Poker Is Such a Rush Until You Lose All Your Money

For the first time in a while, I attended our regular Friday home game last night from 9pm to 2:30am.  I used to love going all the time until I started this site actually.  Now, the thrill of writing and interacting has taken over.  Furthermore, I realize how hard it is to make a decent buck online.  To lose a couple hundred in one hand when you play well, yet get runner runnered is a horrible feeling!

No longer are my poker outcomes compared to my normal salary.  They are now compared to my online income which makes things that much more painful when I lose since my online income is so much smaller.  In fact, I use my online income as the barometer whenever I’m thinking of spending frivolously to help keep me in check.

A lot of us poker players like to justify our habits by saying that poker isn’t gambling and that it’s skill.  Although I believe poker is 60% skill, that still leaves 40% left to chance.  Would you bet someone $500,000 if you had a 60% chance of winning and a 40% chance of having your hand chopped off?  I wouldn’t, but some would!

THE ADDICTION RETURNS TEMPORARILY

I bought in for $200 among a sea of sharks with average stacks of some $$400 high.  Everybody loves to make fun of me when I play because I’m known as the tight one.  “Uh oh, Sam is in?  Watch out for those pocket Aces!” they would chide.  “Yes, guys, I only play pocket Aces, so watch out!” is always my retort.  I have an absolute allergic reaction to losing money because I pretend I’m a minimum wage blogger trying to survive in this hard, cruel world.

After being down about $35 bucks for most of the night, I had finally won a couple hands than put me in the black by $90 at 1am.  $90 divided by $200 is a 45% return I reasoned, and it was time for me to go.  To put things in perspective, I was still the smallest chip stack with $290 as now people averaged $700 as re-buys built the action.  But, my buddies wouldn’t let me leave because the rule of course is that you can only leave early when you go broke, or else you have to stay to the bitter end.  Oh yeah, now I remember the other reason why I’ve stopped playing!

The Last Hand

Up 45% and the second to the last hand of the night I’m dealt pocket Queens.  My heart starts racing, because my goal is to just limp or fold until the clock struck 2am. After someone raised pre-flop to $6 with 3 callers, it was my turn to decide.  There’s no way I’m playing 4 way with Queens against these degenerates so I pop the bet by 7X to $40.  Call, call, call!  Crap, they really do love to gamble.  The flop comes 10, 7, 3 and everyone checks around to me.  Of course I bet the pot, a crisp $100 bill gets thrown in the middle, leaving me with only half my chips remaining.  Everyone folds except for the animal to my left.

By this time I’m thinking shitake mushroom, I’ve got $140 committed to the pot and there’s no escaping now.  Why didn’t I quit while I was ahead?  I should have just done something Herculean and limped in and not controlled the action by raising pre-flop.  My pocket queens could be losing to two pair, trips, pocket Kings, or pocket Aces.  When the 4th card hit, a seemingly harmless 5 came out.  I checked.  After a brief moment, where I was hoping my opponent would also check, but he bet another $140!  My heart sank.  Fine, whatever, I’m pot committed so I shoved the rest of my chips in.  Going from +$90 to down $200 sucks, and I promised myself during the show down that I wouldn’t return for another 6 months.

When I showed him my pocket Queens, he sat stunned.  I think may have begun to cry.  He mucked his cards and stared at the remaining $50 left in chips, cashed out, and walked away.  I took him for $290 on just one hand to double up to over $600 and that addicting feeling and thrill was back!  “Nobody pushes me around,” I start thinking in my head.  I feel invincible on the inside, like I belong with the sea of sharks dictating the action.  On the outside, I just tell everybody I got lucky, thanked them for playing, and until we see again.

AFRAID OF THE RUSH

There’s no doubt that in those last tense moments a wave of exhilaration came over me.  I was afraid and excited at the same time, longing for every little posturing and eye twitch to reveal itself.  For that moment, I was a poker junkie again, ready to quit my online endeavors and turn pro.  Of course, that is preposterous thinking, but it was fun while it lasted.

I’m back to reality now, sitting in front of my computer typing away.  I think about how each $200 bet is like working for several hours online trying to get an advertiser.  The rush of gambling is intensely pleasurable no doubt about it, but it’s not for me.  I don’t like the person I become when I lose as I’ve lost plenty of big hands before.  No, I probably won’t be returning to the Friday night home game for a while.  I’m too afraid of what the rush will do to me.

Readers, have any of you ever been hooked on poker or gambling in general?  Have you ever come to a moment where you realize you’re at the edge of the cliff, and one more step and you could lose it all?

Money saving tip: Really start comparing gambling to some of your side income endeavors to put things in perspective.  If it takes you 10 hours of work to make $100, you might think thrice before placing a bet.  It’s easy to just think of your money as chips and frivolously bet it all away.  Have a limit of how much you can lose, and once you hit that limit, walk away.  Leave that ATM card at home and don’t borrow money from friends.  Live to fight another day.

Regards,

Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog says

    i was addicted to gambling back in the day. i had made friends with some heirs of rich folk from other countries who enjoyed frequenting casinos. where we were in MI, there were/are 4 casinos within a one mile radius not far away from campus. we were there every night, often losing $300-500 a night minimum before regaining all back and then winning another $300-400 per trip. it became very addicting very quickly. each trip was about 4-6 hours, starting around 9pm and running well into the next morning. did this for about 6 months. now, i enjoy gambling, but definitely not addicted anymore.

    • Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot says

      Ahhh Sunil, the lure of the casinos is tempting. I love MGM in detroit, but I frequent Greektown often. I used to enjoy it a bit much in the day, but have gained a lot of perspective since. I gamble now when my mom wants to go, i.e. birthday or special occasion. Blackjack was my downfall, best odds, but the thrill of poker is toxic lol.

    • Financial Samurai says

      The most important thing is that you are not addicted anymore! Besides, those stakes aren’t much for you now right. So long as you don’t gamble inflate along with your income, it’s all good!

  2. krantcents says

    I think I have only gambled (casinos, horse racing) maybe a dozen times in my life. I certainly enjoy the winning side, but I set a low limit for “entertainment”. If I can have a couple hours of entertainment for $40, I am happy. I love games and the strategy of games, but I am not a good loser. So I pick a dollar amount I am willing to lose or spend for entertainment.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I went to a Southern California horse race event the other month and lost 19 out of 20 bets. The average bet was only $4 though as I had no idea what I’m doing. Place, Show, huh? Lost $35 bucks that day. Entertaining though!

      • krantcents says

        I only went two or three times (Santa Anita), but I usually win. I go (reluctantly) with some friends and get one of those handicap sheets. I will bet ($2 ) on the nine races and win 7 or 8 out of nine races. I think the most I ever won (net) was $25-30. I am not willing to bet very much because I don’t want to lose much. It makes for a nice afternoon as long as I am winning!

  3. Car Negotiation Coach says

    Sam, you know how much I love poker! And I can’t wait to play down the shore in a few days (weather permitting)!

    One key thing I learned a year or two ago that has made the biggest impact to my poker bottom line is the value of a high pocket pair relative to your stack size. As Dan Harrington says, play “big pots with big hands and small pots with small hands” (or something like that). And if you’re deep stacked, a one pair hand (even aces) is not something you want to play your whole stack for after the flop. Instead you need a nut hand like a set, straight, or even two pair…..unless you can get a big % of your stack in pre-flop.

    In your case, with a smaller stack and the great pot odds you were getting, I’d ship it every single time.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Sounds good. I try and play the same no matter how much larger my pot stack is though i.e. if I know I m a 65/35 favorite, if I have $10,0000 in front of me, I will still push all in! If I had $100,000 stack though, I’d stop to think a little, but I would never be in the situation in the first place! :)

  4. mike says

    I hate losing more than I like winning.

    Plus, I see it as a zero sum game. I win, you lose. In business, I win, the customer wins.

    Gambling is popular because of getting something for next to nothing. And that’s why it will always be popular.

    I love Vegas, but not to gamble.

    • Financial Samurai says

      I think that’s the crux of it all. I hate losing WAY more than I like winning, and I think many people are the same way. Losing $100-$200 is not the end of the world, but it puts me in a funk for a day, which is not worth it!

  5. Darwin's Money says

    Poker was never my thing. After reading “Bringin Down the House”, I tried out counting cards with blackjack. After a couple days of religiously practicing with my own decks, I was able to count pretty well, with about an error per thousand cards. It just takes some concentration to count and some decent math skills to calculate when the deck is rich/poor to raise/lower bets. So, it was time to hit Atlantic City. I went twice, played for a few hours and won once, lost once. After researching a bit further, even though I was in fact at an advantage of about 1.5% over the house (the ONLY game in the casino where the player can attain an advantage), I realized that the major imediment is standard deviation. I could play for an entire weekend and win $50 bucks or lose $2000 after playing thousands of hands. In order to really make money counting cards, you’ve gotta play countless hours and have a massive bankroll (and not drink too much lest you lose your concentration)…

    As for poker, there are far better players that have spent their lives studying the odds and reading tells, I could never take seriously other than the occasional fun game with the guys where we might win or lose $100 in a night.

  6. Evan says

    I love gambling (blackjack) and playing poker! I play with buddies almost every other Thursday but lower limits (usually 25c/50c blinds). The weird thing is that my side income has allowed me to play looser with my gambling meaning it doesn’t feel like it is real cash rather than how hard I work during the week day

  7. Maggie@SquarePennies says

    I hate, HATE, to lose money, so I never gamble. I used all of $4 in Reno & handed the rest of my complimentary chips to my daughter. Plus I felt stupid using a slot machine. My parents used to have a card club, but they only bet pennies. That was in their budget. I just could not be in the kind of game where I’d lose more than $5 in a night!

  8. JT says

    My poker problem goes the other way.

    I used to play semi-occasionally with a group of guys. Buy-in was $5. They were super serious about it. I saw it as a $5 expense to have a good time. I went all in with 2-8s and bluff my way to the $$$; I’d call relatively large bets without a chance in hell at winning.

    My playing style wasn’t appreciated. The others took poker way seriously. This wasn’t about a $50 tournament; this was about winner or loser. They’d say “WTF why would you call X with that awful hand?” or “You only had this many outs!?!?!”

    Whatever. It’s $5. It’s hard to feel emotionally connected to $5. If it were $100 a night, I probably wouldn’t have played. But for $5? Forget it. Not even worth learning poker to that extent to play for only $5.

    • Financial Samurai says

      That’s no fun for me. It’s when there is a risk of losing something significant where everything is exciting. Try a $100 buy-in cash game and see how it goes! You’ll have fun and might win too!

  9. Invest It Wisely says

    Hey Sam,

    My playing style is usually similar to yours, haha! I’m surprised that he didn’t show up with top two pair, the way it seemed like everyone liked to gamble!

    I hate losing more than I enjoy winning even when money isn’t involved, so I will feel terrible from a $200 loss, more than I’ll feel happy from a $200 win. I still like to enjoy the game with friends every now and then but decided that focusing on blogging is a less stressful and more enjoyable way of trying to earn a few bucks on the side online, at least for me.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Tight aggressive is how one needs to play…… the problem is, I let my puny blog income trick me into thinking I have much less than reality, and I sometimes just play tight passive! That’s a disaster.

      We gotta all play some poker one day!

  10. Mike Hunt says

    Nice playing, Sam. At least you are not a total fish.

    Were you able to find out what your opponent held? I guess it was the good old A-K?

    -Mike

    • Financial Samurai says

      Donno man. He wouldn’t show. I really try and show an either weakling persona so that people can push me around, and not know that I have a deep balance sheet, or I try to be the intimidator. That night was me being the former.

      Maybe AK or lower pocket pair that missed a set indeed.

      • Mike Hunt says

        Isn’t it funny that you always remember the hands you win big on as well as the hands that knock you out?

        With persona strategy, the key is when you bluff you do not want to get called… so it is a balance between getting a rock solid persona and bluffing some pot take downs, if you never get called you are probably not bluffing enough.

        The other side is you can act like the intimidating manic and then play a less aggressive version of the same strategy when you pick up a monster.

        Poker is a great game that builds up your psychological, interpersonal and business skills.

        -Mike

  11. My University Money says

    I personally like poker as well (what was the guy thinking betting into you that hard if he had nothing, and you were an obviously conservative player who had raised pre-flop and after the flop?!), but my true love is fantasy football. I’m in about 7 leagues now, my rationale for joining more is that if I’m doing all the research anyway, I may as well make the most efficient use of it. I would say fantasy football is probably close to the 60/40 skill/luck split that you attribute to poker as well. I have never missed the playoffs in any league I’ve been in, and I would say I finish “in the money” about 70% of the time. That being said, if I looked at it in terms of a return on time invested, it would be absolutely terrible. I choose to look at it from the viewpoint that I love playing it, so it really doubles as entertainment for me, and I would be “wasting” a lot of Sundays watching football anyway!

  12. MoneyPerk says

    The only poker that I have played are harmless $5-$10 buy ins. I don’t think I would ever have the guts to play in over a $100 buy in. I think I am a decent poker player for amateur. But, It’s something that I know is very addicting, and is something I would have trouble with if I got that rush feeling you are talking about.

    My weak spot though, is NFL fantasy football! It’s really addicting, but its only $50 for the season, so it’s not that big of a deal to me. Still, it is gambling and the odds seems to be always against you if luck isn’t on your side. There isn’t much skill in fantasy football, with player injuries and different game match-ups week to week, makes it way more luck than anything else.

  13. Buck Inspire says

    Exciting post. In another life, I dreamed of being the next Chris Moneymaker and playing in the big show in Vegas. I may be even tighter than you so it never panned out. To win big, I think you also have to bet big. My idea of big is 10 bucks. I eventually woke up and started blogging. The adrenaline does start to pump during big pot showdowns!

  14. Brian says

    There’s nothing like that feeling you describe, your heart pounding, hoping someone doesn’t draw out on you, you think you’ve got the best hand, etc. Then hands shaking when you’re raking and stacking a big pot.

    I used to go to the local casino almost every weekend, until I bought my first place. Then I started looking at money differrently. If I lost $400, that was a table I could have bought.

    I play several times a year now, mainly in Vegas.

    What I do, if the cards are running bad, is just really tighten up my game and only play premium hands.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Brian, great to hear from you. It is funny how having a mortgage, children, or becoming an entrepreneur changes how we look at poker and gambling yeah? As someone who no longer has any W2 income anymore, I do not enjoy playing poker as much as I once did.

      How did you find my post anyhoo curious to know?

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