Playing in the Zone

This article was posted on January 6, 2014

Paying in the zone is something every poker/online poker player is looking to achieve, if possible all the time. The reason is a simple one: only when in the zone, can one hope to connect with his/her A-game, and only when in the zone can one truly hope to be a profitable player in the long-run.

Getting into the zone though is a mental exercise that often exceeds the capabilities of beginners. In order to take the first step towards mastering the zone, one has to know exactly what the zone is though…

According to the definition produced by psychology specialists, the “zone” is essentially a thin border-area between anxiety and boredom, a sort of balance between the challenge facing the player and his ability to effectively deal with it. If the size/complexity of the challenge far exceeds the player’s skills, he will slip into the anxiety zone, and he will obviously not be able to play his A-game. If the challenge is too flimsy and the player’s skills far exceed the requirements created by it, boredom settles in, and the A-game goes down the drain once again.


In most sports, there’s a huge stress on opponents of equal skill levels facing off, after all, that’s what makes a confrontation spectacular. Poker is an obvious exception from this rule: at the poker table, players of radically different skill levels will face off, as the object of the game is not to create spectacle and to entertain an audience, but rather to make money.

Good poker players actively search out weaker opponents in order to pray on them, and the major online poker operators have begun taking steps towards making this “fish-bashing” impossible for them.

Despite the fact that it is indeed profitable to play against subpar competition and that it does make perfect sense from just about every angle, it may in fact work out against the player because it may get him out of the zone.

Whenever one finds himself in a situation where there’s nothing interesting going on, nothing new to learn and no challenges at all, boredom settles in.

The way to fight boredom when faced with weak competition is to pay attention to the subtleties of the game. Balancing ranges, table image, G-dollars, meta-game and carefully building up bluffs using all the above elements will make the game interesting, challenging and engaging. When a person manages to stay fully immersed in what he/she is doing, the game won’t slip into boredom and he/she will find it easier to stay in the zone.


Despite the fact that the combination of starting hands that can be dealt is finite, similar hands can be played differently all the time. For a savvy player, there’s always something to learn at the green felt. Creating a game within a game is a great way to achieve this: if you feel you’re well capable of dominating your opponent, see how fast you can figure him out. See what sort of information you can gather while the cards aren’t falling your way.

At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to just quit playing if you feel you’re no longer immersed and having fun.


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