Highs, Lows, and Back Again, Pt. 1: Daniel Carter Fights Depression To Get Game Back
There are scores of people who read the articles on PokerNews that would give their right arm to become a professional poker player. I used to be one of them, so I should know.
What's not to like? You get to sit at home — or travel the world — playing a game of cards and have the chance to win unfathomable sums of money by pitting your wits against fellow players. It seems like the perfect job.
Except it isn't all sunshine and rainbows.
The highs and lows experienced by professional poker players are extreme to say the least. The pressure of having to perform to the best of their ability during times when Lady Luck refuses to play fair at the tables or when there are other major distractions in your life are enough to knock even the most battle-hardened pros onto the ropes.
If you don't believe me, just ask the British pro, Daniel Carter, who you will no doubt have read about on these very pages thanks to him hitting a so-called purple patch recently that resulted in him winning five online poker tournaments in the span of a week. As said one paragraph ago, though, poker isn't all sunshine and rainbows — even if it often seems that way.
Basically, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and lost more than £100,000.
Carter's love of poker began 11 years ago when he was a 16-year-old boy. After watching his stepfather play online at Paradise Poker and PokerStars, Carter decided to jump into the play-money games and found he had a penchant for it. Like many before him, Carter progressed to real-money games and immediately started winning.
"As soon as I turned 18, I emailed all of the sites that I played on and said that I was never intending to play real money, but it happened after winning money from freerolls and spinning it up," Carter said. "Most of the sites emailed back saying it was fine, although one site said if I did anything wrong in future I would be banned for life."
Cheltenham-born Carter started to gain a reputation for being a rising star of British poker and was offered a sponsorship deal by Matt Dale, who used to own a website and online poker site called Poker.co.uk. This was back in 2005 when online poker was still fairly new and sponsorships deals were almost unheard of.
It was a deal that suited both parties. Carter said that he "started playing the local UK tournaments such as the GUKPT circuit, which went really well so I ended up getting my deal upped to play European Poker Tour events with all my hotels and flights paid for, which was fantastic as I got to meet a lot of people and learn a lot of things."
Sadly for Carter and his sponsor, Black Friday happened, the contract was torn up, forcing Carter back into the poker world on his own.
A few years later, now at the ripe old age of 22, Carter wanted to make his money work for him and so the process of starting a family business began. It was a decision that would ultimately change Carter's life for the next few years, but unfortunately, not for the better.
"Basically, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and lost more than £100,000, which was essentially all of my bankroll and putting me into debt," he said.
Now broke, or "busto" as he describes his situation as, Carter was faced with a daunting proposition. He had to make money, but in order to do so, he had to have money. Carter had no money.
After borrowing enough money from friends to piece a bankroll together, Carter resumed grinding online poker tournaments. However, the pressures of being in a hole to start with, coupled with the fact he had lost a small fortune and had seen his life turned on its head, caused Carter to begin sliding down the slippery slope of depression.
I wasn't playing good poker at this time and it wasn't actually until around three years later, when I was diagnosed with depression, that I believed I had depression at that point.
Carter first realized he was in a dark place when his ability to play long sessions suddenly evaded him, and that losing — an inevitable part of playing poker — was difficult to cope with.
"I'd always struggle with playing long sessions, negative results would really affect me mentally, or going deep in a tournament and busting would be hard to take to the point when I started playing the next day I felt so down in the dumps," he remembered. "I kind of thought it was just a part of getting older, feeling negative and more lethargic all the time, but it turned out it was the big swing that I had in my life, things going so well to being in loads of debt after trying to set up that business. I wasn't playing good poker at this time and it wasn't actually until around three years later, when I was diagnosed with depression, that I believed I had depression at that point."
In August 2014, Carter hit his lowest point. Having reached a Day 2 at a major live event held at Dusk Till Dawn in the UK, Carter recalls how he was "a nervous wreck at the table" and how when he bust and drove home. He said, "I could feel myself exploding from the inside and wondering what the hell was up with me."
A couple of days later, after forcing himself to play online, Carter burst into tears mid-session.
"I remember being sat in front of the computer crying, crying, and crying. I said to myself 'why I am crying? I don't have anything to cry about,' apart from my life feeling pretty sh*t, but I was just bursting into tears."
Doctors diagnosed Carter with depression and prescribed him medication to help him conquer this debilitating condition. Anyone who has suffered with depression in their lives, such as yours truly, can attest to it being a very lonely time, mostly because of the stigma attached to mental health. Particularly in males who like to think they're too tough to be stricken with depression or that it's not "the man thing to do" to talk about feelings. Carter went the other way, though, and immediately began sharing his experiences with family, friends and now "random strangers and people I've only known for a few minutes."
With medical help assisting Carter to overcome his problems, his love for poker has returned, as did his ability to play long sessions. As so many of us in poker know, when good play logs plenty of volume, solid results tend to follow.
"If you check my results from August 2014 onwards or September onwards, I've been playing so much more poker, it's incredible," Carter said with a smile. "Now the results are beginning to show."
Indeed, the results are starting to show, but to discover more about them you'll have to tune into PokerNews later in the week as Carter reveals what is behind his recent amazing run on the virtual felt, why he is happy with handing over 50 percent of his profits, and what his poker plans are for the future.