Poker, Balance, and Mental Health

Published in Poker and Gambling / Mental Health / Featured - 4 mins to read

This month I have been thinking a lot about poker, and how it fits into my life as a whole. It’s been a somewhat eventful month. I signed up for a 6 day silent meditation retreat, and bailed after the first morning after some of the worst anxiety I have ever felt, an experience that was a grim reminder I still have some kind of mental illness, despite acting relatively normally (I think) on a day to day basis. I turned 23. I went on a soul crushing downswing. And cumicon posted arguably one of the most impressive graphs in online poker, shortly followed up by an appearance on the Poker Life Podcast.


It’s very tempting to whine about poker, and paradoxically also to brag about poker… so I’m going to try and do neither. And probably fail.


Poker is a huge force for good in my life, but it is easy to forget that. It pushes you to the edge of emotion, to places you might not go on a daily basis if you don’t have some kind of major struggle in life. You are forced to be honest with yourself, to confront things about yourself that you might not like, to change your bad habits; because your skill level has to be so high to succeed in online poker now. A lot of poker players worry that they will have a CV gap once they eventually quit, but I think I am learning valuable skills, some of which are employable. This is the first thing in my life I have ever really worked hard on (apart from maybe grinding dota ladder at uni), after coasting at everything ever. It forces you to deal with repeated failure, and to keep attempting to solve a problem until you do so. It has made me question everything, my decisions in life, my identity, whether I should get an early night and grind 14 hours tomorrow or just drink myself into oblivion and face the consequences later (Mum if you read this I just eat a whole tub of ice cream and get the early night, don’t worry). Poker is that crazy ex you keep going back to. But every time I do go back to her… every time I feel like quitting, I know I would regret it, maybe for the rest of my life, if I gave up now, without trying absolutely everything. And so, the next day I fire up the tables and try again.





Cumicon’s work ethic is clearly amazing, but his interview seemed to show that even though he was rewarded with incredible success, he is not entirely sure it was worth it in the end. In a way, I am inspired to try and match him, and was already considering aiming to log 300 hours in December, but I am also scared that I might miss out on life EV. I am at an age I feel obliged to “make the most of”, although I’m not entirely sure what that would entail. My guess is not being in an office 14 hours a day with no days off. But maybe this is the right thing? Would I take parties, the beach, and girls over proving to myself I can apply myself and succeed at something few people can? As you can tell by the way I phrased the question, I have my mind made up.





Mental health has been a hot topic on poker twitter this week, with Joey Ingram, Barry Carter and Jimmy Fricke (amongst others) leading the conversation. My own mental health is historically fragile, and poker doesn’t exactly help. If I plan to be focusing nearly 100% of my energy on poker then my emotional health could certainly suffer. But, I know if I can deal with it in a healthy and proactive way, that is another skill I will have learned from poker that is transferable to the rest of my life. For all the bad things I have to say about online poker, it is certainly character building.