Here’s how you can handle poker burnout



Burnout is described as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and feelings of low personal accomplishment. It’s usually been written about in terms of work, but I got to thinking about it in terms of poker.

The two most quoted definitions are:

• “A state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.”
• “A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.”

These definitions embrace the essence of burnout, with the first stressing the part that exhaustion plays in it, and the second stressing the sense of disillusionment that is at its core. The real danger of burnout comes from the disillusionment. A poker player tells me the $2-$2 and $1-$3 no-limit hold’em games are too boring; he can’t maintain his patience and no one folds; the $2-$5 game has too much variance and he needs too much bankroll to play, and tournaments involve too much luck.

When I hear this kind of thinking, I immediately think the player is burning out, playing too much, not being able to fit poker into a hectic life, has had too many bad beats and is feeling the need for more action.

Typical symptoms of burnout are edginess, tiredness, feelings of helplessness, loss of control, detachment and blaming everyone but yourself for your lack of interest or winnings.

What can you do?

You can change nothing and it might clear up on its own.

You can take a break, do nothing and things might clear up.

You can take a break and reassess poker in your life.

You can take a break and increase your skills.

If time management is the problem, you can use numerous time management skills to help you.

You can use a coach to identify the problem and work on it.

You can use the insight and realization to move forward.

You can use the break from poker to read, watch videos and use other coaching.

You can assess your priorities and see where poker fits and adjust your life to better fit your priorities.

Burnout is a big topic. Even the Mayo Clinic has offered advice (not specifically to poker players, but it’s still useful):

• Manage stress that contributes to burnout. 
• Evaluate options, adjust your attitude and seek support.
• Assess your interests, skills and passions. Get some exercise. 
My advice is to re-adjust, change something, talk about it, get some supportive help, take a break, do something different and/or think about what you want to change.

And as always keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine