Anyway, something that really stood out to me was a subject that had nothing to do with actual trading: most of these rare extremely successful traders (including the ones who had families) were completely immersed in the world of the markets. A lot of them were into currencies or foreign markets and would often be in and out of bed during the middle of the night as they glued themselves to their monitors. While many were rich beyond their wildest dreams and could have retired at any time, they were all still eager to hit the pavement every day w/ their latest positions. They would still get grumpy after a bad day and feel confident and smug after a good one. It was almost like an addiction and a complete obsession, and I used to wonder: “how can they let their work seem to dominate their lives 24 hours a day?”

Then, I started playing poker at night…..

All of a sudden, I started to understand how these guys operated. Poker turned into my “foreign markets/currencies overnight trading” and often kept me very late. While my poker wins and losses were not as important to me as my other career areas, playing still seemed to enhance my overall career highs and lows. Thus, I learned the hard way about how important it is for people to understand themselves and how they should incorporate this type of activity into their lives. Regardless of whether you are a full-time pro, a newbie playing for pennies, or somewhere in between….I think that the rest of this article should contain some ideas that will help you enjoy poker (and life) more.

The first thing to realize is: how emotional does playing poker make you at times? While some of us are more competitive than others, my experiences have shown that most people do get at least somewhat stressed out over their poker results. Naturally, this can often lead to some poor play at times. There ARE some competent pros out there who can keep this effect down to the bare minimum; but ironically, they are the ones who seem to be such unemotional people that they don’t really enjoy the prosperity that their tilt-free existence awards them! If you happen to be one of them, then please close this article, smile, and go enjoy some fresh air for once! ๐Ÿ™‚ Most players (being honest with themselves) will have to read on though…oh, the horror!

The largest stress-inducing factor that most players have is when they focus on their losing swings, days, or even hours (instead of on their overall results or on enjoying their wins.) I admit to being guilty of this on numerous occasions: you win 400 big bets in a couple months and feel that the poker world is your oyster; then, here comes that downswing of 200 big bets lost back. Now, you don’t even want to look at a poker table. Even though you fully realize that the swings are inevitable, you still sit there and can’t get your mind off the fact that losing that much money back is quite annoying and disappointing. What to do about this? I’ve found that the best way to ease your mind is to find the best positive spin that you can put on the situation. If you are an overall winning player over a long period of time, then this shouldn’t be that difficult to do: take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve made $x playing poker and that the latest losing swing is nothing but a slight bump in the road. Failing to do so will put you in danger of pressing too much to get “back where you were”, and that will usually lead to bigger problems than a simple downswing. However, up-and-coming players will have times when those overall results become questionable or negative $. If this happens to you, then it’s very important to think in terms of future success (and how to get there.) Re-read ITH, think about what you’ve learned from your losses, and stay positive from the thought of your future as a winning player that can come from getting more experience and becoming more competent in your play.

Another issue that many players deal with is how poker can dominate your mind and health (as described near the beginning of the article.) I’ve seen some posts on ITH where people open up and describe how it’s happened to them……some loved it, while others started to get concerned. Personally, I am not comfortable with the feeling of poker (or the rest of my work) getting in the way of exercise and a social life; therefore, I try to cut this off at the past whenever I start to notice myself falling into the trap (and with three career areas, it can happen easily.) There isn’t really much that I can say as far as how to avoid this; often, it’s as simple as becoming cognizant of the situation. Take a look outside and reflect about the many things that the world has to offer you BESIDES poker! Summon up the energy to go spend some time with your family instead or to get your butt outside for awhile! Speaking of…..if anyone needs a new tennis partner in the southern Cali area, let me know!…. ๐Ÿ˜€

Finally, I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to force themselves to play poker when they aren’t even enjoying it. I know a few pros (some part-time, some full-time) who literally have to drag themselves to the tables every day (or to their computer screen.) While plenty of people really enjoy their time at the tables, I’m amazed by how many simply feel like they don’t really want to be there. If this happens to you, then I’d really take a moment to consider your motives for playing. There might be a deeper psychological issue at hand; if you need a break from playing, then why torture yourself? Would you enjoy another less-stressful hobby more (that doesn’t risk your hard-earned money?) Those questions really need to be answered, or else this “fun” hobby will be anything but!

Alright, enough of the concerned tone of this article! I sure don’t want to take away from any of the fun pleasure that hold ’em brings millions of people every day. However, I’ve seen it take control of people and their happiness way too often. So, I wanted to present these thoughts with the hope that it helps everyone put things into perspective and enjoy their playing experiences more.

Next month, I will discuss how the logic of successful poker play can be applied to sports betting (specifically the NFL.) Football will be here before we know it!

All the best,
John

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