Optimal Poker Session Length

Whether you are a recreational poker player or a full-time pro, it never hurts to plan your sessions ahead. Properly planned session will maximize potential winnings, while minimizing potential losses at the same time.

There are three general strategies that are commonly used by players to plan their poker sessions. Not all of them are profitable, though.

Limiting session length – right

Poker involves variance in the short run. You may experience losing streaks that last days or even weeks. During this time you can play your best game and still finish your sessions in the red.

This is why setting a monetary goal (e.g. “I want to win $500 today”) can be hard to achieve. You just cannot be sure that your opponents will not have pocket aces each time you are dealt pocket kings.

Humans are not robots. We cannot work 24 hours a day. We need to rest, otherwise we are tired and our mental abilities degrade. It translates to making more mistakes in poker every time you play tired.

Everyone is different so I cannot recommend you a specific amount of hours your session should last. Optimally, you should set your session time so that you will never play tired or sleepy.

Limiting losses – right

Some players, including myself, tend to make more mistakes once they have experienced many bad beats during a session. They let their emotions to play for them, bluff too much, call too much – they go on tilt. Playing in such a mental state will only dig a deeper hole in your bankroll.

Why not to set a maximum amount of money you can lose during a session then? Set it to whatever amount you are comfortable with before you go on tilt. When you hit the loss limit, quit and spend the rest of the session time for analyzing your game and plugging leaks.

Even if you do not tilt, being on a losing streak can be a serious disadvantage, unless you can exploit it. Players expect you to lose and will never believe that you have the nuts so you will not be able to bluff. Personally, whenever I am down 2 buy-ins at a particular table, I leave it and move to another one.

Limiting winnings – wrong

Let’s imagine a situation, where you decide to quit a session after you have won $500. You have just reached your goal and you notice a massive fish taking a seat at your table. You know that he plays literally any hand and want to see every river no matter the price. Would you leave the table?

Unless you are extremely tired and you cannot even see the cards, it would be just stupid to leave such a profitable table. Stay and watch your stack grow.

The same applies when you are on a winning streak, winning hand after hand. You have the momentum, everybody at the table is expecting you to win every hand. Having a winning image is a big advantage. You can bluff much more and they will still believe that you have the nuts each time.

More articles on general poker:

 Quick start
 Poker bankroll management
 Poker position
 Poker playing styles
 Poker software
 Poker history
 Poker glossary
 Poker tips

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.