Allowing poker to impinge upon the rest of your life

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Determining when the game ends and real life begins can be a difficult problem to solve for the dedicated poker player. The difficulty is that you can't simply leave the poker table and forget about the game until you next sit down, because there are certain things you need to do away from the table. You will want to study your results, read poker literature, and think hard about how you can improve your game. Without doing these things, you are almost destined to fail.26

However, this is not when problems occur. The real thing you want to avoid is when the emotional fallout from a poker session starts to affect you away from the table. Sometimes poker players have problems preventing the emotions they experience at the poker table from carrying over, long after they have finished playing.

The most common manifestations are moods relating to how a session went. If we have a bad session, then we will be miserable for the rest of the day; if our session went well, we will be happy. Incidentally, this phenomenon is not unique to poker players. The same pattern is observed with avid sports fans when they see their team win or lose.

All players experience this to a certain extent. No matter how much we emphasize the long term or stress that individual sessions are not important, we will still feel happy after winning money and disappointed, angry, or depressed after losing it. The magnitude of these emotions will be directly related to how much we won or lost. As discussed in chapter 4, only a few players ever reach the stage where they are completely indifferent to short-term results.

If you are not one of these elite few, then your first goal is to minimize how bad sessions affect you personally.27 Poker is no fun if it is going to put you in a bad mood afterwards. Try to put each bad session in perspective with your overall results. Convince yourself that you are destined to have bad sessions no matter how good a player you are. Try to look forward to the

26 Although, as discussed earlier in the chapter, you need to set limits on how much of your free time you spend doing this, lest you end up with no diversity in your life.

27 Really, it is only the bad sessions we are worried about.

next session rather than back at the last one. Even after a complete train wreck of a session, you can normally take something positive from it; see how you can apply any lessons you have learned from that session.

Second, you might be feeling bad, but don't take it out on other people. Losing sessions are rarely anyone's fault (except sometimes your own), and they are certainly not the fault of your partner, family, children, or friends. They probably neither know nor understand the pain that poker players can suffer at the table. Don't persist in telling them bad beat stories or how unlucky you are, because, quite frankly, they are probably not interested even if they pretend to be. All it will do is foster a resentment of the effect poker lias on you and hence of the game itself.

To fully incorporate poker into your life, make sure that the people important to you don't feel as if their own happiness is somehow related to your performance at the table.

If your spouse, partner, or kids worry about how your session is going, you have a bigger problem than worrying about bad beats. Try to be upbeat around others after a bad session. This doesn't have to be put on; tell yourself that you had a bad time at the table, which makes il all the nicer to be away from it and in the company of other people. If someone asks how your session went, say something like "It didn't go too well, but that's poker" or "I lost today, but you have to take the ups with the downs." Reassure those around you that you are happy playing poker, and they will feel happier about the fact that you play.

Action Point: If you have a spouse or partner who is affected in some way by the money you win or lose playing poker, sit | down with him or her and plan how you will communicate your results. Although you might be able to separate your | emotions from an individual session, your partner might not be. A good agreement might entail discussing your results I once a month. This way, your partner can keep track of your results without having to live with the day-to-day fluctuations.

In summary, you really want to keep your poker life and the rest of your life as separate as possible. The trials and problems of everyday life will only hinder you at the poker table, while the emotions and the ups and downs of poker should not be allowed to interfere with the rest of your life. They are two separate worlds, and success at one could easily come at the expense of the other.

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