Ways to exercise your body at the poker table

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Just proves that great minds think alike…

Max Shapiro’s fascinating poker book, Read’em and Laugh, has a chapter devoted to getting exercise for your body while sitting “motionless” at the poker table.

Just so happens, my first book, The Greatest Book of Poker for WINNERS! (see Chapter 8), deals with “How to Live Longer and Healthier” by playing poker, including your physical as well as mental health.

Max and I were on the same pathway when suggesting there are ways to actually exercise your body for better physical health while playing poker. Few (if any) poker players practice this at the table – other than those we see on TV who often leap from the table to get our attention.

In his chapter on “Casino Calisthenics,” Max suggests several isometric and aerobic exercises that “can be performed unobtrusively at the table.” He lists several eye-catching opportunities, such as the ominous “Table-Lift Chip Dump” where you “get back” at the “gleeful” opponent who has piled his fast-growing chip stacks into two towering turrets.

Simply brace your upper legs under the table, lift it as high as you can (good isometric for front thigh muscles), and then suddenly drop it! Imagine your opponent’s reaction when his chip towers come tumbling down!!!

What follows is the “Three-Lap Casino Run” when your opponent discovers you’re to blame for the collapse of his chip towers, and chases you around the card room (builds lung capacity).

Max’s “Neck-Stretching Hole Card Peep” can limber up your sore neck muscles. Start by rotating your head a few times then stretch your neck slowly from side to side. While easing your neck stiffness and strengthening the neck muscles if your timing is right, you may get a glimpse of your opponent’s hole cards. Hmm…

For the “Server-Summons Spring,” simply swing your arms above your head clapping your hands together while you shout aloud “Service! Service!” Max explains, “that way you’ll seem no different from hundreds of other players… futilely trying to summon a food server.” (I tried it the other night. I did enjoy the exercise but did not succeed in getting food service until over an hour. My voice was hoarse the next day.)

Exercises described in my own book do not match the keen imagination of Max’s offerings, but they achieve the same goal: To exercise parts of your body while playing poker.

One I often use is to grab the sturdy railing of the poker table and simultaneously press my feet against the base of the table; pull my hands backward while pushing my legs forward, sucking in my stomach at the same time. Try it! (Note: Don’t worry about disturbing the poker table; it’s quite sturdy and won’t move.)

As we age, many of us develop arthritis in some of our joints. Here’s an exercise that was recommended by my therapist: Press the arthritic finger in one hand against the palm of the opposite hand; release it, and then press it to form a tight fist.

Better yet is to use a “Magic Dani” that my granddaughter Danielle Elizabeth Epstein (now a college student) created for me some years ago. It resembles a wine-bottle cork.

Periodically (while not taking notes at the poker table), I take my Magic Dani out of my pocket, unobtrusively place the flat surfaces at the ends between one of my fingers and my thumb at the opposite end, and squeeze hard. This may be why I rarely suffer pain from my arthritic fingers.

I am pleased that Max and I think along the same path: Take steps to gain physical as well as mental exercise while playing poker. More on Max’s poker axioms next week. Check his website ([email protected]) concerning his book.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]


About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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