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Poker News | Online Poker | News

Boot Camp How To Tell When You're Playing Poker For Reasons Other Than Fun

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For a few of you out there, poker is a job. For a few others, it may not be a job, but it's a part-time way to supplement your income.

For the rest of us, probably 95 percent, poker is supposed to be fun.

It's a game. It's a pastime. It's a recreational activity that uses our wits, brains and gumption, and that's why we love it. Right?

Well, no, not always. Poker isn't always fun, is it? Sometimes we wonder just why we got into poker. I was wondering the same thing these last few months.

Oh, I still enjoy the game, but I wasn't enjoying it as much as I should. In fact, I thought about quitting. The reason I didn't quit is because I took a hard look at WHY it wasn't fun.

It wasn't because I was losing. That was part of it, but that wasn't entirely the reason, and it wasn't really the real reason.

It was because I was playing when I didn't feel like playing.

It was that simple. I was treating poker like a job, or another training run, something I had to do whether I felt like it or not. Only it took me a while to realize it.

So before I play these days, I make sure I'm playing because I want to and not because I feel like I have to. I keep a checklist handy, and if I start to follow one or more of these warning signs, I shut down PokerStars or Full Tilt for the night, and I do something else.

Here's how to tell if you're treating poker like a job and not a game:

• You're doing too many other things while you're playing - On some nights, I would be writing an article for PokerWorks.com, chatting on Facebook, looking up scores, watching Headbanger's Ball on MTv and downloading pictures of my kids, all while playing poker. That means you're either distracting yourself from the game or you're too distracted to play. Either way, it means you're looking for an outlet other than poker.

• Playing too many tables - I can play up to four tables without it hurting my decision making, but I limit it to three, and sometimes I'll play only two. If you're playing a dozen tables, are you really playing poker or just waiting for Aces? That tells me you're searching for a score rather than really playing the game.

• You're playing at designated times rather than following an urge to play - I used to play every Friday, Saturday, Thursday and Sunday. I thought I was good to play only on certain days. Now I know I was setting requirements on days that I HAVE to play. It was a mistake. You should play when you want to play. No less but no more either.

• You believe you have to play because you'll lose an edge - A serious recreational runner like myself who enjoys training for half marathons and setting PRs and races up to a dozen times a year doesn't have a problem with the training. We have problems resting. Resting or taking a break is by far the most overlooked portion of our training. Why? We don't want to "lose our edge," or "lose what we've gained."

But if we don't take a break, our body breaks down. Poker, I believe, is the same way. You don't lose your edge by not playing every day. You probably actually gain something from taking a break.

• You're chasing losses - Ah, yes. This is so close to tilt I don't really need to go into it here, do I? If for some reason you have this notion that you "need to get unstuck for the month" or whatever, stop playing now. Seriously.

• You're playing for points - This is almost as bad as chasing losses. Look, I love the fact that PokerStars has different levels based on how many points you earn per month, and the fact that you can earn cash, prizes and other swag for earning those points, but let's acknowledge one thing. IT'S A MARKETING TOOL.

I'll admit it. Sometimes I played this year because I wanted to maintain Silver Status on PokerStars. That was my only reason for playing. That's no reason to play.

• You're playing when you know you're not your best - You're tired. You're sad. Or worse, you're drunk. Do you know why I stayed up late on a Saturday night back before I had children (and, to be honest, sometimes after I had them)? It was to take advantage of people like you. Drunk people were very good to my bankroll.

If you're playing when you're stupid, not sharp or sleepy, you need to stop right away.

Go play the free tables. That's what they're there for. Or don't. After all, something's gotta get me out of this losing streak.

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