How to Avoid Falling Out of the Zone

In my previous posts I identified a number of ways to get rid of barriers to getting in the Zone. My final tip is about what to do when you are in the Zone, but then fall out of it. I go into much more detail about this in my book The Mental Game of Poker 2, but here are some immediate tips to try and find your way back quickly.

It is inevitable that you will fall out of the Zone, the very nature of the Zone is that you are so immersed in what you are doing that being taken out of it feels like you have been snapped awake. You could make an error, feel tired, lose to a bad beat or get distracted by someone.

Recognition

Because it feels so effortless, you sometimes may not notice you have fallen out of the Zone. You may in fact be autopiloting rather than playing at your peak. So it is really important for you to make the distinction between autopiloting and playing your very best. Next time you are in the Zone, make a mental note of what you do well, the more aware you are of what the Zone looks like for you, the easier it is to notice early that you have slipped. Once you notice it, then you can take the next steps to climb back into the zone.

Do this often enough and you will hopefully be able to spot the warning signs before you fall out of the Zone, and correct them soon enough that you stay there.

Minimize errors

The problem with falling out of the Zone is it can become such a distraction in itself that you can actually go on a downward spiral and start playing badly. This is where my previous tip of working on your biggest errors really helps. Now is the time to remind yourself what your biggest errors are, so at a minimum, they won’t happen. Don’t be in a hurry to get back in the Zone, first you have to steady the ship and make sure you don’t head towards Tilt.

Inject inspiration

As mentioned previously, there is a distinct energy component to performing at your mental peak. When you drop out of the Zone, it is often because you have lost a bit of motivation and/or energy. This may be a sign that you should consider finishing for the day, but ideally you want to push yourself so that you can perform better, for longer, in the future. Now is a good time to remind yourself why playing well is so important to you.

Before the next time you play, think about why doing well is so important to you in poker. Don’t just say the money, there is always more to the cash than the numbers in your bank account. Winning at poker may me financial independence, being your own boss, creating a legacy, supporting your family or getting the respect you deserve. There is no wrong answer, whatever works for you write it down on a piece of paper and have it to hand the next time you drop out of the Zone. Use it to remind yourself why you are playing. It might not get you back in the Zone, but at a minimum it could buy you an extra 10 minutes of playing energized and at a higher level than you would have otherwise.

I go into much more detail about what the Zone is, the predictable patterns that lead up to it and how to stay in the Zone for longer, in my book The Mental Game of Poker 2.

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