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Am I still a poker player?

It’s an interesting question. Is there such a thing as an ex-poker player?

I don’t think it ever leaves your system. Just like you can never be an ex-alcoholic. Or like that band on X-Factor a couple of years ago that claimed to be “ex strippers“. I didn’t buy it. Once you take your clothes off for money, you’re a stripper, right?

I haven’t played online poker in quite some time. It wasn’t necessarily conscious decision to quit, but just the way things came together.

At the end of 2009, the site I was playing at the most was about to restructure its frequent player program to take away many of the benefits I’d come to rely on to make it worth playing. I was way past the recreational stage and if I couldn’t produce numbers to show that I was making money, I wasn’t going to play.

Unfortunately, I relied on what was effectively 60% rakeback from this particular iPoker skin in order to show satisfactory results. I’d show a small loss at the tables but cash out a few hundred dollars in net profit every month thanks to the perks. Since then I played odd tournaments on Poker Stars, but never got myself back into the right frame of mind to take it seriously. Playing online poker to make money takes commitment and discipline and this was at a time when I was getting busier than ever in my work.

I was long past the delusion that I could “go pro” with poker and use it as a primary source of income. I still enjoyed playing – by which I mostly mean that I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing I was getting out more money than I put in – but it was either a way to pass an evening or to fill some spare clock cycles on a quiet work day. Although I never consciously made this decision, it was essentially a choice between finding a new poker site where I might expect to eek out $10-15 per hour for my spare time, or filling my time with low-paying contract work – undercutting everyone to build a portfolio.

You want a complete mobile app for $50? Ask me 2 years ago.

You want to know if that gamble paid off? Ask me at the end of the year.

I have played live poker exactly once since I last went to Las Vegas. That’s not particularly unusual. Combine a decent tournament with the chance to visit somewhere new – like, err, Stockton – and I might be interested. Otherwise, I steer clear. But I am looking forward to playing again on my next trip to Vegas – even through by then O’Shea’s will be gone, and I’m still mourning the passing of the Sahara.

However, I do think there are parts of the poker mindset that stick with you day-to-day, no matter how out of practice you are.

Is something good value? Am I the sucker here? I think he thinks such-and-such, but what does he think I’m thinking? How can I exploit that?

Meh. Poker player. Passive aggressive sociopath. Who can tell the difference?

Of course I find myself yelling “string bet!” and sighing “don’t splash the pot” at the TV almost every time I watch anything that has a poker scene.

And I do keep seeing parallels between what I was trying to achieve with my poker play and what I’m trying to achieve now in business. Of course it’s a gamble. If I didn’t think I had the best of it, I wouldn’t be doing it. And I absolutely want to maximise my edge wherever I can.

Assuming I’m able to articulate them, that is most likely what I will be writing about here.

So, yes, I still consider myself to be a poker player. I just don’t play cards much any more.

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