An Open Letter to the Significant Others of Professional Poker Players
(THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON UPSWING POKER)
As both the significant other to a professional poker player and a professional poker player myself, I’ve been asked by lots of people, “What can I do to support my significant other who is a poker player?”
Let’s start first with WHAT NOT TO DO – (and I’ll be speaking to you, the significant other, from the viewpoint of the professional poker player).
What NOT to do
1) DO NOT suggest I quit poker – Trust me, I’ve already thought about it a MILLION times. You know how after a night of heavy drinking and you wake up with a massive hangover- you say, “I’m never drinking again!” Well, poker is kind of like that.
I’ve already questioned whether I’m good enough to make it, if I even like poker anymore, and what else I could/should be doing with my life. It just doesn’t help when you bring it up too.
2) DO NOT tell me how I should have played – Unless, of course, you are also an accomplished poker player. Most significant others are not.
Most know the rules and have maybe played in a few home games, but usually don’t have the experience or knowledge to give poker advice. So don’t. This is SO tilting..
(And by the way, most of the time no one wants advice anyway. What’s best is to inquire about the possibilities of playing a hand a different way. Weigh the pros and cons together.)
3) DO NOT make it about you – And this true for anytime anyone is going through something hard.
Poker is stressful, sure, but if I come to you with any tough situation, it makes it really difficult to process through it when you make it all about you and what you’re dealing with.
A lot of significant others may say, “But what about me, my job is stressful too,” at just the worst times. It’s not that I don’t want to hear what’s going on with you, but let’s have a separate chat for that. Otherwise, it feels as if you’re dismissing my feelings.
4) DO NOT allow a whiny poker player to blame you or take it out on you. – It is NEVER your fault if I lose. I’ve heard so many poker players say things like, “Well you were stressing me out, so I lost today.” Or, “I was going to come home earlier when I was up, but you were late and now I lost.”
That is just a poker player’s insecurity coming out, trying to blame their loss on something other than themselves. Don’t take it. Kindly and patiently stand up for yourself and say, “I hear you’re upset, but your poker loss has nothing to do with me. Let’s talk later.”
5) DO NOT let my swings dictate your day– This was a REALLY tough one for me to learn as the significant other. For the first few years as a pro, my husband took the swings pretty hard. I would worry all the time and be sad and angry with him.
This was incredibly unhelpful. It would often spiral him down even further. When I began recognizing that this his journey and that no amount of my suffering with him was going to help, I could then be a pillar of strength for him during those times.
What you SHOULD do
1) DO be a good listener – This means patience, focus, and not judging. Don't try to fix it, just hear me.
2) DO acknowledge me for my efforts – Especially if I’m providing for a family. What I hear so often (mostly by male poker players), is that playing for a living is significantly more stressful when they are counted on in this way.
Men are biologically wired to be the provider and protector, so poker losses are often very scary because it threatens their ability to do that. What I’ve heard from men, is that it means so much when their girlfriend or wife just says, “Thank you for working so hard, especially because I know it’s not easy. I appreciate it.”
3) DO take this opportunity to become closer – I believe the ultimate purpose of intimate relationships is to connect and grow together. When you can listen, be patient with me, and accept me even when I’m losing, I will want to do the same for you as well even more than I already do.
This is also an opportunity for us, the poker players, to address our own shit too like our fears and anger. The only one who is responsible for how I handle the ups and downs of poker is ME. This requires reflection, self awareness and vulnerability, all of which will make me a more patient, loving human for all domains of life.
By the way, all of these do’s and don’ts can be translated to anyone in your life. I believe the goal for any poker player and human is to continue becoming a better - whatever that means to you. In the case of poker, he/she will become so good at handling the swings that their significant other will rarely know whether they won or lost.
But until then, just be extraordinary to each other.
SIDE NOTE: All of this is null and void if you are with someone who is a degenerate gambler with a problem. I also recognize that many poker players THINK they are pros. Pros and semi pros all track their stats or have a way of knowing for sure they are a winner over an extended period of time.