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The Poker Shrink, Vol 12 - Underlying Depression

The Poker Shrink, Vol 12 - Underlying Depression 0001

There is a lot of depression in the poker world these days. Even more then usual. I would like to suggest today that everyone in the poker community pay attention to themselves and to their poker cohorts, buddies and pals. Depression can not only affect your game; it can affect your life and yes, it can take a life.

Clinical depression is a state of intense sadness, melancholia or despair that has advanced to the point of being disruptive to an individual's social functioning and/or activities of daily living. Although a low mood or state of dejection that does not affect functioning is often referred to as depression, clinical depression is a psychological diagnosis and is different from the everyday meaning of "being depressed". [Wikipedia]

If you or someone you know is or may be clinically depressed, the most important action you can take is to get help or get them help.

On the other hand, what we all normally call "being depressed", while not as serious is still a very uncomfortable way to live your life. Furthermore, common depression can lead to clinical depression if not dealt with. Depression of either type is not something you can just "snap out of." It's caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other physical and mental factors.

Poker is a game of highs and lows, wins and losses. Top tournament players experience a "failure rate" well in excess of 90%. Every player on the planet has had a run of bad cards. Losses are part of the game. Depression is not.

Losing more money than you can afford; losing to successive runner, runner bad beats; bubbling in yet another tournament—none of these are going to make you feel good about the state of your poker game. Being sad is a reasonable response to these events, being unhappy, angry, frustrated….all acceptable human reactions. However, a continued state of depression is not only unhealthy and inappropriate; it can also be a warning sign of deeper trouble ahead.

Right now many sections of the poker community are a bit depressed by the effects of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. Players are losing access to a fun hobby or even a lucrative job. Poker media are losing jobs; online investors are losing portfolio value. Yes it is depressing; these are not good times for poker. But what to do?

First, talk to someone. The worse effect of depression is isolation. You are not alone and you simply must reach out to those you trust, those you love and those in the same boat you are in. If you know of someone you even think might be depressed, reach out to them now and reach out again tomorrow. Some of the saddest words you will ever hear are:

"I only wish I had known."

Next, you (or they) need to get away from poker. Get out and take a walk. Take a vacation; go to a movie (not Rounders). There is more to life than poker. Take time away even to the extent of taking a set amount of time, measured in days or better weeks, completely away from poker. Get some perspective on Life.

Exercise. We all know that sitting at a table or in front of a computer screen for endless hours is draining; the position (particularly in front of a screen) can also be addictive and addiction leads directly to depression. Finish this article and go take a walk, right now. When you come back, call someone or better yet, go and see them.

Medication: Even mild, non-clinical depression often responds to short-term anti-depressant medication. There are literally dozens of options you can discuss with your physician. Don't be afraid to ask for a "short-course" prescription (one or two weeks) and if the medication does not work within that time, go back and get a different prescription. We are not all physiologically the same and some meds work for some and not for others. There is no shame in taking a pill for a short-term remedy.

For more information about depression, check out, or e-mail me at for more resources.

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