Anyone else here sometimes feel depressed when playing?
I love the game, I enjoy playing the game. winning player playing midstakes omaha.
I'll sit down, fire up 4 tables and start grinding. And everything is fine.
But sometimes my mind starts to wonder and something about grinding poker just makes me feel like the world is pointless. I think it may be related to the psychology of ignoring short term results in poker (nothing external matters, the only thing that matters is how you execute).
I feel happy normally when I'm not grinding, I feel fulfilled and satisfied with my relationship with poker.
I wouldn't describe myself as lonely or depressed or anything.
Just something about grinding makes me dis-attach from the rest of the world
Yes and no. I've felt dread, depressed, morbid boredom for lack of a better phrase if I'm not focused on playing, not totally present, not totally engaged. But tbh that's not a poker exclusive thing I kind of just struggle with mental health issues in general lol.
The idea of poker mentality affecting our perception of the world at large is an interesting one though. I actually think the focusing on process/input instead of results has been an extreme positive to my life overall.
What I think has a more mixed impact on me is thinking about everything in terms of probabilities. Like playing sports as a kid I was coached you practice hard and prepare and then you go onto the field with no doubt in your mind you are going to win, and then when you did lose and it felt absolutely awful, I was taught to be resilient, accept that it happened, and come back with fire to win the next one. It's an extremely emotional experience. Now I look at everything as there is some non-zero chance that I fail, all I get to do is manage my inputs, so I shouldn't care if I win or lose because that's not up to me. It's practical but it's unemotional, makes me feel a little numb, makes me worry I'm actually losing EV by not leveraging the power of irrational confidence, and certainly makes me feel separated from other people who think in more conventional terms.
It's also a little morbid when you think about more serious personal things. There's always a non-zero chance your kid gets hit by a car today. There's always a non-zero chance my wife cheats on me, or divorces me, or kills me in my sleep. I don't even have a wife or kids and that perception scares me. Very similar to poker, I'm able to accept this, and just make my +EV decisions (or -EV decisions) having some decent estimate of my range of outcomes, and even taking pleasure in the fear of risk, especially since I've lived a relatively privileged life. But dealing with bad beats on the river is a lot easier than getting sucked out on in life, and I'm often envious of people who seem to have more confidence, faith, trust, and certainty in people and the universe, even if I know they're on some level wrong for feeling that way, they don't suffer any outcomes that don't actually come to fruition where as I do.
The existential thing comes into play when this mentality is applied at scale. The system is infinite and unsolvable and we have no reasonable estimate of the range of outcomes so developing what we think is a +EV strategy is very likely nonsense, especially when you apply it to the whole human population who almost all have conflicting goals and behavior that aren't aligned with their goals anyway. It seems to me the logical bet is that humanity is not going to survive another 10,000 years (which could be nonsense who knows,) and if that's true some times I feel good doing things that are benevolent or trying to further humanity, and other times I think it's some bs and I should just be more selfish
Like playing sports as a kid I was coached you practice hard and prepare and then you go onto the field with no doubt in your mind you are going to win, and then when you did lose and it felt absolutely awful
I believe in poker holding that mind set would be absolutely torture. It's very natural to be frustrated at bad beats, suck outs, losing streaks etc. I don't believe that conventional thoughts regarding variance would allow a person to succeed in poker long term.
When I started I would get very frustrated at losing in general and now I honestly don't care what happens. Although I am being staked at the moment so it's possible I would feel differently if it was my own money.
I don't care if I get seriously injured crossing the street or something, it feels like as long as I didn't make any misplays (jaywalking, out drunk etc) I "played the situation" fine and it doesn't matter. Same with missing out on a job offer, or getting rejected by a girl.
But I feel like the natural reaction to stuff not going your way is very humanizing. I would even say it's not human to be completely listless about the negative outcomes around you.
It's not a fulfilling life. I was a mtt pro for years and I did well at it but I didn't use the money to move on. There are only so many years you can grind for and be excited about it imo. Either you make it big like become a famous big-time pro or you make enough money to start your own business or do something more rewarding. Too many people treat poker as a job and live off their winnings like wages and have to continue to do it way past the time they should have stopped and then it gets depressing and you are watching your life go by. It can be isolating as well and what are you really doing? trying to take other people's money..
Look at what you want from life. Emotional well-being is important. Poker is all about being emotionless - people preach that and sure it is good in the poker arena but it's not good outside of poker (apart from other similar environments such as trading)
Once you take time away from it you see how trapped a lot of people are in the poker mindset. I can't play poker for more than an hour or two now without starting to feel the dread you speak of 😅 don't ignore it - make plans to move on whilst you still have the capacity to make money from the game because there will come a time when you can't do it any longer
Most of the time, if someone feels depressed whilst playing poker, that depression is caused by something external. You felt sh*t to begin with.
You need to figure out what's causing you to feel so numb. Is it a lack of exercise? Poor diet? Do you have relationship problems? Feeling lonely? Is there a chemical imbalance in your brain? Anxiety or depression? Are you on a downswing? Financial problems?
Originally Posted by KnoxKnoxJoke
Although I am being staked at the moment so it's possible I would feel differently if it was my own money.
The fact that you're being staked already tells me that something has gone wrong in your life. Either:
- You weren't able to put in volume
- You had sudden life expenses
- You had money stolen from you
- You had a tilt problem
- Something else bad happened to you
I don't know which one applies because I don't know your full life story, but you need to figure out what your underlying issues are and work to fix them.
I can almost guarantee that poker isn't the thing making you feel this way.
I personally don’t see being at staked as a bad thing. I’m in an environment where I am able to learn and grow as a player and I know that will benefit me long term. Previously I was largely break even when I would play 100z/200z PLO but I know with the right guidance and study I will be able to beat those stakes and higher.
It is possible I feel this way outside of poker, but only surfaces when I play. I do agree with working on self improvement
i feel that way prior to sessions, esp after a downswing for sure. ESP when income is dependent upon it... i know the dread feeling in your chest. its like trying to get back into a car after a bad crash, or eating mexican food again after sh*tting your guts out in an albertos bathroom.
once the session starts its usually "a new dawn" you just have to man up sit down and power through another burrito, so to speak.
Like some people have alluded to, it sucks HAVING to play for $, and is best served as a means to an end. Just like burnout at any job.
also, yeah, if you're like that DURING session - time to log off.
But sometimes my mind starts to wonder and something about grinding poker just makes me feel like the world is pointless. I think it may be related to the psychology of ignoring short term results in poker
My hypothesis on it is it comes from conceptualizing too much. Rickroll mentioned you maybe autopilot too much that is why your mind wanders off and that too imo would come from conceptualizing too much.
When I was in 7th grade, I read the book "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. I was fascinated by that book, explaining modern physics, both astronomic phenomena as well as particle physics. I became obsessed with it, I read that book twice, then read other books on physics and for a while all I could think about were the theories of Einstein, quantum physics etc.
At some point I became really depressed though, thinking "man, they figured almost everything in the universe already out", which of course is not even close to true, but in my mind at the time that is how I perceived it. It was only much later, when I realized how much I became stuck in conceptualizing and stopped questioning and wondering. I had given way too much authority to the information I had picked up and I did not allow room for new possibilities anymore.
By now it is clear that alot of the stuff that I read back then might not stand the test of time, new discoveries lead to new theories in physics etc.
We all know those stories from history when people thought they have figured it all out and vehemently fought against revolutionaries who were about to change the world view of the whole human population. There we can see the ignorance, when we look back in time. But this same thing is still prevelant in every one of us today.
The moment you think the game is solved and you can not learn new things anymore, or all you can do is finetune your mechanic actions, I think that is the moment you put yourself in danger of not learning as much anymore as you could with a more open mind and the same thing can also lead to depressive feelings as with me when I read that book and thought physics is solved.
I think one always needs to challenge their own mind and preconceptions about everything. Whatever we do there needs to not only be a mechanic, scientific way to it, I believe we also need to maintain a certain level of constant wonder and mystery, wanting to find out more.
Depression and existential dread are different things in my mind. That being said, yes I feel sad when playing, most often when on a downswing or BE stretch, but go through a few $10k downswings and you develop Stockholm syndrome and just accept it/become numb.
I tend not to feel "existential dread" while playing since poker serves as a decent distraction, at least while I am engaged. (Sounds like you may not be totally engaged.)
There's a tendency to focus too much on our own gain in poker especially, which might contribute to the "nothing matters" mentality. Well, if all you do is take money from other people, you might start to think your existence is pointless. Some balance with charitable or other good deeds is probably a good idea. Try feeding the homeless or volunteering at an animal shelter, or donating to charities like GiveWell.