How a Massage at the Poker Table Can Increase Your Winnings

Posted by Davida Mintz, March 25, 2014

Imagine the toll it takes on your body to sit at a poker table twelve hours a day, day after day. You're squeezed in tight with several other players, stuck in an uncomfortable chair with little elbow room. It gets even worse if there's an angry player at your table, the type who argues with the dealer, even when he's not in the hand. His unruliness is not only holding up the game, but also starting to stress you out.


poker massages

Before you let stress and sore muscles affect your game, ask a licensed therapist to give you a massage at the table. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Studies of the benefits of massage report that it's an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension." Getting a poker massage while you play could actually increase your winnings.


Green light to massages

Two-time World Poker Tour Winner Jonathan Little works with a poker massage therapist when he needs to loosen up before a game. "I get massaged at the poker table whenever I am feeling sore," he says. "This usually ends up being twice a week, depending on how much I play or how hard I work out."

Little plays a lot of tournament poker. He plays high-stakes internationally, and makes it to most big U.S. tournaments. Considering all the hours he's logged at the tables, and the more than $5 million to show for it, Little knows what it takes to stay on top. He says treating his pain with massage improves his performance as a player. "Being relaxed and in little pain at the poker table allows me keep my mind focused on the game. If I am constantly thinking about my sore back, I will not focus as well."


poker massages

Rio hires 300 masseuses to work WSOP

The Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino brought on 300 licensed massage therapists from Professional Massage Inc. to work on players like Little at the World Series of Poker. For $2 dollars a minute, players can enjoy a relaxing rubdown with extra work on areas of tension and pain. Professional Massage Inc. has been the official "massage company" of the World Series of Poker since 2006. Vice President Tori Sadiki understands players' needs. "Their muscles start to ache once they've been just sitting in that one position, their hands also start to get sore from repetitive motion, that kind of thing. I think massage also gives them a little bit of an edge at the table because not only are their heads in the game, but they are taking care their bodies as well."

Ilene Gilbertson started giving poker massages nine years ago when Professional Massage Inc. was contracted to give chair massages at the WSOP. "When we first started it was only the Amazon Room," Gilbertson remembers.  "That's it. And there were 45 of us therapists back then. We massaged everyone."

The "everyone" Gilbertson has massaged over the years is an elite group of bracelet winners that includes Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Gus Hansen and Antonio Esfandiari. Gilbertson says she's one of Esfandiari's regular masseuses.


poker massages

Players open up to their masseuses

I would have expected players to focus on the game and not get too chatty with their masseuses. Gilbertson says the opposite is true. Naturally, I asked her what Phil Ivey likes to talk about. Gilbertson started laughing and said, "Phil Ivey talks all the time. He never shuts up. He's funny. He's always making friends with the therapists, whoever it is."

The poker community values massage more than the rest of the country, with only 26 percent of Americans visiting a masseuse in the past six years. And, poker is the only sport which allows players to get massages while competing with their opponents. Live tournament poker can create pain, muscle tension and stress, all reasons for easing those tensions with a serious massage. Imagine not having chair massages available at the poker table.

If massages were not allowed, you could count on at least one bracelet winner who wouldn't notice their absence. With $4.8 million in lifetime earnings, Jason Somerville is proof that massages aren't for everyone. Somerville says he's never had a massage in his life.

Somerville appears to be the exception in an industry where players are known for marathon massage sessions lasting 5 to 6 hours. Poker players like to stick with the same therapist all day. Gilbertson has the strong hands and stamina to keep up. She once gave a player a 10-hour chair massage. At $2 a minute, her client paid $1200 to have a trained poker masseuse by his side. It may have been a small investment toward what could end up as a major tournament score.


Photo credits: Professional Massage Inc., official "massage company" of the WSOP.


Davida MintzDavida Mintz is a poker player and contributor to Titan Poker. A former television news reporter, Davida’s interviewed presidential candidates and celebrities, even one serial killer. As a poker writer, she’s thrilled to add a World Series of Poker Main Event champion to that list.



Further Reading:  

Lee Davy
The Real Life of a Professional Poker Player

Poker and the Bible

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Texas Hold'em Poker Guide

poker better than sex

Why Poker Is Better than Sex


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