On a few different occasions I’ve heard players wonder what all of the backpack-toting poker pros are carrying in their bag. Cash game players have the luxury of getting up and leaving the table any time they get hungry, have a headache, start to lose focus or go on tilt but with tournament days often lasting 12-14 hours or more it’s important to stay prepared in order to remain focused and avoid distractions at the table. Here’s a list of what I consider the essentials when I pack my bag for a tournament.
Playing poker with a headache is not fun AT ALL and a huge (or yuuuuuge if you ask the President-elect) percentage of headaches are caused by dehydration. Obviously there are cocktail waitresses at pretty much every tournament, but there are at least three significant benefits to keeping a bottle of water in your backpack.
- You won’t have to wait for or be distracted trying to find a waitress to order from.
- If you buy a large reusable BPA-free plastic or stainless steel bottle you will be doing the environment a favor by saving hundreds of plastic bottles from being used during its useful life.
- You’ll save on tip money. Saving $2-3/day may seem relatively insignificant but it adds up to hundreds per year when you play a lot of live poker.
A good poker snack should be healthy, provide sustained energy and be low in sugar to prevent crashes. You also want to make sure you have your sweet and your salty cravings covered. Ideally, you also want to find items that won’t require you to put your disgustingly dirty hands on the food after touching poker chips and cards all day, even if it means putting it in a plastic bag and eating it directly out of that. Some of my personal favorites are:
- Blueberries (a brain food!)
- Various flavors of almonds and peanuts
- Planter’s Nuts and Chocolate Trail Mix
- Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookies (high protein / relatively healthy)
- Granola bars (especially Kind Bars)
In case you actually have to touch anything with your filthy, disease-ridden hands, it’s always good to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your backpack.
This obviously varies based on the individual, but I usually keep Excedrin and caffeine pills around in case I get a headache or can’t seem to drink enough coffee to stay alert. I’m also getting ready to try some other natural supplements that are purported to improve memory and focus.
It’s absurd that our damn phone batteries won’t last all day when we’re only running 471 apps and spending 57 minutes per hour staring at its bright, glowing screen…right?!?!?! I have the iPhone 6 Plus which is was touted as having the longest-lasting battery Apple has ever produced when it came out, yet I have managed to run through my battery almost three full times in a single day of tournament poker. Fortunately, you can get a >15000 mAh portable battery backup from RAVPower for less than $50 on Amazon which will recharge your phone’s battery at least 5-6 times before running out of juice.
Your RAVPower backup battery is going to prove pretty useless when you grab it out of your bag then realize you forgot to bring your phone cable. I purchased an extra iPhone cable and an extra microUSB cable for my Bluetooth headphones that never come out of my poker backpack. Spending the extra $20-30 will be well worth it to avoid ever being bored out of your mind with a dead phone or dead headphones at the table.
iPad or Microsoft Surface Pro
I try not to distract myself too much at the table, especially when playing bigger events, but at times I almost wouldn’t be able to live without my tablets … especially during the NHL playoffs! I like having one around in case I bored or restless at the table. They’re also great in case playing live just isn’t enough and I feel like playing some online poker at the table.
I’ve owned both an iPad 2 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and love both for different reasons. My iPad is great, works very well with my Bluetooth headphones, and provide superb picture and sound when using iTunes. I also love playing board games like Monopoly and Ticket to Ride on iPad apps. However I recently purchased a Surface Pro so that I could play more than one table at a time on BorgataPoker.com from my tablet and to be able to use a mouse when doing so. The Surface Pro is great for that purpose, but has a lot of issues connecting/staying connected to my Bluetooth headphones. Also, not surprisingly, iTunes doesn’t look or sound quite as sharp when running the Windows version of it on my Surface Pro.
A great pair of headphones is a crucial investment for the essential poker backpack. I’ve decided to go Bluetooth since I’m klutzy and often get my headphone wire caught on things, eventually ruining them and causing me to buy new pairs. I use Bose Bluetooth Around Ear SoundLink headphones. I’ve tested the old version I’s verses the more expensive version II’s and can say that the old version is better than the new in every way: lighter, better sound quality, and more comfortable.
Having one pair of headphones in your backpack is a common rookie mistake. What happens when your bluetooth battery dies or you accidentally left your headphones in the car or at home and Allen Kessler finds something he’s annoyed by or worse: Mike Dentale takes a bad beat at your table? WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN, I ASK YOU!?!?!? That is why I keep an extra pair of earbuds stashed away in my backpack in case of emergency.
I’ll end with a word of advice on what NOT to have in your backpack, and that’s large amounts of cash. This is not only a precaution in case of the unlikely event of your bag being stolen, but also to protect you if you’re like me or my friends who forget things all over the place. One friend of mine was walking around Vegas with ~$120k in his backpack after a big score, left it in the sportsbook at Caesars Palace, and walked off. His backpack was eventually found and returned … but the cash was not. If you do need to walk around with cash, keep it in your pockets and get cargo pockets if necessary!