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What Poker Can Teach You About Life

By Gary Steele

Poker is an amazing game. I started playing to win money and because I thought it would be a ‘glamorous’ hobby, but I have learned so much more about myself from the game than I ever expected.

The most important lesson I have learned which will help me out in the rest of my life is control. Today I am writing after a horrible, and very expensive, bad beat late last night. It was the kind of hand I have previously written about as being an emotionally devastating experience. After years of playing I am finally getting to the point where I can handle these violent twists of the game without getting angry (Phil Hellmuth angry). I have started realizing these unfortunate events are going to occur, but I can overcome them with knowledge and perseverance. It took me a long time to realize that my game is strong enough to overcome these experiences in the long run. Companies make a fortune selling drugs to help people stay under control; all I needed was poker.

Poker has also taught me patience. If you cannot develop this skill, you will end up having a short poker career. There are very few players (like Gus Hanson) in the world that can play recklessly and win in the long run. Chances are, you are not one of them. I doubt if you see Gus Hanson playing anywhere near as recklessly as you see on the Travel Channel during the first few days of the poker tournament. The patience I have learned from poker will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Another important lesson I have learned from poker has been focus. Being able to concentrate on playing the best game I know how to play 100% of the time has been a challenge for me. I used to be prone to going on tilt all the time when I first started playing, especially when I won a big hand. I have had to learn that having a lot of money at a table does not mean it should be wasted on frivolous bets I would not make in normal circumstances.

Lastly, poker has taught me there is more to life than work. People often forget that poker is a game and it should be enjoyed. I love the challenge. I enjoy my “real” job and cannot survive financially without it, but poker is what I love to do. When I get to the point where I cannot survive without the income I make from poker, then I will stop enjoying the game. I hope I never reach that point. If you are not having fun playing, then you are playing for the wrong reasons. There is enough stress in your life already without beating yourself up about your rotten luck. This lesson ties in with the most important lesson in gambling: Never wager money you cannot afford to lose.

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