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Staying married and playing poker was my original thought. Starting and maintaining a relationship as a poker player is what I have decided to write about. Yikes. I take on serious challenges the only way I know how and that is straight forward. I just plow my way through it with more sweat and hard work than finesse or skill.

This shit is hard. This is work. This work is harder than the day job that pays 100K+ per year. I have managed to fall in love, become engaged, get married and stay married for the last nine years and it has been work every step of the way.

I was a single guy playing poker every single day from the time I started until I was tired and wanted to go to bed. I made poker my number one priority over all else and I do mean everything else. I played poker and I did nothing else on a regular basis. I went to the gym and lifted with my friends but even that was hit or miss and my level of commitment was sorely lacking.

My good friend Bob Stephens says I made a complete 180 degree turn around. I used to think he was exaggerating but over time I have come to believe his view of my life was probably a lot better than my own. My friends will often ask how I was able to make the changes. I have to be honest and say my wife deserves almost all the credit. She put up with me and loved me for what I was and what I could become.

First and foremost you have to find somebody that is going to work with you and the two of you need to form a team. When you work together as a team you discuss your goals and you work together to reach those goals. Everyone who understands the team concept knows that there are times when each person is going to have struggles and the teammate picks up the slack and steps up and pulls more than their fare share of the weight. You do this without any grumbling and you know when the situation is reversed your partner is going to step up and pull the extra load for you.

Communication is a key to making any relationship work and the poker player is no exception. The poker player that is out of town playing a tournament needs to be communicating while he is away at the tournament. This is the age of the cell phone. There is no excuse or reason why you should not be calling your spouse on a regular basis while you are away. Your spouse should never feel alone or insecure just because you are at a poker tournament. You need to support one another whether you are right next to each other or across country. Your families still have needs and problems that occur while you are at the tournament, and they should be able to talk to you. You may not physically be there, but a spouse definitely feels comforted just talking to you and having you listen. That is what a marriage is all about. I try to call home every night when I am on the road and my buddies often give me strange looks when I dial the wife at three or four in the morning. She is expecting me to call and never complains about the time. We have an understanding and I need to make that call no matter what.

Another important change that I had to make was to set my priorities straight. Poker tournaments are played somewhere every day, so you can always play a poker tournament. Your spouse and family should always come first. Probably the single biggest adjustment I had to make. You should make every effort to be with your spouse and family for holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and especially for those once in a lifetime events like graduations. I am not saying you have to be home for every family birthday or holiday, but you should be there for “most.” I forgive aunts and uncles or nieces and nephews but immediate family is a must. Your wife and children will long remember that you were there. Your poker buddies will not remember that you were not there at the last tournament.

If you “have” to be away for one of these special events, no matter what you do, call home. Wish them Happy Birthday or Happy Easter, and tell them you love them. Do not ever let any poker tournament become more important than your spouse or family. Cards and gifts are great, but making that telephone call makes all the difference. Trust me, I know.

The last thing I will add is to be a man of your word. If you say you will be home at midnight make damn sure you are there. I do mean every single time.

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