by taking 3-5 deep breaths. This helps you stop thinking about distractions and focus on your breathing instead.

Another method involves consciously returning to the present. Stop yourself from thinking about whatever distraction was bugging you, and instead think about things happening in the moment.

Here are some examples of things you can focus on.

  • The dealer’s hands as they deal cards
  • Each breath you take
  • The way another player is handling their chips
  • The feeling of the button every time you play a video poker hand
  • The sound the dice make as they roll across a craps table
  • Shuffling sound effects when playing online poker

What you focus on doesn’t matter, as long as it’s something in the present. By seeing, hearing, and feeling what’s happening right now, you let go of distracting thoughts that were plaguing you before.

Once you’ve succeeded in focusing on one thing in the present, you can bring your mind back to the game at hand.

Other Benefits of Meditation

One byproduct of my meditation is that I’ve become more successful at gambling. Therefore, meditating has provided me with a financial benefit.

But there are plenty of meditation advantages going beyond just money and improved gambling skills.

According to research, meditating can reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems. This can also have a positive effect on not tilting during a tough gambling session.

A study from 2014 shows that meditation can reduce depression and anxiety. Given that everybody gets down from time to time, this is a tremendous benefit.

What I find amazing is that meditation can even change the structure of your brain for the better. Regular meditation increases cortical thickness, meaning you have a larger brain.

From a mental standpoint, meditation is great for shutting out distractions and focusing on what you’re doing right now.

We all tend to jump from thought to thought when we’re doing anything. And meditating on a regular basis cuts down on this problem.

Another thing that I’ve noticed personally is how I sleep better at night thanks to meditating. This is due to me not worrying about the future as much while trying to wind down and sleep.

Conclusion

Earlier, I mentioned how it’s a battle to keep your mind from wandering. And when you can’t do this, your gambling results will suffer because you’re not paying full attention.

Meditation is the best natural weapon you have for combating this problem. Spending just 5-10 minutes per day meditating will eventually help you stay in the present.

Again, you won’t be perfect at meditating in the beginning. I personally had to keep pulling my mind back again and again.

But with practice and dedication, you should become really good at meditation, and the benefits of doing so will be numerous.

Not only will you have a better chance to win in gambling, but you’ll also enjoy life experiences more. The reason why is because you’ll be more present in the moment, rather than thinking about something in the past or worrying about the future.

Of course, you may have trouble getting yourself to meditate on a daily basis. I recommend doing it first thing in the morning before you get into your daily routine.

And if you miss a day, it’s not the end of the world. You can just pick back up the following day and get back on a regular schedule.

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