How to hit peak performance at the WSOP #1: Holistic health

Get yourself in peak health for the WSOP this summer
TJ Jurkiewicz
Posted on: April 02, 2024 02:48 PDT

Welcome to the opening chapter of our eight-part series where we’re going to embark on a journey tailored for poker enthusiasts keen on elevating their game to the next level.

I wanted this series to coincide with the upcoming World Series of Poker (WSOP), which is now around eight weeks away. I figured eight weeks would be enough time to sort out the key pillars of health and fitness in a way that won’t overwhelm people. Through my experience coaching dozens of poker players to better health, I’ve found that asking someone to do too much, too quickly can lead to frustration and subpar results.

Ever since Shaun Deeb booked his million-dollar prop bet with Bill Perkins to go from 40.2% body fat to 17% body fat in a year, the poker community has taken a keen interest in not just the wager but health and fitness in general.  Deeb took a buy out from Perkins for a nice $800,000 payday and he’s now inspired seemingly hundreds of people to take their health more seriously as well.

PLAYER OPINION
Shaun Deeb

Of all the things I thought I’d get well known for in poker, I never thought 'health guru' would be one of them, but so many players and staff in poker were in a similar spot to me - I enjoy passing along the resources I’ve used throughout my challenge and beyond.

While the allure of the game we love lies in its blend of strategy, psychology, and chance, success at the tables often hinges on factors beyond the cards you hold. This series aims to unfold the tapestry of holistic health and its direct impact on the mental sharpness and overall performance of poker players over the course of the next eight weeks.

The interplay of physical wellbeing and mental sharpness

Poker is a marathon of the mind, demanding hours of unwavering focus and decision-making prowess. It's no secret that a sharper mind leads to more astute decisions on the table. But what fuels this mental clarity? The answer lies in the symbiotic relationship between physical health and cognitive function.

Engaging in regular physical activity, adopting a nutritious diet, and ensuring adequate rest are not mere acts of self-care; they are strategies that can sharpen your mental game and lead to more money in your bankroll. Scientific evidence suggests that a well-oxygenated brain, nourished by a balanced diet and rejuvenated by restful sleep, among other things, operates at its peak. For poker players, this translates to improved concentration, emotional regulation, and a heightened ability to read opponents – all critical elements in outplaying the competition.  

This can be a huge edge in the later stages of tournaments where skill levels may be equal, but the person who has taken care of themselves the most off the table can have a distinct edge when the money really starts to matter.

One of my clients, Chris Moneymaker, told me that when he was in London playing the Triton series, he went to the gym for a workout and noticed that “basically the entire field was in there working out.” This was a lightbulb moment for him that symbolized how it was something beyond pure strategy that was helping these regs put up consistent results in the toughest fields.

Chris Moneymaker Omar Sader

Setting the holistic stage

Our series is not just about quick fixes or isolated tips; it's a holistic blueprint for sustainable improvement. We recognize that every element of your lifestyle can be fine-tuned to enhance your poker performance. Over the coming weeks, we will delve into specific strategies encompassing physical fitness, nutrition, mental resilience, and much more.

We'll explore exercises that combat the sedentary nature of poker, dietary adjustments to fuel extended play, and psychological techniques to maintain composure under pressure. Each component is a piece of the puzzle, and when combined they form a comprehensive approach to help you thrive in the demanding world of poker.

As we set the stage for this transformative journey, we invite you to open your mind to the possibilities that holistic health presents. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an enthusiastic amateur, the principles we'll explore can empower you to hold your ground in the most challenging situations – not just with a good hand, but with a well-prepared body and mind.

For right now, I want you to simply write down where you are at currently in your fitness journey. Are you someone who needs to lose weight? Are you a prototypical skinny ectomorph who has always had issues putting on size? Are you a borderline degen who gets 3 hours of sleep a night and grinds 60 hours a week staring at a computer screen?

After taking inventory of where you’re currently at, write down some goals for the upcoming eight weeks before the World Series of Poker starts. Be realistic about this. You’re not going to lose 50 pounds in eight weeks in a healthy and sustainable way. However, you can easily lose 15-20 pounds while implementing healthier habits into your life, and feel much better during the long grind of the summer.

I promise that no matter where you’re currently at in your relationship with health and fitness, you will get a tremendous amount of value through these articles over the upcoming weeks leading up to the WSOP. I’m going to cover all of the key pillars that will set the foundation for you to play your best by the time the summer series rolls around.

If you want to share your goals with me now so I can offer personalized advice or accountability, feel free to email them to me at tj@allinfitnesscoaching.com or DM them to me on Twitter.

Stay tuned for next week, where we will start by building a foundation of physical fitness tailor-made for poker players. The aim? To ensure that when you're seated at the table, you're not just playing the game, but mastering it.


TJ Jurkiewicz is a nutrition coach and personal fitness trainer who helps career-driven individuals, including a number of top poker players, lose body fat and increase energy levels without restrictive diets or excessive cardio. He's the owner of  All In Fitness Coaching.