By Matthew Gregoire
Sometimes our toughest poker battles occur away from the felt. When times are tough in your life, it’s often best to take a break from poker to reassess your life. If your mind is drifting into life decisions rather than making the optimal play during a tournament or cash game, it can really send your life into a tailspin. I’ve seen numerous friends risk financial ruin playing cash games in an attempt to forget about breaking up with their girlfriend or having lost a family member.
These issues can be difficult to cope with and some unfortunate associates of mine decided to turn to the one thing that could take their mind off the pain: poker. The problem with this mind-set is even if it takes away the pain for those short moments of time, it still will lie deep in our subconscious and keep us from playing optimally. It will feel more difficult to fold because of the discomfort of potentially being shown a bluff, we can’t bear to fire a bet with the worst hand in certain situations where we feel it is correct because if we get picked off the embarrassment will be torturous.
If you play for a living, poker can be psychologically demanding. Your financial well-being is based off the turn of a card, over which we have no control. If a hand isn’t played optimally, you have to forget and move on or face the effects of not living in the moment. Add in the aforementioned obstacles in our everyday life and all our decisions can be amplified. The good decisions will just be expected, yet the bad ones will feel disastrous. Bottom line is if you are in this predicament it’s not only cheaper to avoid playing but it also will help us come out of this life downswing more quickly by allowing us to grieve and figure out things.
— Matthew Gregoire is a pro poker player living in Miami. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.