I am always trying to find the balance between family and poker, and I know a lot of you struggle with the same issue. For the serious player with a significant other, the poker lifestyle can be a real challenge. Here's a little advice for making poker work with the rest of your life. I've included five tidbits of advice for both the player and his or her partner.
Advice for the Poker Player
1. Don't punish your partner over your bad play or bad luck. Let it go when you walk away from the table. If you can't release that bad energy quickly, then let your partner know that you need a little while to cool off. Snapping at your partner isn't good for anyone.
2. Don't lie about wins or losses. Remember, you're incredibly lucky if you found someone who supports your dreams. If the money in play makes your partner nervous, sit down and discuss a business plan that works for both of you. Talk honestly about the pros and cons of serious poker. Don't even consider going pro until you can cover all of your bills for at least six months in advance.
3. If you make plans with your partner, don't play that day. If you get stuck or if a sucker sits at your table, you aren't going to want to leave, and feelings are going to get hurt. Believe me.
4. If you're traveling the circuit, be courteous and answer your phone. It's hard enough on a partner when you're out of town. There's no need to make them wonder who you're with or what you're doing.
5. Remember, there's life outside of poker. If you can remember a hand you played five years ago, then it's not too much to ask to remember your partner's birthday.
Advice for the Player's Partner
1. If your future champion walks through the door looking a little grey, don't ask, "Did you win?" Just back off and give them some space. I promise they just need to analyze what happened and, maybe, replay a few hands in their mind. The last thing they want to do is disappoint you by talking about a big loss.
2. Poker players don't change. If you don't try to understand a player's fascination with the game, your relationship is going to see some very tough times. Andy Bloch, for example, has an incredibly supportive girlfriend (soon to be wife). She's smart and ambitious. Once she started dating Andy, she realized that if the relationship was going to work, she'd have to adapt to his travel schedule. You know what she did? She started a website called PokerWire. For a time, she traveled everywhere with Andy, reported on chip counts, and interviewed players. Now, Jennifer is back in school and Andy has moved to be with her, supporting her choice.
3. Don't be quick to assume the worst. If your poker pro doesn't come home until 5AM, you can bet that they were stuck in some game or that a favorite fish walked in the door right as they were about to leave. Most poker players are honorable people. They might bluff an opponent, but they don't bluff in life. We are weird that way. So, unless they give you a reason to think they were up to no good, give them the benefit of a doubt.
4. A player can't choose the day or time that a sucker will be at the table. Sometimes, they'll need to play on Thanksgiving or Christmas - or even on your birthday. If we get a phone call that "Ramin' Jamin' John" is in town, there's nothing that's gonna stop us... except a car wreck because we were speeding to get to the game.
5. If you want to learn how to play the game, your partner may not be the best teacher. They will have less patience with you than anyone else. Get some books on poker, and start with them. It's hard to teach someone that has never played, and it's going to get frustrating for both of you. Play online at the lower limits to practice what you've learned.
I hope y'all enjoyed this one and, remember, bad beats make for lousy pillow talk.