Just Happily Plodding Along
By Roy Cooke
I’m a plodder. Unkind people would call me a nit! I’m with that. When I was young, recognition played a much greater role in my poker motivations. But I’m 57 now, and somewhere around 30,000-40,000 poker hours ago, recognition lost its luster.
I still relish the intellectual challenge in a big way, but I would no longer play poker if I lost. I play to add to my quality of life, financially and enjoyment-wise. It’s an aspect many players, even numerous very good ones, seem to completely miss. Being a plodder makes the gambling lifestyle much less thrilling and much more of a grind. But it also removes much of pokers stresses. If you have a thrill-seeking mentality, plodding is not for you. The thrills that drive you will be actualized playing tournaments, playing high, maybe even too high for your bankroll and swinging wildly.
Many players appear driven by an impulse to gamble, and they gamble as high as possible. They want to be “king of the mountain.” They‘re “turned on” by the thrills, the recognition, others perception of their wealth and fame. In some cases it’s real, a few people do attain wealth and fame playing poker, but in most cases it’s forge. Behind the scenes, many of poker’s “big names” haven’t the ability to beat the level they’re playing and are broke. Many are way beyond broke and buried in debt at a level they‘ll never recapture. The good news for poker is that the game offers an abundant amount of excuses for those looking to dismiss their results.
The problem with poker thrill-seeking is that that nature of player seldom passes the “test of time.” The roller coaster swings of playing high-stakes low-edge poker create a lifestyle of emotional stresses and strains that tend to wear down all but the very mentally toughest. These swings, both mental and financial, intrude on their sleep, influence our health, encourage drug and alcohol use, and ultimately affect their cognitive skills. Over time, these stresses erode their poker skills.
Some can afford the swings both mentally and financially. They have available money to swing wildly, either from possessing money or from other sources like backing or borrowing. If you’re tempted to play that way and have the money, ask yourself some questions. Will this aggressive technique make your life a happy one? Do you really have what it takes to be “king of the mountain?” And even if you are that lucky one (and it’s doubtful you are), if you create the mental toughness to actualize all this, creating that mental toughness may make you an unhappy person.
Plodding is a different way of life. You play in games with a wide edge over your opponents; the limits you play are easily within your bankroll; and the swings don’t seriously mess up your mind, your life, your relationships, and your financial stability. It’s not sexy. You’re not going to win any yearly “most money won records,” but at the end of a long era, you’re likely to be ahead more net money than the majority of the “thrill seekers.”
Much is written about poker strategies, what hands to play in what position, under what circumstances, how much bankroll you need etc.But little is written on how to be a good gambler. And in the large scope of your life, it’s the most important thing.
Poker has a dark side; it swallows most who commit to its environment. They get caught up, in the game, in the illusion of easy money, the desire to “get even,” and all the false impressions the gaming industry is so enthusiastic to portray. Poker is different, and managing your poker life is going to be a challenge that your past experiences are unlikely to have prepared you for. Your choices are going to be significant in determining your success at the tables and the happiness level of your life.
Like most things in life, that answer is situationally dependent. It’s great to fantasize about the way you’d like to be or how you’d like things to be, but life’s decisions need to be real. As Clint Eastwood once stated, “A man has to know his limitations.”What are yours? How do you handle stress? Can you quit big losers, or do you have to play until you’re falling asleep at the table? If you step up to a higher limit do you have to go broke at that limit before steeping back down so you don’t feel like you gave up or don’t want others to perceive you’re broke? If you can’t handle any of those issues psychologically, conservative is the way to go! You’ll greatly lessen your propensity to crash and burn!
Conversely, if you’re not going to be happy until you’ve fulfilled your fantasies or at least exhausted yourself trying, then you should go for it. I’ve known some who made it. That said, poker has given birth to a massive graveyard of psychologically battered victims who have exhausted themselves trying.
At age 57, I’m real happy I’ve been a plodder. I’ve mostly done what I want to do in life, and poker has made other aspects of my life very enjoyable. I’ve traveled, own a successful Real Estate business, managed an online poker site and have many great relationships that have shaped my life. Living around poker has been a very positive thing in my life.
That said, I see that poker has been a negative factor in many others’ lives. They lived to play, didn’t meet their expectations, crashed and burned without creating other alternatives in life. They trapped themselves in a lifestyle they ended up hating, and it showed in their demeanor, and affected their relationships. Most importantly, it showed greatly in their overall happiness.
Decide whether you want to live to play or play to live. Each has its upsides and downfalls. But consider your choices, incorporate your strengths and weaknesses, be true to yourself in your thinking. Above all, be real.
And whatever your choice, do it with heart and do your best. No matter what your decision; it’s not going to be easy!