Clicking Buttons

Published in Featured - 6 mins to read

Two months ago I made the decision to quit my job to play online poker full time. I moved back in with my parents to live in their metaphorical basement, click buttons all day and general remove myself from the outside world. On the rare occasions I have a conversation with someone who doesn’t play poker, I emphasise the positive and omit the negative. To everyone I know who does play poker, I am open about how often I doubt myself, get depressed and feel like quitting the game. This last month has been an emotional rollercoaster, with some brutal lows in the middle I haven’t experienced for a long time.

(At the start of the month, I dropped down stakes while trying to learn a new variant of poker, the great game of pot limit omaha.)

First 5000 hands: Wow this new stake is soft, I feel great; I can definitely win! If I keep this up I’m going to have a huge winning month. I can do this; my confidence is sky high.

Next 5000 hands: Looks like I was running good in the first 5000 hands. At least I know I can win though, I need to work on my game and the results will come.

Hands 10000 to 28000: I can’t do this. I can’t win, the games aren’t beatable or I’m not good enough or both. I’m a failure, I made a huge mistake quitting my job for this, what was I thinking? It’s going to be so embarrassing to have to tell my parents and friends that I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I should just kill myself.

Hands 28000 to 36000: Maybe I can still do this. I need to work on my game a lot though, but I have to trust the process, and put in the effort now for the rewards later. At least I don’t have to quit for now, and I resolve to see poker through to the end and not give up on it when it gets tough.

Hands 36000 to 52000: This is so frustrating, I don’t feel like I’m playing as badly as my results suggest. I’m trying so hard but not seeing results, and sacrificing so much for this, it’s not fair.

Hands 52000 to 60000: I can obviously play close to breakeven or be a small winner when the games are very soft, like on the weekends. I made a lot of mistakes but still finished up a small amount of money, I can fix those mistakes and win more. I miraculously finished close to breakeven this month. Hopefully next month I will profit.

Hands 10000 to 28000 are the interesting ones. The way I felt then is difficult to describe; it was similar to when I felt depressed during university, in that everything felt grey, all I wanted to do was sleep, eat comfort food, get drunk and not talk to anyone. But in university I never tried, I wasn’t pouring my heart and soul into something, or sacrificing anything. Back then I would wake up and not want to do anything. But this time when I woke up, the world was still grey, but I wanted to play poker regardless. Maybe wanted is the wrong word, but I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else. I used to watch Netflix or play video games all day, but now I had no desire to do even that. Poker was the only thing I could do, it didn’t even seem like a choice. So I played through the grey, and eventually managed to break even for a few thousand hands, and felt better about my predicament. I had a lot of advice and support from people much further along in their journey than me, who all said that it was part of the game, there wasn’t too much I could do, I would have to deal with it and embrace it.


Part of the reason the downswing felt so brutal is because of everything I felt like I have sacrificed to pursue poker. I quit my job, sacrificing the comfort of a steady paycheck, as well as the friendships I had build with my coworkers, health insurance, a pension, future career opportunities and more. I have sacrificed a lot of time away from my passions, especially esports (giving up video games might not sound like a negative for most people, but I’m passionate about them, and I’m going to write about why in another post soon). I have sacrificed almost all social interactions - I only make an effort to maintain a relationship with one person who doesn’t play poker, and even then I probably don’t put as much time into that as I should. All these things made me happy in the past. But I have chosen to give up on them, some irreversibly, so I can try to maximise my success at poker. When I am not being successful at poker, i.e. losing money, it’s inevitable I question why I have made such an apparently poor choice, trading everything that made me happy for the sheer misery that poker can be. But there is always a small, quiet thought in the back of my mind, that is never quite drowned out by the cacophony of doubt, that I can, and will, succeed at poker, and that it will all be worth it in the end.


I have heard ultra successful, motivational speaker-y types say that you must eliminate doubt in order to be truly successful. I really struggle to believe it or see how that can be true, although I am obviously not in the “ultra successful” category, so perhaps that isn’t surprising. I would imagine it is mostly a case of semantics, and what they mean by “doubt” I would seek to qualify as “all-consuming, unwavering doubt” rather than “normal, human, manageable doubt”. If your whole self believes that you will be successful despite any setbacks (which will be numerous on anybody’s path to success) then I truly think there is something wrong with you, and you are probably deeply delusional. If, when you encounter some kind of failure, part of you thinks “wow this is tough, I don’t think I can do this” but then another voice inside your head says, no matter how quietly, “I can still do this, this is part of the process, I am going to do this”, that is what I think you need to be successful, and what I am hoping will carry me to success in the future.