There's more to a having a healthy poker game than just playing good cards. If poker is your fulltime career, take a moment to consider your odds in the biggest pot of them all – your health. These four simple pointers will keep you on the right track.
Build physical activity into your life
Does your daily exercise routine consist of little more than strolling from the casino car park to the poker room? Exercise need not be strenuous or overly time consuming to improve health. Just thirty minutes of brisk, uninterrupted walking each day is enough to reduce your risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
Professional poker players are at high risk of living a sedentary lifestyle, seated for hours – even days – on end. How often have you felt like going for a short break, but resisted the temptation because the action was too lively? Whilst I'm not suggesting we all must run a marathon around the tables, here are some simple things to do at your next poker game:
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator
• Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk some of the way
• Leave unprofitable tables and go for a walk outside instead (this can help your bank balance as well as your fitness).
• If you must sit for a long period, exercise your legs under the table. I'd suggest stretching your legs each time you are big blind in a full-ring game. This will also reduce your risk of a serious blood clot (deep venous thrombosis) that has been shown to be associated with long periods of inactivity.
Occupational safety is important
As you are self-employed, it is your responsibility to think about your health and safety in your workplace. If that is a casino poker room, here are some questions to ask:
• Am I getting backache? What's my posture like? Is the seating adequate? Whilst much thought goes into ergonomics for an office worker, poker players may not always have this luxury. If you are playing at home on the Internet, you have the opportunity to set up an office that is conducive to good health. Buy a good chair, a good desk, and consider the lighting.
• Am I breathing bad air? If you are unfortunate enough to play live in a poker room where smoking is allowed, you may be increasing your risk of smoking related disease. Consider moving seats, or even moving casinos.
• Am I stressed or fatigued frequently? This will not only impact on your poker game, but also your ability to drive home safely afterwards.
Maintain a balanced lifestyle
Evaluate the positive and negative aspects of your job objectively and do so regularly. As with any job, if the conditions change, or your circumstances change, it may be time to look for a new career.
Ask yourself: Does my income (realistically) justify the hours I am working? Am I spending enough quality time with my partner? Am I skipping important family events to play? How is poker affecting my social life? Even online poker players are not averse to problems in these areas. Ask your partner how he/she feels when you abandon them because your favorite fish has logged-in. Financial success as a poker player does not guarantee that you do not have a gambling problem.
Get a health care provider
Young men are notorious for avoiding health care professionals – and many poker players fit this demographic. You should have a local medical officer who you know and trust. Professionals such as pilots, military officers, and employees of some large corporations are required to have regular contact with their doctor. Poker players must take this initiative upon themselves. If you haven't seen your doctor for over twelve months, schedule an appointment for a checkup. Tell them about your career while you are there. It is important your doctor understands your lifestyle so as to offer you appropriate advice. Poker is a career of highs and lows, and your doctor is an excellent person to help watch out for your general well being throughout this.
Note: Dr Michael Araco is an Australian Resident Medical Officer and a successful no-limit Texas Holdem poker player. You can catch him on the high-stakes tables at Prima Poker.