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Old 09-12-2016, 09:54 AM   #1
EagleEYE19
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I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga Studio

VIEW: I know from first hand experience that the typical poker player’s lifestyle can become completely toxic from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. After realizing that my lifestyle was having deleterious effects on my health I chose to retire from poker. I am not saying that anyone else should do what I did. What I am saying is that poker players are in a high risk group for developing serious health conditions because of their exposure to chronic stress and other poor work conditions. Because of this poker players need to take extra steps–meaning doing more than just going to the gym and “eating well”–to maintain their health and continue to play at a high level.

**The purpose of this post is to share my experience. This is not an “I quit poker and you should too”, thread.**

TL;DR
  • I retired from poker a year and a half ago after making $150k+ ($85/hour) as a full time live pro.
  • After quitting I took a part time job at a Yoga studio making $10/hour.
  • I had a 35k bankroll and no debt when I quit.
  • I am now a certified Yoga instructor–currently teaching in Southeast Asia–and a health coach.
  • I run a blog and also produce a weekly podcast about healthy living, nutrition and Yoga.
  • I feel happier and more fulfilled with my new lifestyle.

Reasons Why I Quit:
  • “Bad vibes” in casinos were affecting me emotionally and damaging my health.
  • Sitting for long hours was causing me intense back pain.
  • I was suppressing my emotions both on and off the poker table leading to problems in my relationships.
  • Food and water quality in my home casino was extremely low.
  • The late night schedule was throwing off my natural sleeping pattern causing tormenting insomnia.
  • I didn’t feel fulfilled because I felt that I was taking from life and not giving much back.
  • I lost my passion for poker and didn’t want to do the necessary work anymore to improve my game.
  • I was running bad. (ldo)

A Brief History of my Poker Career.

I discovered 2+2 in 2006 after having received “Harrington on Hold'em’” as a Christmas gift. I learned a lot from reading this forum and I never would have achieved my longtime dream of becoming a professional poker player without you guys, so thank you.

I started off my live poker career by playing 1c/2c cash games with friends in my parents basement. Word about the game spread throughout my high school and soon we had two full tables of 10c/25c running every weekend. Winning my buddies allowance money got old pretty quick and I moved on to sneaking into card rooms. I remember being scared ****less when I was 17 and a bouncer asked me to see my ID.

I hit a 2k bankroll about five different times during my senior year of high school but usually went bust by raising J6s from the HJ over 5 limpers. My early live career came to a screeching halt after a friend published an article in the school paper about me with a few too many details concerning my after school gambling habits. The card room caught wind of the article and raised their age limit from 18 to 21. I didn’t return for a long time after having overheard the owner say, “If we ever catch that kid in here we’re going to kick the **** outta him.” (The age limit change hurt their business)

After that I shifted my focus to the online world and during my sophomore year of college I paid rent by 20 tabling low-stakes MTTs. Black Friday was a serious buzzkill for me (although all of my money was on stars–what a luckbox!). After Black Friday I went broke many times trying to beat 1-2 NL lives games (It took me so long to learn that no one folds!).

Finally, after working at a 9-5 desk job for a whole summer I managed to save $3,500 and was finally able to beat 1-2 live games by just nitting it up. I quickly rose to 2-5 and by the end of my senior year of college I had amassed an 18k bankroll. Two weeks after graduation I packed all of my belongings into my jeep and headed off to Vegas for the WSOP. I grinded 2-5 for the whole summer in some pretty juicy side games. At the end of the summer I moved to Los Angeles, and soon after that moved up to 5-10.

I was a reg at Commerce for about a year and a half and did very well in their 5-10 500min-1500max game. The last three months before I quit were extremely rough. I was playing 40-60 hours a week and typically wouldn’t head home until sunrise. I remember one stretch where I played 19 days in a row on that schedule. I was running bad and playing bad. It’s hard to play well when you’re still tilted from the night before, the week before and the month before. Amazingly over those three months of craziest swings of my life–both on and off the poker table–I managed to make a 3k profit! (brag but not really)

The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back–I Retire From Poker.

On the last hand I ever played in a casino I turned JJ into a bluff OTR on a AQ9 K 8 board and got snap-called by a limped AK pre-flop (He flatted my turn raise–after the flop checked around–and checked the river. I got owned!). I guess you could say that this was the straw that broke the camel's back. This gives real truth to one of the more famous quotes commonly heard in live games, “I hate pocket jacks”. I lost just over a thousand dollars on that hand, but still managed to book a 1k win for the last session I ever played as a pro. (thinly veiled brag)

On the drive home I remember feeling a strong emotional pain in my chest. It was a pain I was all too familiar with. It tended to be especially strong after having donked off precious stacks on kamikaze triple barrel bluffs. I realized in that moment that I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. The next day I didn’t play poker. The day after that I decided to take another day off, which was uncommon for me at the time. The day after that I was enjoying a sunset surf session with a buddy at Venice Beach near my home and he asked me if I was headed off to the casino for the night. I paused for a moment and seemingly out of nowhere–and pretty spontaneously–I just replied, “I think I’m done with poker.”

Probably not coincidentally I had begun a 200 hour Yoga teacher training course the week previous to my pocket jacks induced career-ending case of life-tilt. I started working at the Yoga studio–just for a few hours a week–during my training and accepted $10/hour as compensation. I didn’t take that job because I needed the money. I had 35k in cash and no debt when I decided to retire.

The reason I decided to work at the Yoga studio was because I wanted to immerse myself in something totally different from the poker world. Working at the Yoga studio was an incredibly humbling experience for me. I was used to yelling, “service!” or, “floor!” and having the casino employees running over to me like servants to a master. All of a sudden I was transformed into the guy mopping the sweat drenched floor after Yoga class. At first I remember feeling very arrogant; like I was above the work. I can remember waiting until everyone had left the studio after the last class of the night so that no one would see me taking the trash out.

I completed the teacher training–becoming a certified Yoga instructor–and began teaching in the Los Angeles area. It was so weird being surrounded by Yoga teachers and students as opposed to a bunch of angry old men at a poker table. People were genuinely nice to me and it wasn’t because they wanted me to loosen up my pre-flop range! Don’t get me wrong here, because I’m not saying there aren’t genuinely nice people in the poker world, there for sure are.

Stories From my Last Three Months as a pro.

Through my whole career I was always a pretty big nit in terms of -EV or neutral EV gambling. Tilt can do strange things to a man though. One day I was sitting at Commerce eating a chicken salad and ended up losing $1700 in 10 minutes playing red or black with the flop. That was the most expensive dinner of my life. I’m sure it’s nothing compared to some of you guys, but for a nit like me who wouldn’t even straddle unless every single other player at the table agreed, that was some serious degening.

In one memorable session I was into a 5-10 game for about 8k and ended up getting my whole stack in OTF–against the whale of the century–for a 6k pot at 6am, which was about 10 hours into the session. This dude was a gift from the poker Gods. He would open 7x no matter what if it folded to him, had 100% VPIP and saw 95% of flops for anything under $100 (Commerce regs know exactly who I’m talking about). I held QQ on the 259r flop against his J9o. With nearly 20% of my bankroll in a pile in front of the dealer I very clearly remember thinking, “If he spikes a jack I’m seriously going to kill myself.”

My Mental and Emotional States Became Intimately Connected to the Size of my Bankroll.

Violent thoughts like this one–often suicidal in nature–were pretty common for me when I was massively stuck, tilted from getting dealt a deuce 11 hands in a row or coming off a marathon (sometimes 24 hour) losing session. On the other side of things–when I would flop 10 sets in three hours and win 7k (everybody loves set-day!)–I would feel pretty awesome about myself, although briefly.

I came to realize that my emotional state–and the accompanying thoughts–had become highly dependent upon the ups and the downs of my bankroll. I know that there are many pros out there who can disconnect themselves emotionally from wins and losses. I was one of those pros for a long time, but eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. This is not to say that it’s impossible, but I for one was no longer capable of doing it at the end of my career. I was burned out.

I Meet James–The Health Guru.

Around the time when I made the rather spontaneous decision to quit poker I met a man called James. James is 6' 4, weighs 205 pounds, is so flexible that he can reach both of his legs behind his head, has been sick only once in the last 15 years and is 68 years old! When he first told me his age I was blown away and demanded to see his driver's license. I couldn't believe that a man of his age had achieved such an amazing state of health and I wanted to learn everything that he knew.

Life After Poker–Healing my Body.

James inspired me to take my health into my own hands and he taught me a lot about nutrition, among other things. It was hard work to recover from all of the damage that I had done to my body from poker. For months after my retirement I remember just lying on the couch with very little energy. I know now that I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, a condition that can be caused by chronic stress. Basically the adrenal glands just run out of the raw materials needed to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline after a while.

In the time after retiring from poker I changed my entire lifestyle. I changed everything about my diet even right down to the water I was drinking. I gave up alcohol and smoking pot too (Marijuana was my anti-tilt, 6k losing session cool-down secret). I went all out on getting my health in order because honestly I was just fed up with feeling like **** all the time.

My back was also pretty messed up from sitting long hours with poor posture. It took a lot of hard work on my Yoga mat to fully heal from this. It really is amazing what Yoga can do for the body. When I first tried to touch my toes I could only reach down to my knees and now–after only two years of practice–I can touch both of my palms to the ground. (yoga-brag)

Life After Poker–Healing my Mind.

My mind was a completely different healing project. I learned from experience not to show emotion at the table. Whenever I saw another player show real emotion, I saw weakness. I made a point never to show real emotion at the table and it ended up spilling over into my personal life. People would always comment on my poker face. “You’re making a murderer’s face”, is one comment I distinctly remember receiving from a friend.

It was one thing to conceal my emotions to boost my win-rate, but when it started to leach over into my everyday life I think a line got crossed. Emotions are innately human and suppressing them can have pernicious effects. We’re meant to feel our emotions. I found myself camouflaging feelings in all of my relationships. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. It was just the way I dealt with emotions. It was normal for me, but it was like a cancer on my personal life.

Having done a lot of self reflection in the past year and a half I can now freely express myself and it feels good. I’m sure that many people reading this have no problem at all separating their “poker personality” from their “real personality”. All I’m saying is that I stopped being able to do it and it was affecting my personal relationships in a number of negative ways.

What I’m up to a Year and a Half After Leaving Poker Behind.

For over 10 years poker was my passion and I really loved it. I would spend hours a day reading 2+2 trying to improve my game. If my passion hadn’t died out I would probably still be sitting with the scumbags, telling jokes and dragging the occasional pot.

I’m currently living on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand where I have been teaching Yoga and meditation for the past six months. I also created a healthy lifestyle blog where I share my knowledge on topics such as nutrition and have even had a few of my articles published at a popular blog called elephant journal (writer’s brag). My purpose now is to spread the information I have acquired about health to those who are interested. It’s nice to have a fulfilling purpose.

When I was grinding my purpose was just to make money. I worshipped my bankroll. I worshipped it and wasted it on weed, expensive watches and $20 watered-down mixed drinks. My lifestyle now is similar to online grinders in the sense that I can live anywhere with a wifi connection as long as there aren’t any government regulations against teaching Yoga!

My Cautionary Statement to all Poker Players–Pros and Recreational Players Alike.

Let me say this again. I’m not trying to convince anyone to give up poker. I am however offering a warning. This lifestyle can become extremely toxic from a mental, emotional and physical standpoint. I know this from first hand experience. I wish I would have known, back when I was a grinder, what I know now about nutrition and Yoga. I could have suffered so much less.

I remember the tormenting back spasms after sitting long hours with poor posture. I remember not being able to sleep because of repetitively and relentlessly beating myself up for hero calling with ace-high. I remember not being able to take a **** for three days at a time, which is a condition I now know can be caused by poor diet and excessive stress, among other things. I wouldn’t even wish my poker-induced digestive issues onto the biggest of the NVG-trolls.

As poker players we are in a high risk group for developing severe health conditions as a result of chronic stress, emotional turmoil and other poor work conditions. The links between chronic stress and diseases such as cancer, heart disease and a number of autoimmune conditions are well documented.

Think about it like this. Athletes are in high risk group for injury due to the intense physical activity they subject their bodies to. Because of this athletes take extreme measures to take care of themselves. They utilize ice baths, massages, hydrotherapy and eat diets high in protein and healthy fats to recover faster.

Poker players need to take the same measures to prevent the harmful effects created by sitting for long hours, being exposed to negative energy in casinos (any live pro knows what I’m talking about here) and the chronic stress that so many poker players are subject to. As poker players we put our bodies under stress, but to an even greater degree we put stress on our minds. There are ways to deal with this effectively, ways I wish I would have been aware of while I was playing.

I know that the top players are already probably aware of this and have likely taken the necessary steps to protect themselves. I’m writing this for the new pros, the prospective pros and the pros who may have let their health–both mental and physical–deteriorate to some degree. I’m also writing to the recreational players and the supplemental income players who are exposed to the same kind of conditions, although probably to a lesser degree than the pros.

If an athlete gets injured, its game-over and the paychecks stop coming in. Just ask any of the former NFL players who are broke now. My message is to be like the top athletes and take the steps required to maintain health. Increasing health increases win-rate and the top players know this. I experienced first hand the limitations on my ability to focus during long sessions due to the deteriorating state of my mental and physical health. There is a way to prevent this. It is possible to be a healthy poker player. Good luck, be well and stay inspired my friends.

May the poker Gods be with you,

John
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:05 AM   #2
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Too Calm Didn't Read
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:11 AM   #3
Roc_Xel
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Very cool post, congratz OP.

And good luck ! You probably gained around 15 years of life.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:18 AM   #4
bossman12
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Love to take a look at the health blog.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:31 AM   #5
Bergin
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

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Old 09-12-2016, 10:33 AM   #6
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

^^^ somewhat humurous, but in no way compares to OP's story

great read OP, and nice upgrade to lifesstyle. enjoy
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:41 AM   #7
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

DAMN. This post killed it.
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Old 09-12-2016, 11:02 AM   #8
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Great post man! Very inspirational CAn you send link to your blog?
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Old 09-12-2016, 11:55 AM   #9
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Wow. I almost never read long posts like that, but it was great!
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Old 09-12-2016, 12:25 PM   #10
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Thx for posting this. I met a girl not that long ago who is into yoga -- no instructor-guru, just a casual fan. I feel really positive about doing yoga at home or in the corner of my building's gym. Your post reinforced the advantages of yoga especially when it comes to poker players who spend so much time sitting, often with less than GTO posture. I really enjoyed reading how you started out as flexible as me and can now put your palms flat on the floor, not without a lot of regular, consistent work though I'm sure. I can often get to bed or start the day on the right note simply by stretching for 2 minutes.

Do you feel as though if you were really crushing it and jumping into $10/$20NL and had let's say six figures saved up that it would have been harder for you to quit? I say this because I know a lot of good poker players who relate to your story, not necessarily super crushers or mega donkament luckboxes, who ask themselves wtf they are doing. They're unhealthy and miserable with poor attitudes, spending the majority of their time around the awful humans that frequent their poker game (Commerce #1!). They reflect and realize that they can work and save up $35k with no debt doing something different all while enjoying things (and others) more, being happy, and feeling proud. I'm not sure if this is your dream, but with some success, being a part owner-manager of a yoga studio in SoCal will yield you more than $75k/year.

We just have to commit ourselves to these efforts and realize that though in the first few days or weeks the familiarity of the poker room is much more our comfort zone, the expected returns and life EV of pursuing something else are much higher.
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Old 09-12-2016, 01:03 PM   #11
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Good post, don't forget to use up all your funds on your Commerce card.
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Old 09-12-2016, 01:08 PM   #12
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Just when I think I'm done with 2p2 it pulls me back in.
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Old 09-12-2016, 03:50 PM   #13
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

if you made $85/hr then you're a much better player than i am.
i would've hopefully figured out a way to incorporate yoga + healthy lifestyle with the poker.
i hope you're not rationalizing - the last reason you stated for quitting poker was run bad.
i agree w/limon - poker is the worst job in the world, except for all the others.
i'm glad you're feeling better. thanks for the thoughtful post and good luck to you.
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Old 09-13-2016, 03:30 AM   #14
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

This is an excellent post, sounds like you made the correct choice for yourself.
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Old 09-13-2016, 10:05 AM   #15
EagleEYE19
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Hey guys, thanks a lot for all of the nice comments, I really appreciate it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ico2525 View Post
Your post reinforced the advantages of yoga especially when it comes to poker players who spend so much time sitting, often with less than GTO posture. I really enjoyed reading how you started out as flexible as me and can now put your palms flat on the floor, not without a lot of regular, consistent work though I'm sure. I can often get to bed or start the day on the right note simply by stretching for 2 minutes.
Less than GTO is right! I think the average poker player’s posture is probably pretty close to the nut-low and you’re spot on in the sense that just stretching for a few minutes a day can be massively +EV. Thanks for the long thoughtful comment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ico2525 View Post
Do you feel as though if you were really crushing it and jumping into $10/$20NL and had let's say six figures saved up that it would have been harder for you to quit?
Quote:
Originally Posted by fizresh View Post
i hope you're not rationalizing - the last reason you stated for quitting poker was run bad.
Yes, 100% it would have been a lot harder to quit if I was crushing it. The three months of run-bad I went through were actually a blessing looking back. If I had continued crushing the way I did in my first year as a pro–making 95k even though I was still playing 2-5 half the year–I for sure wouldn’t have quit. I remember the highs of winning 20k in two weeks. Nobody quits when they’re running like that. I needed to experience myself in a major downswing to really understand the effects poker was having on me. The jubilation of 6 betting all-in with T8o and getting there against AK tends to put a different face on reality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fizresh View Post
i would've hopefully figured out a way to incorporate yoga + healthy lifestyle with the poker.
A few months before I retired is when I really started to take my health more seriously and I began making some big changes. This created a lot of new problems because of my work environment. At a certain point I realized that I kept trying to solve these problems at the level of the problems themselves.

For example, I switched to day games for a while so I could reset my sleep schedule, but quit because it massacred my win-rate. I considered bringing my own meals to the casino because the food and water quality were so poor. I would stretch as much as possible and go for walks to deal with the back pain.

Instead of trying to bend over backwards to satisfy all of my my newly adopted, really high health standards, I just decided to transcend the whole issue and walked away. At the time I didn’t have the proper tools to manage the mental and emotional issues I was dealing with. With everything I know now I could probably make it work–meaning being a healthy poker player–but at the time simply walking away was my best option.

In short, I tried to incorporate healthy lifestyle with poker, but I didn’t have the right tools.
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Old 09-13-2016, 10:08 AM   #16
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Like yoga. Agree very much with your view on poker. Am curious about next post.
Are you now completely lost for poker or would you still play with friends for fun money?
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Old 09-13-2016, 08:33 PM   #17
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

pm link to heathblog please
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Old 09-14-2016, 06:15 AM   #18
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Yes, please update with link to blog....Bikram/Hot Vinyasa six days a week keeps me somewhat sane (and trim), daily meditation helps with that too.

Loved your story.
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Old 09-14-2016, 09:37 AM   #19
EagleEYE19
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Re: I Played 5-10 Live Professionally for 2 Years and Made $150k+ but Quit to Work at a Yoga St

Quote:
Originally Posted by lapka View Post
Like yoga. Agree very much with your view on poker. Am curious about next post.
Are you now completely lost for poker or would you still play with friends for fun money?
About three months after I retired I was getting the urge to play again. I missed the strategy aspect of poker and the mental stimulation. I organized a 10c/25c game with a few friends and we grilled, drank beer and played a little 4 handed game. It was awful. I had to explain the rules to everyone and the action was painstakingly slow. I felt like a professional soccer player coming off a long injury–just itching to get back on the field in the competitive atmosphere–only to be thrown into a match with five year olds. It could have been cool if the 5 year olds wanted to learn soccer. But if they just want to drink juice and talk about Pokemon then it's gonna be lame.

Anyway–strange analogy–but since then I never played again. I think about it sometimes, but I have bigger fish to fry honestly. Hopefully that doesn't come off the wrong way, there's nothing wrong with playing poker, it just doesn't stimulate me the way it used to.
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