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Boot Camp - Managing Poker and Life With Small Children!

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How do you manage a family and work and life in general, folding it into a place that allows time to play poker? Better yet, how do you do it when you find out you and your significant other are going to have TWINS?

When we heard the word "twins" in the first moments of our ultrasound, three thoughts went through my head:

• "Oh, ----"

• "Wow, cool"

• "There goes my poker hobby"

I'm guessing anyone has those first two thoughts when they first hear they're welcoming two infants into the world.

Any parent who says they didn't think "----" in those moments either is lying or belongs in "The Family Circus." It's two mouths that eat, cry and, eventually, help produce a lot of poop. Two colleges. Two weddings. Two sets of everything.

And, yeah, there's some joy in there too. But the third, I now realize, was a little irrational. Poker doesn't have to go away when you become a mommy or a daddy. Poker will be limited, sure, but so will everything else, like sleep.

I'm worried, I admit it. Twins are intimidating, even for a father of a 20-month-old boy and a guy who teaches Boot Camp for New Dads every other month.

But I have ten tips that will help you keep your poker hobby going while you raise your new baby. We can follow them together. Oh, and incidentally, you can use these tips if you've taken on a demanding new job, a new house or a hot significant other who whines about any moment you spend away from him or her.

10. Learn how to play cash games - A confession: I'm a little bitter about tournaments right now, given that I've run into about 8 million coolers and suck-outs in the last week.

Nevertheless, I do well at cash games, and cash games are more than just good moneymakers. They're easy to play when your time is limited. Why? You can leave at any moment. Baby taking a nap but you aren't sure when she'll get up? Hop in a cash game until she wakes up. Your wife will kill you if she catches you near the computer given that there are 50 bottles to clean? Hop on for a few minutes and hop off when she walks up the stairs. You can probably even play a cash game while you breast feed - although, to be honest, I've never tried that.

Cash games are different. You'll have to play tighter at first than you probably want to, if you're a tournament player changing to cash. And, yes, all-ins are rare, so you won't have the excitement of hitting that two-outer against someone (and I hate you right now). But they are efficient ways to continue to play poker and care for an unpredictable infant. Once you get your baby back on a schedule, you might be able to play tournaments again. For at least the next two months, though, cash games are the way to go.

9. Multi-table - If you've got cash games down, learn how to multi-table. I usually play three $25 NL games a night for at least an hour. You can squeeze in an hour's worth of poker in 20 minutes that way. I don't advocate playing more than four tables at a time, but a couple, I believe, works well.

8. Lower your expectations - You're going be tired. Really tired. I mean exhausted. That, as you may know, will affect your ability to be sharp at the table. It's probably not a good time to finally make that move to $2/4 NL. If I know I'm tired but I want to play, I'll play a couple $10 NL games. Yes, it's micro limits but who cares? I'm not putting my bankroll at risk when my mind is not ready for optimal poker. The best tip I got when I was raising a new baby was to let things be for a bit. It was OK if the house was a mess. It was fine if I didn't run 25 miles that week. And it's OK if you don't play your usual high-stakes poker game. Raising a baby is tough work. Give yourself a break.

7. Get some perspective - I was amazed at what didn't bother me anymore when I had a baby. You'll probably feel the same way. But you'll have to learn to let the bad beats go if you want to continue to play and raise a child. It's OK to punch your pillow when you're A-A gets cracked by 8-3 os. Then you have to let it go. Raising a baby is frustrating enough without you putting frustration on yourself too. This is another reason why you might want to play lower stakes for a while.

6. Learn to appreciate the game again - If you're like me, you might forget how much fun poker actually is and are paying too much attention to your spreadsheet. Poker is a wonderful game, and you'll have to approach it as a nice break from spit-up and messy diapers. Poker is a diversion for you again, not a way to pay for those Vegas trips. Not for a while anyway.

5. Set a budget - If you're a losing player, hey, that's OK. Just make sure you set a budget on how much you can lose every month. The money means more now, and spending $50 on a coin flip could be spent on diapers. You don't need me lecturing you here on money management. But you may have to choose poker over, say, a football game now instead of doing both. That's also what raising a child is all about.

4. Trade time with your spouse - You get an hour of poker, and then she or he gets a nap while you watch the baby. It works wonderfully, and your spouse will thank you for the nap.

3. Set limits - I'm not talking money here. I'm talking time. Remember when your parents set limits on how much "Adventure" on the Atari 2600 you could play? No? You're too young to remember Atari 2600? Sigh. Anyway, the point is now's the time to set limits for yourself. There's a lot more to do now, with extra laundry and bottles and diapers and feeding and simply spending time with your baby. I limit myself to two hours of poker a night, and at first with our son I got even less than that.

2. Do not play when the kids are up - This will cause more friction than anything else with your partner. Do it after the kid is in bed.

1. Hang in there - Things will get better, and eventually you'll have more time to play more cards again. You'll adjust, and in fact you'll be happier than ever. I promise you that.

I usually close my Boot Camp class with this statement. It's a statement written out by the leaders of the class. It's actually pretty ironic.

"Remember, things could be worse. You could be having twins."


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