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5 Surprising Ways Raising a Toddler Improves Your Poker Game
You stand at the base of the Great Pyramids of Giza thinking, 'how did they manage that?'
Then you see your nine-month-old daughter, chasing after a dirty nappy blowing around the feet of a carnival of camels, and it doesn’t seem that daunting of a task after all.
Nine months later and things are going well. My daughter is still alive, but the challenges of parenting a nine-month-old are proving to be more challenging than a five-week-old.
It’s time for a sequel. There is much to learn.
Back in the day there was an advert on TV with the slogan Work, Rest, and Play. It’s supposed to be the perfect trifecta for balance. I don’t think the creator had children.
Will Kassouf became the most recognizable face (and voice) in poker last year. His antics during the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event turned him into a celebrity and gave the presence of poker in the mainstream press a gentle boost.
But imagine sitting next to him? It would be like sitting next to one of those slave-like giant wind turbines, slowly peeling the skin off your cheek with the constant air pressure.
12 hours of Kassouf and you end up like the people who sat next to Stryker in the movie Airplane. Now, double that, add breastfeeding into the mix and that’s what it’s like when you have a nine-month-old to entertain.
They are adorable. You love them. But they do your head right in.
People forget there are two parents. If you are a professional poker player chances are you spend most of your time playing poker, talking poker and learning about poker.
Take the WSOP as an example. How do you manage a six-week bracelet hunt when you have a nine-month-old?
Carving out time to care for your child is an incredible experience. Not only will your eyes continually sting with the heavily chlorinated like streams of hormonal love, but it teaches you that there is more to life than poker.
The break from the game not only benefits your partner and your child but you will return to the tables reinvigorated, fresh and eager to do well.
At nine months you may start having premonitions about your child’s future. What will they wear? Who will they date? Will they want to play poker?
You realize that your baby is like a new computer. They have hardware (digestive system, circulatory system, you get the picture system). They have software (beliefs, values, worldview).
When it comes to programming the software it's evident that the motherboard is fresh. The wiring, in the shape of beliefs, values and worldview, comes from your child's mentors; primarily you.
Yes, it's very likely that your child will grow up thinking the same foundational thoughts that you do, including views on religion, race and whether or not Father Christmas exists.
Having a child provides the impetus for having an archaeological dig into your mind. What are your beliefs, values and worldview? Who helped program your motherboard? How does it serve you, today?
Most of us are so caught up sifting through Tweets and Facebook Likes in our steel sifting pan hoping for some gold that we don't spare a second thought considering why we believe the things we do.
Values are the core drivers of our action and they will be the core drivers of your child’s action. So what are they? And, most importantly, what do you want them to be?
One of Igor Kurganov's highest values is service, meaning when he wins money playing poker his software instructs him to donate some to effective charities.
Maybe one of your highest values is affluence and fashion so you spend your winnings on clothes and fast cars. Your children will (likely) adopt your values. What will it be? Fast cars or feeding the poor?
The azure blue sky is mottled with cotton balls. A kestrel is perched patiently on a telegraph pole waiting for the mouse to move. A group of thugs are picking on a young lad with a harelip.
But you don’t see any of these things. You are a cyborg. Your mobile phone is your fifth limb and you spend all day searching through social media feeds of friends who you will never be there for and who will never be there for you.
We live in an unfocused world and the poker table, be it live or virtual, is also a hotbed of distraction. If you are not focused 100% on the game then you are giving up an edge.
When you have a nine-month-old baby, focus is critical. Take your eye off them for a second and they have fallen off the bed, picked up a pair of scissors or began sucking on the bottom of your shoe.
But the focus is not only about preventing your baby from death, disease and diaper rash. By intently focusing on your child you are teaching them the power of connection.
It also allows you to unplug; to slow the pace of burnout. To turn the time machine off and remain present for a few minutes of playtime with your little one.
This is good news for your poker game.
Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis and dental disease are the most common forms of death and illness linked to poor diet, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
But you know that, right?
The problem with being human is we believe we are immortal. Maybe it’s a switch preventing us from having to deal with the overwhelming nature of our unstoppable demise.
We never make the right choices because we never think our time will come. And the poker lifestyle can be one of the most dangerous when it comes to the neglect we put on our bodies when it comes to our nutritional choices.
Playing online poker for 15 hours a day with one solitary five-minute break per hour - what are you going to eat? Sitting in a casino for 15 hours a day - what are you going to eat?
How do you keep awake? What do you drink? When your child starts eating solids, things are different. You may not think about your death but you will think about the death of your nipper.
In an age where everything you purchase at a supermarket, from baby formula to ready packed baby meals, is full of sugar, how do you protect and nurture your child?
You do your research. And when you have carried out your research and are feeding your child in the right way, it will have an effect on you. You want to set an example and you want to live long enough to see your child act as a role model for their children.
And guess what happens when you start eating healthier? You play better. Much better.
5. Learn to Put Poker Down
I have built a barricade, sealing my child off from the kitchen. It consists of a yoga mat, two suitcases and an old helium canister.
It's not pretty, but it does prevent her from crawling over to me and attempting to climb me like Bear Grylls once climbed Everest.
At nine months old they don’t want to be alone, put into the car seat or into the pram. They want to be close to you at all times. The pressure becomes unbearable. You can’t even go to the toilet in peace.
The instinct is to pick them up. You view crying as suffering. But all children need to learn they won't spontaneously combust if there is no skin to skin.
The kids need to learn independence and you need to know that your life won't fall apart if they cry. It’s the same with poker.
Poker is a game that can become very addictive. Tournaments take hours to complete. 15 hours at the cash-game tables can rush by like an express train.
You can develop a sense of FOMO if you miss the local home game and Fred calls you to explain how soft it was the one night you had to babysit.
But you need time away from the game. It does become clingy and that's not healthy. Learn to put poker down. Build a barricade if you like.
Find something else to do and keep what you do fresh, alive and as brilliant as it was the first day you found it.