Couples

I think it is time to put on the big boy britches and try to write on a little tougher topic than my usual self revelry soft-toss poker stories. One of my old friends was offering up topics for me to write about and I copped out for the first couple days and now I have to face the music and put pen to paper as the old farts say. Well maybe I will tickle the keys for a few minutes and hope something profound comes from it.

Many years ago there were regularly scheduled mixed couples tournaments where a guy and a girl would partner up and play the same stack for thirty minutes at a time. In that day and age there was a shortage of legitimate top level female tournament players. The top female players Suzie Isaacs, Barbara Enright, Maria Stern and Marsha Wagonner pretty much had their pick of partners. Fortunately, many of the top tournament players would partner with their significant other and that kept the number of super teams down to a manageable level. I of course would pair with anyone that would have me for a partner and I only remember one deep run in a couples tournament and I was partnered with somebody I had met five minutes before the tournament.

Today the top poker couple in the world would be Jennifer Harman and Marco Traniello. Jen is near the top of the poker world and Marco is certainly a very good professional. Bob and Maureen Feduniak are an older couple that plays very well. Bob is a long time professional and he married Maureen in 1998 and she started playing poker late in life. Maureen has had more tournament success than Bob but they are both good poker players. Chip and Karina Jett were both very good poker players grinding out a living when they met in 2005 and they are now married with two children. A fairly evenly matched couple they are certainly worth mentioning as one of the top couples playing today. I am sorry but I will not put Phil Laak and Jennifer Tilly in with these couples. I believe Marsha Wagonner and Kenna James are currently separated. Max and Maria Stern were certainly formidable in their day but I think that was a decade ago. Barbara Enright and Max Shapiro are a poker couple. Max is probably a better writer than player. I do not have much love for Barbara so I am going to say she is also over the hill.

The poker world has seen many couples get together and sadly they rarely stay together.  Jennifer Harman and Todd Brunson were a couple for years. The stress of playing a long schedule and weird hours with the added pressure of a volatile income that is multiplied when both are poker players seems to be a toxic combination. When one player is struggling it is very hard for the other to be supportive and prop up their partner when they themselves need to focus all their energy into poker. Poker players rarely have good balance in their lives and a family with two poker players is just asking for trouble. Vanessa Russo is dating or engaged to Chad Brown and I wish them all the luck in the world.

For a couple that plays poker to begin playing at a small local level and work their way up through the ranks to become full time professional players while remaining a couple is virtually unheard of. When entering a relationship, I believe both parties must come together to form one inseparable entity. That means combining your money and not keeping score of who makes how much and who spends how much. This is easy to do when there is lots of money, but when times are tough and money is scarce the team will often fall apart and begin to have fights over money.

Unfortunately, in most couples one person is a better player than the other and tends to win more money. If the weaker player is still winning money but just at a slower rate things are usually fine. When the weaker player goes through a slump and loses significant money it takes a big person to keep playing well and supporting their teammate in the time of need.

My wife plays poker and she can play pretty well. She often plays poker and wins money. My wife has always been very responsible and taken good care of the team money. I am more volatile and I have much larger swings in bankroll. When I lose thousands of dollars my wife is always very supportive and talks to me about regaining my focus and playing strong poker. My wife has always believed in my abilities and is very good at getting me back on the right track. My biggest strength is that I am very honest about my winning and losing and always turn my winnings over to my wife and I always call her when I need to go over my pre-arranged budget for a poker trip.  I am learning to call the wife when I am having any sort of struggle and just talk it over with her.  I have also learned to give her most of the credit for everything that I am and everything that I have become.  Trust me it sucks to lose three thousand the first night of a four day trip and have to make the call to get another thousand. I can also say it feels good to have a wife a wife that supports you.  Oh by the way, I put the money back once things turned around.

I am sure every couple has their own way to function as a couple and I would just encourage all couples to keep your day job and not try to become professional poker players. There are a million people out there that were just as talented as Annie Duke and Daniel Negrenau and did not make it in the poker world.

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