Today, Travis Steffen is a well-known business guru. As a successful serial entrepreneur and author of the book Viral Hero, he has helped different enterprises in fine-tuning their growth and marketing strategies. But before he rose to prominence in the world of business, Steffen was a professional poker player and strength and conditioning specialist. And back in 2010, he wrote arguably the most useful book on the game of poker, Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game.
While primarily a book about being the best poker player you can be, Peak Performance Poker doubles up as a self-help book for anyone looking to cultivate either physical or mental fitness. Steffen believes that achieving peak performance as a poker player entails being able to enter a ‘flow state’ of relaxed intensity and focus. And achieving this state requires being in the best physical and mental shape that you can be.
The true value of Peak Performance Poker is in its Action Points and their supporting appendices. In between explanations of poker basics and strategies, these Action Points contain detailed instructions on both physical and mental exercises that readers can perform immediately. This includes stamina-focused exercises, time management tips, nutrition data, and knowing how to rest for refreshing the mind. Meanwhile, the appendices include food comparisons, instructions for equipment-less exercises, and even an extensive bibliography of references – for those who want to go even deeper into the Action Points.
Indeed, 2010’s Peak Performance Poker is in many ways a glimpse into the full-blown serial entrepreneur and strategist that Steffen would later become. In many instances, he writes more like a motivational speaker than a poker strategist. But don’t be fooled by the motivational tone of the book – Steffen is an academically-trained fitness expert. Even if his Action Points are more than 10 years old, they’re actually backed by the most recent and comprehensive research on physical and mental fitness.
The relationship between physical activity and increased brain function is well documented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In an umbrella review published by the NIH.gov, data from 76 articles collated from 2013 to 2017 revealed “moderate-to-strong support” that cognition is enhanced by exercise. In particular, researchers found that physical activity can improve cognitive performance in neuropsychological tests measuring memory, speed, and executive function.
These are the primary brain functions needed for understanding poker strategy, which are based on mathematical elements. As the ranking chart of poker hands by Poker.org shows, mastering these elements can allow players to much more easily calculate odds on the fly and predict other players’ hands. These elements include the statistical probability for poker hands to show up and the number of each hand’s possible combinations. A ranking chart summarizes this information and arranges hands by how rarely they occur. But while the ranking helps, staying on top of these numbers – while assessing opponents’ physical tells and other factors – require significant cognitive effort. And as the science reveals, being physically healthier can actually improve your speed and memory in terms of implementing sound poker strategies.
Despite being more than a decade old, Peak Performance Poker: Revolutionizing the Way You View the Game is still one of the best poker books out there. And because of its deep and practical insights on physical and mental fitness, it’s also a useful book for anyone pursuing self-improvement. Whether you’re looking for sound advice on poker, general fitness, or optimizing your Keto lifestyle, Peak Performance Poker is a good read.
Blogger, book hound, and online counselor Jenny Allen believes that wisdom can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places and situations. When she’s not rummaging through online and offline thrift shops for books, antiques, and trinkets, Jenny is either chasing deadlines or resisting the urge to go back to bed with her 3 cats.