Maybe running bad in poker isn’t so bad

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Variance. Getting owned. Running bad. Call it what you will. Losing is still losing, and long losing stretches can wear us down physically, mentally, emotionally and, perhaps most important, financially.
Maybe I’m just naturally optimistic, but I think long losing stretches aren’t so bad. For one thing, they give us an opportunity to think about the good things poker provides us, things that we can, and should, be applying to our everyday lives.

I’m not talking about the means to take a lavish trip, to buy an expensive car or to waste money on some vice. I’m talking about the intangibles, the skills we’ve developed as poker players that are applicable to everything we do.

Over the past few months, and while running really badly, I’ve been mindful about these things. Here are a few for you to consider and, if you aren’t already doing so, apply to your endeavors.

MAKE +EV DECISIONS: Whether it’s buying a car, choosing a partner, investing in a start-up company or making a check-raise bluff-shove on the river with the worst hand because the math and your read tell you it’s a profitable play over the long run, every decision we make demands we examine its expected value. Poker has taught me the importance of this. It’s instilled in me an ability to be more analytical, calculated and rational when making decisions at and away from the table.

MAINTAIN FINANCIAL STABILITY: The most important aspect of maintaining financial stability as a poker player is a combination of two things: separating the money you play with from the cash you use to pay bills, invest and buy things, and playing and living within your means.

BE BALANCED AND HEALTHY: I often see players devote themselves so much to the game that they neglect other areas of their life, especially their mental and physical health, relationships and finances. No amount of financial or personal success in any field is worth becoming unstable, out of shape and friendless.

But maintaining a well-balanced life is different for everyone. For me, it means scheduling time to read, write, work out, watch a film, cook, hang out with friends and family, attend a lecture, travel and visit icanhascheezburger.com.

SET GOALS, THINK LONG TERM: We all know setting goals in life is essential. The same is true for climbing up the levels in poker. All successful high-stakes cash and tournament players got to where they are because they set goals while considering the long term.

Considering your long-term wants and needs in poker and other endeavors dictates the type of goals you set and how you attempt to reach them. So, if you haven’t thought about this lately, consider the following: What are your goals as a player, in your career, in your relationships and in your finances?

LET GO OF YOUR EGO: When it comes to ego, the great Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke said it best: “Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance. Complaining is nothing. Fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, (and) solitude (are) everything.”

THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN BEING A POKER PLAYER: If there weren’t, what would we do with all the money we make?

— Brent White is a journalist, writer, editor and poker player who lives in Chicago. He can be reached at brentwhitechicago@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @brentwhite.