05/03/2008

Has Poker Made Me a Better Person Part 1

Barry Carter

Just like any good son, on Mother’s day I stumbled up to my parents’ house for the obligatory kiss on the cheek, handing over of a card and the gift vouchers that were purchased at the last minute. It was one of the rare days of the calendar year where I sat down for Sunday Lunch with my family and I took the seat to the immediate left of my Dad. An odd thought popped into my head, only for a split second, but long enough to freak me out a little.

I thought to myself, “ah good, I’ve got position on Dad”.

It may sound a little sad, but it was purely habitual. Whenever I sit at a poker table my first instinct is to check out whom I get to act after and who has position on me. Quite why position on ones father in a Sunday Lunch is a good thing I can’t say, apart from possibly being able to gauge the quality of the roast potatoes before I took a bite, but it got me thinking about poker in the context of the rest of my life.

Everything that came before it is null and void now with my friends and family, I am and probably will forever be, the poker player in the eyes of my loved ones. My ex colleagues know me as the guy that quit work to gamble and my friends either have visions of me living a life akin to a James Bond novel or begging for change outside a bookies.

I went part time at my old office job to play poker in June of 2006, a few months on and my poker writing work started to really take off and my hours reduced even more. By April of last year I left my job for (hopefully) ever to play poker and write about it for a living. I know from a fiscal sense that its gone great and I haven’t looked back, but as the first year anniversary of that day is looming I am poised to ask myself a question:

Has playing poker made me a better person?

I don’t mean so much in the karma sense, because obviously I have taken money from people (and been a good sport and given plenty of it back). But has my quality of life and those around me changed since I have chosen poker as a vocation? Some of this is unique to myself, other things I am sure you can see in yourself a little:

Pro – I have money

Big disclaimer here, obviously not all poker players have money and it would be irresponsible for me to imply otherwise. But for the first time in my life I have money in the bank, from playing and writing. Not massive amounts by any stretch of the imagination, but the bills get paid, the missus gets treated and I don’t have to worry about getting a round in.

In my old job I always was overdrawn and was transferring credit card balances to whichever one would give me 0% apr that month. Sure it could go tits up at any minute but as long as I manage my bankroll I’ll never have to dip into my savings (first time I had those too) and I’m much more secure than I ever was in a ‘real’ job. My proudest achievement to date in this regard was buying my parents a big f&$% off TV for Christmas and hope that hasn’t set a benchmark for crimbos to come.

Con – Loneliness

I’ll never miss audits, dealing with customers or having to man manage complete thickos on a daily basis, but I do miss the social aspect of my old job. Poker people are the best people in the world and thanks to the good people at VC Poker I’ll be playing in even more festivals this year, but the majority of my time is spent playing online at home when everyone else is at work.

I love what I do and could never go back to the 9-5, but sometimes my girlfriend will get back home from work and I will meet her at the door like an excited dog desperate to be taken for a walk. All my mates work normal hours which means that often I am starved for attention in the daytime and the Jehovahs Witnesses can sometimes be found sneaking out of my window when I go to make them a 3rd cup of tea. Sometimes the biggest hurdle in playing online poker can be learning to enjoy your own company.

Pro – I don’t gamble anymore

Another little disclaimer, obviously poker is gambling, but we all know it’s a game of skill too (unless you are from Snaresbrook Crown Court). I got into poker as just another form of gambling with my mates, we were regulars at the local casino, couldn’t watch Gillette Soccer Saturday without having at least done the sevens sections and would bet on the stupidest things when we were out on the lash. Apart from boxing, which I am a pretty formidable pundit IMHO, I was definitely a losing gambler, though it never really was high stakes.

Poker changed that, once I got a grasp of the game and started winning as a result of making good decisions, other forms of gambling just seemed like, well, gambling. I rarely bet on football (and even when I do it’s never at any sort of stake I play at poker tables and I have never put a single chip down on the house games since, despite spending more time in casinos than I ever have before.

Con - I have ditched a lot of other hobbies

I cannot express how gratifying it is when your job is also your hobby, and despite putting more hours in than ever, poker never gets boring for me. But my interest in other things has certainly declined. Some I am glad to be rid of, I don’t go clubbing anymore but as I’m pushing 30 that’s probably a good thing. I also used to be a season ticket holder, but it was for Sheffield Wednesday so you can surely forgive me that.

I used to be a bit of a gym bunny and ran half marathons, I still go to the gym but it is mainly a damage reduction exercise to stop me getting fatter (more on that later). I still go to the cinema plenty, but I used to be one of those ‘film bores’ that are annoying to be around but I still loved to be. If one thing comes from this article, maybe it’s that it would be nice to get a new hobby to take me away from playing cards.

That’s all for now but there is plenty more where this came from. Hopefully between now and the next time I will have won the GUKPT London and my missus hasn’t left me for playing too much poker, but next time I’ll look at how poker has turned me into, well, a slob.