I turned off the computer - the best way to avoid tilting off your bankroll, as I said in a previous article - and I huffed into bed. I tossed and turned for 10 minutes before my wife mumbled, "Look, if you're pissed off about that GAME, then go sleep on the couch."
And that's when I knew a break for that night wouldn't be enough. I needed a break from poker, period. Well, I'd been hit with a number of bad beats like that lately, and I was starting to obsess over them. That's fairly typical for all poker players - we always remember the bad beats more than the times we got lucky ourselves - but the problem was I had two infants stirring in their carriers because of my outburst, however faint.
Raising small children is stressful. Poker is stressful. Sometimes the two don't mix.
Here are some ways to know when you truly need a break from poker, like a few days or even a week or more. You don't have to be raising small children, either, to take these tips to heart.
• Steaming off on the spouse - As I said before, raising children, especially toddlers and infants, is stressful (I wouldn't know about teenagers). Unfortunately that means your spouse, or your partner, and you, are looking for ways to blow off some of that steam. Trying to avoid huge fights because one kid is screaming while the other needs to be changed and the third is hungry is your number-one priority right now. So acting all pissy because some idiot hit his two-outer against you is not only hurting yourself, it's hurting your relationship with your partner. And that means it's time for a few days off.
• You make moves with mediocre hands - During this down streak, I took A-K on an
A-high, harmless-looking board to the felt, and, predictably, I got felted. The guy had a set. TPTK is never a hand worth taking to the mat, unless you or your opponent is short stacked or you've got a terrific read on her. And when you do, it means you're sick of your bankroll looking famished and you want to fill it right away with chips instead of waiting for a better opportunity. You're playing impatient poker. And that means it's time for a break.
• You're making bad calls - On the hand mentioned above, I at least pushed in the chips myself, so I had some semblance of fold equity. If you're calling off a lot of chips with big bets, you really do need a break. There's a big difference between calling off chips and betting them. Calling them off is the worst play you can make in poker, and it signals either boredom or, again, impatience.
• You're a lot more inpatient with your kids - Sometimes bad beats can creep into your soul and affect your attitude without you even realizing it. If you find yourself snapping at your toddler for normal toddler behavior, such as standing on a chair, playing with Mr. Potato Head without putting it away or the occasional scream, take a look at why you're feeling that way. If the honest answer is poker, it's time for a break.• "And the Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon" - Please don't make me sing
Harry Chapin. There's nothing wrong with playing poker instead of playing catch with your toddler, but if you're doing it every day, you need a break (from poker, not your toddler). As Chapin sings, the chances for getting together go away faster than you think. Another way to tell if you're ignoring your family is to count how many times you say, "Just a minute" because you're playing cards online.
• Feeding, changing, holding, chatting on Yahoo and working on a Pokerworks article
- These are all worthwhile activities. If you're doing them all at once while you're playing poker, it's time for a break. It means you're bored with the game.
• Staying up too late - You're raising children. You need your sleep. If you're groggy every day because you were playing far too many SnGs, then you need a break.
• Chasing losses - Welcome to the number-one reason why more people go bust than any other. So you're losing this month. Big deal. As Mike Caro says, quit trying to get back to even. You're already even right now!
Poker is a wonderful game, and it should be a part of your life, even if you're raising twin infants and a toddler, as I am. But taking a break from the game is a good idea as well. I just read the new Harry Potter book, for instance. And after a week, I'm itching to get back to the felt. The best thing about breaks is they usually restore our love for the game of poker, making it possible for us to enjoy the game. And that's the way it's meant to be played.