*Guest Post* Managing Autism and Poker


Julian is a poker player from Rochester, NY, who also studies Communications at SUNY Geneseo. He’s a fan of No Limit Hold’em and Omaha Hi-Lo

Managing My Autism Before a Cash Game Or Tournament

Here I am, again. The guy that brought you the halfway über-obvious articles on the 3-bet, poker table personalities, and the candidly revealing monologue about autism’s influence on my perspective on poker. Clearly, I’m not done shutting up just yet, and I have more to dish out. This time, since I have written about my autistic playing style and point of view in the poker world, I thought it would only make sense to write about how I manage my autistic tendencies before going into a cash game or any type of tournament.

First off, as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, I function best when I focus on one thing at a time. In other words, when I play poker tournaments online, for example, I cannot concentrate on multiple tables at a time, and can only do at most two tables at a time, if I’m in the zone. Most of the time, if I’m running well in one online tournament, I tend to intensely focus on just that one tourney just for the sake of not missing a beat. I tend to pay attention much better to position, chipstacks, pot odds, implied odds, and all sorts of information if I concentrate on just one thing. Now, with that being said, I need to cultivate what I do best and take steps to ensure that I play poker the most solid way possible. Here are the steps I take to remain calm and confident as a poker player with Asperger’s:

Listening to music or taking a walk– Unlike most poker players, I can’t simply make a split-second lack of a transition from playing $1/$2 NLHE, where I fold 8 of 10 hands of the time, to playing a deepstack tournament, where I’ll play any hand of some type of strength most of the time. I need to clear my mind of any poker nerves before I get into a tournament. Even though listening to music, or taking a walk both seem like obvious coping strategies, they’re extremely helpful to me as music boosts my energy level and confidence. Taking walks helps me get into the game because during walks, I tend to think over the strategy I will use for a cash game of certain stakes, for example, and accept the fact that if I get bad runs or bad beats for the night, it’s because I got a bunch of unlucky cards, not because of bad play, which is how I perseverate on bad beats sometimes, fatalistically. Listening to your favorite tunes, or strolling around the casino floor will do the trick to get your mind into the game.

Properly hydrate, get a lot of sleep, and have a balanced diet– Okay, boys and girls, I know this sounds obvious. However, in the poker world, there are many grinders who sometimes forget the importance of drinking a lot of fluids and eating the proper foods, which is underrated. Yes, you can have your strategy on pre-flop and post-flop play, but you won’t employ it most optimally if you don’t have the energy to play out the hand most effectively. There are poker players I know, for example, who spend marathon all-nighters grinding out $30/$60 Limit Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Full Kill without a break for 24 hours straight, but neither slept, nor eaten or drank anything other than coffee or beer, and you wonder why they’re burnt out the next day. 

Meditation– I have employed this recently in my daily routine. Whenever I’ve been called a donk over 100 times due to an unprecedented winning streak, or because of a winning strategy, I tend to perseverate over it, even though I know I’m a halfway decent semi-pro by heart. Meditation not only clears the mind of thoughts that stick with you, but it also lets your mind block out negative mindsets while focusing on what is important. One example can be blocking out thoughts of sadness from that heated phone conversation with your ex-girlfriend, while concentrating on how you will bet pocket jacks through aces in the cutoff in a turbo deepstack freezeout tournament instead, for example. Ever since employing meditation for a week and a half thus far, I’ve stuck to my original tournament strategy a lot more, consisting of a lot of final table appearances. 

As an autistic poker player, these strategies have helped me become more successful and curious as both a student and grinder of the game I barely know squat about.  I hope that these coping skills in the future will yield long-term results.

Julian knows that he has to concentrate and from my experience the best players are always watching, listening and learning. They may seem like they aren’t paying attention to other players but they are. Poker like anything else takes lots of experience and the more hands you see over a lifetime the better you should get, especially if you want to get better.


2 thoughts on “*Guest Post* Managing Autism and Poker

  • June 30, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I was just wondering if one of the world’s most imfamous autistic poker players, Tony “TBC” Bigcharles, is on your radar.

    • July 2, 2014 at 10:36 am

      Autism is on a spectrum and his spectrum must be different than Julian’s. I was attacked by him on twitter so didn’t get the chance to converse with him.


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