I’ve had twelve-hour marathon poker sessions that killed my lower back, and I’ve certainly had my fair share of quickies – an hour or less online just to kill time or practice a new tactic. I’m sure you’ve had a variety of session lengths, and you’d agree that sometimes long sessions are good, and other times, it’s good to play for a shorter interval.
So what’s the appropriate length for an online poker session? The answer is simple – however long it needs to be. I know, it sounds like a throwaway answer. But it’s not. The truth is, some sessions are too long, and others are too short. The correct length for your session depends on your goals, your ability, and what you want to get out of your online poker play.
Here are some notes on the question of online poker session length:
Signs that a Session is Too Short
Properly-planned poker sessions take a lot of different factors under consideration – player skill, player health, competition level, and many more. A session may be too short if it leaves the player wanting more or if a player’s winning potential isn’t being met.
Consider the difference in hands-per-hour with online poker vs. live poker. You may see twenty-five hands or so an hour in a live game. During that same hour, an online poker player at a breezy table may see 75-100 hands an hour. Some new players tend to shorten their session due to the higher number of hands seen in the online game, but that can be a huge mistake.
Part of the problem with players whose sessions are too short is that they’ve set an arbitrary limit on their winnings. Maybe they’ve read some bad poker strategy that advised them to quit after winning $500 – as though poker were some kind of casino-banked long-odds table game. Leaving a profitable table, or a profitable game situation, is just plain bad news in any game, but really bad in poker, where a skilled player can hold an edge.
Some other reasons that players may be limiting their sessions too much – in order to limit losses, in order to get back to work or to a personal obligation, or because they’re not confident in their abilities. All of these are good reasons, perfectly valid, and a sign of a healthy relationship of the game. Just make sure you’re not limiting your potential by making too much of the impact poker has on your life.
Signs that a Session is Too Long
How can you tell if you’ve been playing online poker for too long?
The first consideration is your mental and physical health. If you experience any audio or visual hallucination (seeing spots, flashes, auras, or hearing things), it’s definitely time to turn your gadget off and move on to something else, preferably an activity that doesn’t contribute to eye strain. But tripping out isn’t the only possible issue related to health and long poker sessions – sleep deprivation, muscle spasm and strain, headaches, and many more serious symptoms are all possible outcomes if you are spending too much time playing poker and not enough on your own hygiene or personal health.
The main sign that your session has gone on too long, besides the awful physical and mental symptoms mentioned above, is loss of ability. Burn-out starts to set in at different points for different players. I know plenty of guys who can play up to 8 hours without any significant loss to their poker skills. Other players, especially newer ones, feel it happening after just two or three hours. You’ll have to gauge this for yourself – and tracking your wins and losses will help you identify the point at which you should stop playing and go grab a sandwich.
Another factor that effects my session length – the skill of the other players in the game. If I’m at a table with really awful players, and I’m up for the session, and it’s been eight or nine hours, I’m way more likely to stay in the game until I’ve taken them for everything they’ve got. The opposite is true for skilled players. No way am I going to face a bunch of pro-level players with little to no sleep and droopy eyelids.
Online poker allows for longer sessions, for the simple reason that you don’t have to drive to the venue and sit and face real people all night. Logging in to your computer and chilling all night in a desk chair all night playing poker is just not that taxing, and you can play for a lot longer than in a land based casino or card room. Session lengths tend to be much longer for online poker players than players in a live game. If you’re going to try to lengthen or shorten your session time, make sure you take it a little at a time, so as not to upset your confidence or overall strategy along the way.