Does Poker Make You Happy?

As always in poker – it depends. Does it make you, dear reader, happy? What about poker is it exactly that makes you happy?

I don’t want to go into a day-long discussion of happiness and “the purpose of life”. I do: however, hope to get you thinking about why you play and whether or not it makes you happy.

In my opinion there are 3 stages in the life of every poker player:

1) The recreational player

2) The addicted player

3) The professional

It is probably the easiest to be happy as a recreational player. You have all the excitement & challenges that the game brings you and occasionally you get rewarded for having a good time. And obviously if you are a recreational player, you “play poker for fun”, which by definition should make you happy.

The addicted player is probably the unhappiest of all. I see two resulting problems: spending too much time and/or too much money. Both are detrimental in their own ways. I personally believe that every professional poker player went through the addiction of poker. In that addictive state you don’t have to necessarily be unhappy; however, your addiction will cause problems for you that ultimately lead to unhappiness.

The last step a poker development can take is that your addiction turns you into a decent enough poker player and usually results in you playing for a living. You turn pro. Nevertheless, the real question is: How happy are professional poker players really?

“Playing poker is essentially a selfish pursuit.  It’s completely individual and poker players play solely for their own personal success.”

Those are words from Olivier Busquet and I couldn’t agree more. It cannot get more selfish than poker. You try to take things from others for your own advantage. There is no win-win in poker. There is only me and me.

On top of that there is the disconnect of perception: A losing day hurts way more than a winning day feels good. The losing days also cause a lot of self doubt:

“In poker it’s easy for every hand, session or tournament to feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. String a couple bad days together and it can seem like your whole poker world is crumbling around you. Even if you’ve been a proven winner for years, a big down swing can leave you questioning whether you will ever win again,” are some wise words from Adrienne “talonchick” Rowsome.

Are poker players just a bunch of miserable souls trapped in the pursuit of enrichment?

It is a mindset thing, so it is not without reason that mindset experts excel in the poker industry. Great examples are Tommy Angelo and Jared Tendler.

Jason Somerville said the following in a video interview,

“I am not going to focus on making money; I am going to focus on being happy and start making actual changes.”

We are the only ones responsible for our happiness. In fact, I once read a very fascinating book called “The LOLA Principle” which in short can be summarized to:

It is only a problem if you want it to be one.

If you like travelling, eating good food, being able to make your own schedule, working from home or any other advantage poker may bring you as a professional – than yes, poker can make you happy.

I personally found that creating things and teaching makes me happy, but this is something everybody has to discover for themselves. Oliver Busquet’s choice is yet a different one:

“The happiest moments in my life are when I’m spending time with family and friends, creating and developing interpersonal relationships.”

I want to finish this article with this question: Can we choose to be happy?

If this topic interests you then I strongly recommend you watch the TED talk below and let us know in the comments whether you think you can choose your happiness, in poker or life.

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