In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and practices in his home state of Pennsylvania. He has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Lock Haven University. You can arrange for interviews, speaking engagements, or ask your question to "the Poker Counselor" at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don't use my real name for this one. I play poker online every extra minute I have. My sex drive has dipped, I think. I'm just too busy with poker. And I don't go out as often to do stuff. Is this a problem? -name withheld
I've written this before in these advice columns, and I'll probably write it again in the future. If you ever ask a therapist a question such as "Do you think this is a problem," the answer is usually a resounding YES. You see, you know more about yourself than any psychotherapist might gather from a meeting or two. When you guess something might be amiss and might be an issue, it probably is. A way to measure is to ask yourself if it has interfered with your positive normal daily functioning. If something is causing you unusual negativity at work, with family, or with your sex life/relationship, it may need to be reexamined and addressed. As with anything in a love relationship (I am assuming you have a girlfriend or wife), you need to find a balance. I've interacted with several highly successfully professional poker players - Hellmuth, Negreanu, Annie Duke, etc. They all find a way to balance friends, family, and outside interests despite their hectic tournament schedule, business needs, press interviews, etc. It is more than possible to improve upon your poker game while keeping the rest of your life in great order. Poker success does not come via playing every waking hour possible. In fact, that much exposure is probably only going to detract from your efforts. If you wrote me to inquire if you are a poker/gambling "addict," I can't label such from a 6 sentence email inquiry. To be honest, that label hardly matters in this situation. You know there is a problem, and you know some elements of your life must be changed. Make it happen. Set tight parameters to your playing time. Set more defined goals for poker. In that same track, set more defined goals for your love life and other relationships. If you honestly can't get this done on your own, seek some help via a mental health professional. Good luck.
I've been playing for 2 years and still barely break even. I am getting frustrated. Any advice? - Kmirt from Arizona
No one ever promised you that after 2 years you would be a rousing success. You wouldn't expect to practice foul shots for two years and then automatically end up in the NBA, right? I often see players toss out these types of arbitrary numbers, saying things such as "After 6 months you should be at 3/6, a year and you're ready for 4/8, two years and ..." I'm not sure how this mentality infested us. I suppose it is a byproduct of the Chris Moneymaker-effect. You have to remember that before television exposure boomed poker onto the forefront, poker veterans had taken decades to perfect their playing style. And they are always trying to improve with each deal that they take. Your goals must be rather lofty if you are writing me in a disappointed state due to breaking even. I am not downing lofty goals, I am just wondering if your goals are actually achievable. If you are a recreational, amateur player, breaking even may be a commendable accomplishment. Take an informal survey at any poker cardroom, and I'll bet you will find ton of players who will admit that they "paid their dues" by losing big amounts during their first few years of play. Check your goals. Make sure you have mini-goals (steps) on your way toward you ultimate prize. If you desire to have the bankroll and ability to play 50/100 limit games, you still need to pat yourself on the back as you progress through 2/4, 3/6, 5/10, etc. With that, don't measure your success entirely on your win/loss record sheet. Are you improving? Are you reading others more often and more accurately? Are your "instincts" getting sharper? Is your confidence and patience high? Affirmative responses to these self-evaluations may be more telling than having extra money in your account.
KEEP THE QUESTIONS COMING! Carlisle14@hotmail.com
Ed Note: Poker Blue have freerolls running right now that will send five people to the Legends of Poker