You know the old story. Boy meets girl. You share a drink, a dinner, a night out on the town, and eventually it turns into something more – an actual relationship. In the beginning, it didn’t really matter that the boy in question has an unusual occupation. But now that you are spending a lot more time together, you’re starting to wonder what you got yourself into, dating a poker player.
Many jobs have special aspects that can put unique pressures on those in their lives. In the grand scheme of things, dating a poker player is probably less stressful than dating, say, a police officer or a military fighter pilot. Still, if you want to make the most of this relationship, there are some things you should know about the poker lifestyle in general that may help you better understand your poker playing beau, and help you on your road to happily ever after.
1) Forget what you know, or think you know, about what sort of schedule your boyfriend keeps. While his schedule will differ depending on what type of poker he specializes in, since poker cash games and tournaments run 24/7, if poker is his primary job then his schedule is dictated by when the most lucrative games are running, not by some numbers on a clock. Even if he normally plays a particular schedule, if he ends up running deep in one or more tournaments, or if some of his cash tables are particularly profitable, it would be a poor business decision for him to simply stop playing because his normal “quitting” time was at hand. Understanding the realities of poker – that leaving the table when you are likely to make a decent amount of money is antithetical to why people play poker for a living – will make things easier when your boyfriend is suddenly working “overtime”. Ditto for understanding his need to go out of town, if he’s a live poker pro – he has to go where the games are, just as any businessman may have to go on frequent business trips.
2) Professional poker is an occupation that requires a great deal of skill, but there is an undeniable element of luck that can result in financial swings, particularly in the short term. Much like a small business owner at the mercy of local road construction, or a day trader when the market suddenly dips, even a very skilled poker play can lose money in the short term on a few unlucky breaks. Take your cues from him – if he’s not worried, neither should you be. Of course, if he’s suddenly asking for a loan, all bets are off. By the same token, don’t assume that just because he’s had an extremely profitable week (or month) that his lifestyle (and yours by default) is going to undergo a dramatic upgrade. A true professional will have a plan in place for dealing with the hard times and putting aside cash when he’s running good. If you are dating a poker player thinking you’ve hit some kind of high life jackpot, you’re probably going to be in for a rude awakening.
3) In the same vein, the same short term luck that can result in financial swings can also result in emotional swings as well. Helping him deal with this emotional tilting, or dealing with him when he’s tilting, can be a challenge. Some players like to vent; others will bottle it all up and deny there is anything wrong. Probably the most effective way to cope with the emotional swings, whether they are frequent or rare, is to ask how he likes to deal with tilt BEFORE it occurs. Ask over dinner some night, or when discussing other general things about his job. Then take what he says at face value and react accordingly when it’s obvious he has had a bad day at the office. If he needs to vent, let him (even if you don’t understand a word of what he’s saying). If he prefers to be alone, or to discuss some hands with some of his poker friends to analyze his play, that’s fine too. Just understand that a) even though poker is a skill game, sometimes the short term luck can be demoralizing and b) everyone deals with this facet of the game in different ways.
4) Poker players, as a general rule, are young, male, and spend inordinate amounts of time online with other young, male poker players. Like any predominately male occupation and subculture, when poker players get together, it usually devolves into frat boy pranks, one-upmanship, copious amounts of liquor, and every other type of degeneracy you can think would happen when you get guys barely into adulthood together with largish amounts of money and a natural inclination to gamble and compete. Forcing your boyfriend to choose between you and his friends is always a losing proposition, so if you can’t deal with the occasional weekend of debauchery, you’d best bail now. Otherwise, as long as he doesn’t violate whatever you have agreed would constitute cheating (and you should have a talk about THAT once you hit the exclusivity level of your relationship), let him have his fun.
Playing poker for a living may be an unusual occupation, but if your boyfriend is a professional poker player, then you have to bear in mind that this card game is his job, with all the attendant responsibilities. In order to succeed, he’ll have to play regularly, put in time studying and reviewing, and exchange ideas with other experts in the field. As long as he doesn’t allow his job to consume him, there’s no reason not to give his chosen field of work the same respect you would any other occupation. Understanding the stresses of the poker playing lifestyle and reacting accordingly will make your relationship that much more likely to succeed.
By: Nicole Rejiester
Photograph By Robert Bejil Photography