I wanted to share an exchange I had with a forum poster on one of the sites that I contribute poker content. Although I have lots of additional thoughts and details to support my thinking and response, I'll let the exchange speak for itself.
His original post:
Hey guys. Im xxxxxx.
I had been living and working as a poker player for the past 3 or so years (this was about 4-4.5 years ago) . In those 3 years I about $75k, and lived like a king. Now I was always part of a religious family and they would pressure me to stop playing poker, but time and time again, the thought of playing a game online for highstake money, always came first. After these 3 years I realized that I wasn't doing anything of substance, I was like a stock trader or a con-man, In that I did not create, anything tangible or beneficial to the world, but rather, lived off of others. I was was rich and without a purpose, I became a heavy drinker and started abusing marijuana. Currently (for the most part) I have sorted out my life, I have not drank a drop of alcohol in a year, or played poker in 6 months. Even though I didn't loose money (as i still have the large winnings) I still regret my years of playing poker. Not because I was addicted, or because I lost money, but rather because the lifestyle and concept of poker as a career is wrong. I sold out my beliefs and took money from others (in an albeit fair and consensual way).
I write this primarily to help you, young up-and-coming poker players, and tell you guys that from my experience, poker is one of the worse life choices I have made, and I regret it every day of my life.
I know this is not a popular view (especially on these forums) but I will feel satisfied if i convince, just one of you kids to just not play poker.
I would have rather earned 2k as a McDonald's worker, over 3 years, Then have earned 75k at poker, as at least one is a honest living, where you contribute to society.
My initial response:
Thanks for sharing your story, xxxxxx. Everyone has a different story to tell on their journey playing a game, whether it's dota, SC2 or poker.
The thing I would say is that I know of many people who have found poker to be a positive experience because they came into poker with a good attitude to use its benefits of money and freedom to grow as people. Aspects like traveling, encountering new cultures, making friends, investing in businesses and maturing in the poker world were all benefits to these players.
It's not so much what you do to make a living, as to what you do with your living that matters. Some successful friends have gone on to great things as a result of their time in poker. After 3 years at McDonald's I'm not sure you could say the same thing.
If you are able to use your $75k wisely to your benefit or to the benefit of society, you may change your perspective about the value of your time spent in poker. Many players struggle with balance and perspective when they are playing and I'm not at all surprised to hear that you did too.
Best of luck to you in your future.
Zimba you do indeed raise some valid points. The way you put it, there is nothing wrong with someone who plays poker within the setup you mentioned, and like you said, it can even be beneficial for the person. But the thing I was trying to get at (and perhaps I didn't explain this well enough) Is that I fell into a rut in my poker career, wherein, I allowed poker to impact my life negatively and where I virtually did nothing but sit in front of a computer all day. It is for this reason, that I did not grow as a person. However I think that someone who can find a balance, where they focus on growing as a person and being productive through poker, and not just seeing it as a linear gambling career, will be successful and happy as a poker player.
To reiterate, being a poker pro isnt bad, but if you allow it to effect you in any way, where you do not feel like it is right, or that it is not helping you, then I would suggest people to stop, and live without regrets :)
My second response:
Thanks for your additional post, xxxxxx. Making those clarifications is important in my opinion. Poker is just a game that can be played for money. It is not more inherently good or bad than another activity. It is what players bring to the game that matters. I agree that the game allows and in some instances encourages some negative activity in the pursuit of money, but that isn't necessary if players develop balance and perspective. The same can be said for any activity that takes over your life. Addiction is a human quality that gets attached to all kinds of activities in our lives whether it be eating, drinking, gaming or even sex.
It sounds like if you were to start poker again, with the knowledge and experience you have now you would handle your playing and life differently. I touched upon the idea of being too young to play poker earlier today in my Zimba blog on Cognitive Dissonance.
His final contribution:
Indeed. I've read a lot of your articles, and I have found them to be very nice (bring back a lot of old memories) Also Zimba, I think its great that there is a poker writer who is as passionate and as committed to the game as a concept. I admire you, as you seem to have something, some spark that I never did, back when I played. Thanks for the feed back, and it's a really nice poker section you have put together here :)