Why I Stopped Playing Online Poker

Back when I first started working for myself in 2008 I found a decent amount of quick success.  In less than 2 years I was making more money than I ever had in my previous employment and as I started to figure some things out, my schedule began to ease up.  The more I began to trust others to do some of the work I was doing, the less burden I had to put in the crazy hours I was accustomed to working.  Any entrepreneur will tell you that can be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing.  Having too much time on my hands usually winds up being a bad thing.  At least for me, it’s because too much time gives me too much time to think and when I think too much it’s usually not a good thing.  I need to be active, doing things, or my mind wanders into terrible places. So during this time I remember seeking out things to do when I had downtime.  Since I had already been playing poker with friends once a week and was really getting into the whole No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em craze at the time, I decided that I was going to give online poker a try.

It was fun at first

I joined Pokerstars way back when there were really only two solid Poker sites in town.  Pokerstars was one of them.  Full Tilt Poker was the other.  Also back then it was much easier to move funds around i.e. if you won money you could get it instantly.  When the law began cracking down on Poker sites I remember people having to put their money into all kinds of weird payment sites and so forth.  I don’t know much about gambling sites these days but I would imagine it’s quite easy in states where its legal.  Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

In the beginning I loved it.  I lived and breathed Poker.  I read some books, soaked it all in.  I was always watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN.  Doing whatever I could to get around the game.  And I was decent.  At first I only played No Limit Texas Hold ’em.  And when I started I played with a bankroll of $500 and I would play $1/$2 No limit Texas Hold ’em.  That means the blinds are $1 and $2.  Now, I will say this about Poker.  If there’s one game in the world that I truly believe takes skill to be good at, it’s No Limit Texas Hold ’em.  Is there luck involved?  Of course there is. But anyone who’s truly made a living off of playing this kind of Poker can attest to the fact there’s unequivocally enough skill involved where skill is a huge if not deciding factor.  But here’s the thing about No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em.  The one thing they don’t tell you is that it takes a tremendous amount of patience and discipline to make money.

And when I say patience I mean you should really only be betting 1 to 2 hands per hour.  Yes, per hour.  Which means you’re basically sitting there the whole time waiting on a legit hand to play.  It’s a numbers game like anything else.  And sure, all the while you’re trying to learn the other players at the table.  But with online poker, you don’t see anyone’s faces.  You can really only try to pick up on betting patterns.  But to keep this article simple, the point I’m making is that if you have the discipline to wait out your hands, you will generally come out ahead. So that’s exactly what I did.  I was able to discipline myself, be patient, and play my good hands when I could play them.  And I was winning.  Nothing crazy but I was winning.  I was probably up around $3000 at this point.  And it was at this point that I started to move in the wrong direction.

When it became not so fun

My patience was wearing thin.  I was literally making money and of course my patience was wearing thin.  If I can make $50-100 a day doing these limits, why not raise the limits?  Why not enter some tournaments?  Why not play more than one table at a time?  You figure that once you’re getting pretty good, you might as well expand, right?  Wrong.  Like most disciplines in the world, once you try and expand too fast, things will get dicey.  Here’s the thing about poker.   Eventually you’re going to run into a shitty streak.  It’s inevitable.  Like I said, No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em is about skill as much as it is luck.  But without the right cards dealt to you, there’s not a whole lot of skill you can put to use.  Sure, you can bluff but if you start doing that too much, you’ll be found out.  Unfortunately our brains are wired to say, “if I can do it at this level, why not at this level?”  The thing is, playing the limits I was playing, staying disciplined, probably could have netted me a good $1500-$3000 a month.  But it wasn’t good enough.

So like I said, I began expanding.  I started playing in tournaments.  P.S. these tournaments took hours.  If you want to win one of these things you literally have to put in 5-8 hours.  That’s a huge time commitment to win with extremely long odds.  But there I was, playing in 1-2 of these per day.  The time I began to spend per day became a little ridiculous for the little amount of money I was earning.   The last straw was when I decided to move up my limits on the single tables.  I went from 1/2 no limit to 5/10 no limit.  Put it this way, if you’re in a 1/2 no limit table you might find yourself in a $100-$200 hand once in a while.  If you’re in a $5/$10 no limit table, you might find yourself in $500 hands quite often.  You can lose money extremely fast.  The same discipline applies to each table.  Wait it out.  Be patient.  Know that you can only win 1-2 hands per hour at best.  But by this point I was too impatient and had zero discipline.  My last straw was a hand I’ll never forget. I was dealt absolute horrible cards and bluffed my whole way to a win.  I remember it being something like $250 and I was a wreck from nerves.  I had no business being in that hand and the second I won I realized it was time to call it quits.  I was up a few grand at the point, took my winnings, and never played again.  Looking back, I was both lucky and smart to have quit.

Gambling is like social media

You’ve heard me say this before: you can use social media or it’ll use you.  The same goes for gambling.  Gambling can be extremely fun.  It can also be incredibly harmful.  But somewhere in the middle of all that are a highly disciplined group of people who can actually succeed with gambling.  This is a very small group and one I could never be a part of.  My emotions get the best of me and before I know it, I’m doing things I shouldn’t be doing.  It’s very similar to social media or any addiction for that matter.  For a while you have control, until you don’t.  And once you don’t most times it’s too late.  Gambling is fun if you walk into a casino and say “I have $300 to lose today and if I lose it that’s completely fine.”  If you’re about to play for a few hours and lose that money, that was the cost of entertainment.  But once you move beyond that, you’re screwed.  Same goes for being at a Poker Table.  If you don’t have a number in mind where you can walk away without hesitation, you’ve already lost.   And this is why I’ll never do online poker again.  I got sucked right in and I have no doubt if I tried it again, I’d get sucked in again.  It’s just not worth it.

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