Amid the hundreds of forgettable hands you've folded in the last (fill in the blank) hours, you've undoubtedly experienced some unforgettable highs and lows. The reason for your extended session is highly dependent on which of the two outweighs the other.
If you can't stop because you're on the heater of a lifetime or, on the contrary, if you are trying to dig yourself out of the Grand Canyon, there are several warning signs that should signal you to end the session rather than continue.
5) Auditory hallucinations. This is subtle and not always easy to discern, but somewhere near your 17th consecutive hour of poker you may begin to experience the sensation of hearing strange sounds - voices and noises around you that normally should not be there.
For example, when you truly believe you hear safari animals closing in on you, it is probably a good time to call it quits for the night. Unless you're actually listening to the soundtrack for Jumanji, in which case you're still going strong.
4) Microsleeps. These occur uncontrollably when the body and mind are sleep deprived, and cause a brief and temporary pause (a few seconds, or sometimes even a few minutes) in your conscious awareness.
The dangerous part about microsleeps at a poker table is that people are often unaware they have occurred when they awake. So don't be surprised if half your stack is suddenly missing - especially if you are playing online and you've been autofolded.
3) Visual hallucinations. If you start seeing things, shut off the computer or exit the premises immediately and get a cab home.
Just as a mirage in the distance is not actually a pond in the desert, the one-eyed jack in your hand is not actually sending you a wink to suggest a raise of half your stack under the gun.
We've all seen players who, a bit weary-eyed from an overextended session, have misread their hand. Sometimes a four can look an awful lot like an ace, and if you read it as such due to your own self-inflicted fatigue, it's probably a good time to call it a night.
2) Furniture manipulation. The chair you occupy should not be misconstrued as your surrogate bed for the evening. If you find yourself spending more time adjusting your physical positioning instead of your table image and strategy, you're probably not reading the tells that your body is sending you.
It's time to go to bed at this point, not make the bed come to you.
Beware - if you are playing on a laptop and decide that getting cozy with your blanket and pillow is optimal for your multi-tabling needs, you may find a similar fate to #4 above as you wake up with your chips missing and drool on your shoulder.
A poker session should be spent trying to maintain alertness and focus rather than comfort and relaxation.
1) Returning players. When enough hours have passed that you find yourself seeing players who have left, gotten on with their day, fulfilled their human sleep requirements, and returned to the same table that you still sit at, you might want to reconsider your current choices.
Alarm bells should be ringing at this point (pun indirectly intended): not only are you not at your optimal level of play, you now have a target on you as a player who will make mistakes due to fatigue.
These returning players will easily dissect your tired game. Don't let this happen. Get some sleep and come back well rested and ready to start a normal-length session. Your roll will thank you.
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