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Relationships and Poker: Handle with Care
The life of a professional poker player is made up of long hours spent in front of the computer or at tournaments.
As you might expect, this can sometimes create problems in your relationship(s).
Among the people who read this, some of you are in a relationship. And trust me - it isn’t easy being your girlfriend.
In this article I assume the player is a man and he has a girlfriend -- purely because statistically that's what happens 95% of the time.
Also because in my experience girls have a harder time accepting their partner’s lifestyle than the other way around.
I Went for That Run Alone
Every time I start researching a new topic I try to be empathetic and put myself in other people’s shoes or see how it relates to my own experience.
In this case my personal experience is particularly relevant because, although I am now the only poker player in the house, 10 years ago my partner is the one who taught me poker.
For months I was the partner of a semi-professional poker player. I have to admit that I’d rather be the one playing cards, by far.
If you put aside for a minute the fact that poker instantaneously fascinated me, I still remember the first months of our relationship when he spent a lot of time in the house.
I especially remember an afternoon when I asked him if he wanted to go for a run at the beach with me and he told me he had to stay home and play.
I will never forget how offended I felt then. I went for that run alone and stopped halfway at a friend’s house to tell her what happened.
Obviously, things have changed because today I’m the one playing poker. He shared his passion with me -- so well that it made me want to play full-time and become a professional.
Thanks to a little bit of luck and great timing, I managed to achieve that.
It's Time You're Not Spending Doing Another Job
What I want to illustrate here is the fact that it's really hard to adapt to the lifestyle of a professional or semi-professional poker player. For various reasons.
Firstly because this profession is not well-known. For most people poker is (and will always be) just a hobby, which is why it’s hard to understand the perspective of a person whose job it is.
Anyone will understand that a doctor has to go to work at dawn on a Sunday because of an emergency, or that a fireman has to be on call for 24 hours.
And yet it’s still much harder to accept that your boyfriend goes to bed when you get up or goes “missing” for days because he’s playing the SCOOP.
From her perspective you spend your time locked in your room clicking away while she's alone doing everything you don’t have time to do.
Yes, you’re working. But all she sees is that you’re playing a game: poker, FIFA, it doesn’t make a difference. A game is a game.
And girls don’t usually like being put aside for a game.
The key is to make your partner understand that the time you spend grinding or traveling to a tournament isn’t time you’re not spending with her.
It’s time you’re not spending doing another job.
A Big "Invisible" Investment
Once your girlfriend understands that poker is your profession, a job like any other, you still need to find the right balance.
A lot of jobs are very demanding but poker requires a big “invisible” investment that can make things difficult. You need to spend hours studying and practicing.
If your girlfriend doesn’t understand what poker is, she probably won’t accept that it’s part of the job.
Poker can also be very time-consuming and you can always spend more time on it to improve, so things can easily get out of hand.
Poker’s biggest downside is also what makes it so fascinating: you can never have enough. It’s an amazing game, because even if you play at your best level for a while, you can very easily lose that momentum if you don’t spend enough time on it.
That’s why you have to set yourself limits. Don’t forget to take off-days and, as much as possible, define a clear timetable.
Let Your Partner In
Top-level poker requires a massive amount of dedication. More than a lot of jobs.
Of course it has good sides, like flexibility, but you need to be aware that it’s a lifestyle that’s hard to adapt to when it’s not your own.
So let your partner in as much as possible. Make her understand what poker is.
And even if she doesn’t become as passionate as you are (it happens!), at least she will understand that respecting your lifestyle and supporting you will only make you better.