Editor's Note: In addition to being a poker enthusiast, gambling columnist, and lecturer, John is a National Certified Counselor (NCC). 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 email@example.com
I am online pro who has recently suffered from burnout. Can you please give me some advice on both avoiding burnout in the first place and also, how I can rekindle some of that lost passion. Emailed by Scott from Torrance
Many poker players fail to recognize the fragile, and sometimes difficult, personal "relationship" that we have with the game. I often compare our connection with poker to that of a male/female dating process. The following tract holds true for poker and dating: A little flirtation starts things off. There is a bit of an attraction mixed with a lot of curiosity. In this initial "feeling out" phase, it is just about learning if the object of the attractions can fit with your personality. Next, things often explode into a fury with hope and anticipation abounding. Our minds race with irrational, hasty judgments that include thoughts like, "This is perfect!" This is that puppy-love stage where our rose-colored glasses have us overlook any shortcomings or mismatches. An ever-present energy seems to infect you. You can't wait to play the game again/go on the next date. Invariably, though, there is also a stormy part to any relationship. As the rose-colored tint slowly drips away, the mind is forced to deal with the reality of the situation. This is where many dating couples make their leave. This is when many casual poker players become disenchanted with the game, after a string of bad beats or boring play sessions. You have already forged past this stage, though. Being that you consider yourself a poker pro, you have moved into a partnership with the game.
In essence, you have moved on to a stage of reliance with poker. You need it for your finances and your psyche. It is comparable to a marriage. Just like all marriages, it is tough to keep the spark alive if you toil away with the status quo. Routine is a killer in relationships. The problem is that we, as human beings, do extract a certain comfort in the mundane and routine. Part of us seeks the normal, boring livelihood while another part of us is desperately seeking the rush of emotion that we had during that "puppy love" stage a long time ago. Online poker is especially dehumanizing. It has a way of lulling players into a mindless, emotionless funk. If the burnout is hitting hard, my first suggestion is to log off and hit some live games. Next, inject some fun into the relationship with poker. A marriage counselor might suggest a romantic weekend to the beach for a bored couple. As the "poker counselor," I will follow that lead and suggest a weekend of totally fun poker. Get friends to play in a loose and wild home game. Crash the low buy-in games at the local casinos and play a completely different style than you are used to. Learn some new game variants that you might not be skilled in such as Razz. Chat it up with the tablemates and dealers and have a good time. Poker is becoming a job for you. That is fine, but there is no rule that says that we can't enjoy our jobs. You need to fall in love with poker all over again.
I need your help. I have steamed off big stacks lately. I run into idiot players and they suck-out on me. It has been a terrible losing streak that I just don't know how to fix. What is wrong? - Emailed by Blain
I wish it was that easy to diagnose and "fix" players and patients with any variety of issues. In psychology, we always tread carefully as we attempt to not pass judgments and generalize. While one person may need a certain aid to get through a tough time, the next person may need a support that is completely opposite. With that in mind, I certainly need to be careful to dispense advice with such limited information on your situation, your character, and your abilities. Instead, allow me to attempt to compel you to look inward to find your own path. Essentially, this is what the better counselors do anyway. We, counselors, are not aimed at solving problems for you. Instead, we are trying to be facilitators that lead you to gain the insights and skills needed to navigate through your own issues. I can sense from your question that you are working to identify your shortcomings. Likewise, I am sure that you are looking to build a plan to counteract those deterrents. The key that many players miss in this inspection is their own emotional impact on their outcomes. You need to really think through how ego, confidence, impatience, boredom, disgust, anger, and other feelings are negatively impacting your poker progress. Don't allow yourself to passively blame poor luck, bad cards, and lucky opponents. While we have no difficulty basking in our successes, our mind is very apt in deflecting blame. Look inside of yourself to inspect your mindset as well as your play. After you've truly done this, you will be prepared to make the adjustments to get yourself back on track.
Keep those questions coming!! Carlisle14@hotmail.com
Ed Note: Do you own a Mac? You can play online anytime you want at Pokerroom.com