A Support System

I have had some success lately, more in terms of notoriety than in actual monetary profit, and I was reflecting on my way home tonight about how important it is to have the support of my family and friends. I have had many conversations with my students and other players at the tables about how their significant other, parents, or friends, aren’t supportive of their interest in poker. I can’t imagine how tough it would be to make a career out of playing poker if my friends and family were against it or thought it was a negative thing in my life.

The most important person for me is definitely my wife. She is amazing when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of a poker career and the strange things that life as a poker pro bring into your life. Through swings in my bankroll, the nightmare of Black Friday, and the stress of long periods of running bad, she takes it all in stride. When I come home at 5 am night after night because we need the money, she doesn’t bat an eye.

Lisa Jaster

My wife is the nuts!

Last year during the Winter Freeze Out at Canterbury Park I hit the final table with the chip lead after having the chip lead for most of the day. I was running well, playing well, and felt good about my chances. My wife happened to call while we were on a break before starting the final table. I told her that I had the chip lead going in to the final table and that first place was $47,000. Her reply?

“Oh great. I’m going to bed, let me know how you did when you get home. Play well.”

Seriously? Who does that? If you had half of someone’s action in that spot, would you just drift off to sleep? I couldn’t do it. I might not get in my car and fly down to the card room, but I would at least be excited and interested, but it all rolls off her back like it’s nothing. When I’m running bad for a week or two and I get stressed about it, or I am worried about my bankroll, she just assures me that I’m a great poker player and that it will all be fine like it has every other time. She’s right, but it’s hard to just be confident of that when you are running bad and everything seems to be against you. When the whole world seems to be against me, it’s so nice to have someone who is on my side and believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

It would also be frustrating if my extended family thought it was a bad thing. Family gatherings would be tough if my family was anti-poker, but my parents, sister, grandparents, and cousins all seem to think it’s a perfectly fine way to make a living. It might be a little strange for some of them, but even my very Christian grandmother doesn’t seem to have any problem with it. Even my dogs are all for it. They think I’m the greatest thing ever when I come home late from the card room.

Many of my friends play poker themselves, and after playing for a living for ten years I have made so many friends who play for a living and understand how things are, that I don’t think I have any friends who disapprove. The friends I had when I started playing for a living are mostly still around, and none of them ever thought it was a bad thing. Some of that is a lifestyle and culture thing. If you grew up in a Catholic school and live in a conservative burb surrounded by doctors and lawyers, more of your friends and family might disapprove. My friends who hung out in Irish bars, accepted pretty much any lifestyle, and are cool with almost any way that you make a living other than politics, didn’t even find it strange.

If you have people in your life who don’t like poker, do everything you can to help them understand that it’s a contest of skill, that you are serious about it, and that you don’t have a gambling problem. Having their support will make your life so much easier.

I have seen the negative side of things from random people I meet who sometimes disapprove of what I do, but that is a nice filter to weed out people that I shouldn’t waste my time on. I had an apartment manager ask me what I do for a living, and when I told her that I played poker, she asked “So you have a gambling problem?”

Yes bitch, when I said professional poker player, I meant to say degenerate gambler. Thank you for correcting me when I misspoke. And I assume you have an apartment managing problem? And your husband the dentist, he just has an oral fixation? Your cousin the sanitation worker, do you just call him a dumpster bum? Does he love garbage? Grrr.

Luckily that attitude is rare these days, and poker has become a more respectable profession. I don’t get as much negative response these days, nor do I get the wide-eyed “Oh that’s so cool” response very often. Poker is a lot more normal than it used to be. Everyone knows someone who plays seriously, and even non-players mostly understand that it is a game of skill involving real money and that a legitimate living can be made from it. I hope that trend continues.

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