How do you play poker online without getting an unhealthy addiction?
July 27, 2007 11:51 PM   Subscribe

How do you play poker online without getting an unhealthy addiction?

I like to play poker. I am a novice and don't bet big (e.g. biggest hand won was $25). This week though (my second week of playing regularly online) I've noticed some addictive behaviour. This has challenged me to stop playing immediately and take a step back and evaluate things. Yes online articles have helped some although advice from people who have a system in place to enjoy but not get consumed by the game would be great. Can it be done?
posted by sjvilla79 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It can be done, but I think you have to not have a tendency towards addictive behavior. I have a good friend who plays a lot of poker (online & in person) as a hobby, but it's just a hobby to him, he enjoys it but he doesn't get emotional over it or feel addictive about it. I showed him your question and he said pretty much that you just have to not have that addictive personality.

He also said that Pokerstars has stuff built in to force you to limit the amount you spend, so you might want to look into that.
posted by tastybrains at 12:33 AM on July 28, 2007

Best answer: If you think online poker is potentially addicting, stay away from online blackjack. You go through hands so fast, it's poison.

Just try to set aside a rough amount of time before you sit. As you approach it, try and mentally prepare yourself that time is winding down, and just play good cards (don't decide to get foxy with 5-7 suited). And when you decide it's your final round of hands, it's usually a good idea to wait until just before the blinds come to you. And you can avoid that "one more hand" syndrome.

And it depends on how well you're playing at a table. If you seem to be one of the better players there and are doing well, keep playing as well as you can before leaving (but be careful about getting carried away). If not, cut your losses and try another day. Don't get pressured into making your money back in the final ten minutes.

Another option is to learn and try multi-table tournaments, and when you get knocked out, log off and wait till tomorrow. In either case, poker is a long-term game, so don't get too focused on one day's results. Your profit/loss total isn't final until you either quit forever, or die. And it isn't even how much you win, it's how well you think you're playing (entirely different concepts)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:04 AM on July 28, 2007

OK, this violates all guidelines, but I'll say it anyway: if you worry about being an addict, you're an addict.

My rule is to never spend more in an evening of online poker than I would spend for a night out. If I get down by $100, I'm out, see yah. If I'm up and playing with house money, I'll press, but I usually lose it all when I do that, cuz the more I play the looser I get.

Right now, I'm up about $300 on the year, so I consider myself a Godly Poker Player and able to dispense Useful Advice. Ask me next month when I'm down $250, and I'll advise you to find another hobby.

I once spent an evening at a blackjack table in Mississippi and I heard the most valuable gambling advice yet: "I go to work to make money, I'm here to have fun."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:42 AM on July 28, 2007

Playing cards ain't fun, it's a get-rich scheme. But sometimes it takes a while to get rich. And it's hard to stay rich.

I'm half-kidding here, but anyone who takes their poker seriously always wants to slap people who say "I'm just here to have fun!"
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:50 AM on July 28, 2007

The question specifically asks about how to not take it too seriously. And I'll join your table any day, and take your money. That'd be fun.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:11 AM on July 28, 2007

Well, it was also about not being consumed by it. You can like playing poker, and you should (it shouldn't be a chore), but you can still take it seriously. And you can take it seriously without letting it take over your life. I'd like to think that's more the issue. Of course, if you really want to play just for fun, there's online play-money and penny games...

Poker doesn't seem like the type of game you can play strictly for fun and not want to get better at and learn more and more about. There is skill involved. I suppose another aspect of potential addiction is learning about it: instructional DVDs, books, magazines, message boards, televised poker...

I'll put it this way. Sure, you can play for fun, but you should also not like losing. Nothing worse than losing a big hand to a guy who says "I'm just playing for fun!"
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:32 AM on July 28, 2007

Step away. Don't tempt fate. Just don't. I know from addictive behavior, and if you have even the slightest concern about your ability to moderate yourself - DON'T DO IT AT ALL.

I have a friend who ruined his life completely by allowing online poker and real life casinos to become the most important thing in his world. He's financially trashed, lost several jobs, had two relationships end very badly, lost the respect of his family and friends, and STILL can't pull back from the tables. It got so bad that he took a detour from visiting his seriously ill mother to hit the casinos first. Sad.

No one trusts him anymore. He's tried to hit up just about everyone for money. He steals. It's bad.

But, it started innocently enough. Just a way to pass the time while he was traveling. Just a way to keep busy when he was living alone. Just a fun little 'hobby.'

Don't risk it. Find something else to occupy your time... something that doesn't have the built-in tragedy that this does.
posted by Corky at 4:45 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, maybe this is obvious, but if you really are just playing for fun, then don't play with real money. is great for this.
posted by tastybrains at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At least for me, I realized that the only way that online poker is actually fun is if you win money consistently. And the only way to win consistently to spend a lot of time learning the game and building your skills. I also realized that, at this point in my life, I don't have the spare time to dedicate to getting good enough to win consistently, so I closed my accounts and got rid of my poker books.

You may be the kind of person who will still enjoy themselves if they are consistently losing (with a few suckout wins here and there). If you are, then just set an amount you are comfortable about losing, chalk it up to entertainment money, and play until that money is gone. If you aren't competitive enough to be bothered by losing, then I doubt the whole "addictive personality" thing would be a problem for you.

However, as I said earlier, I can't imagine doing this for fun if i wasn't winning. YMMV.
posted by jtfowl0 at 10:25 AM on July 28, 2007

If you create compulsion too easy, there's probably no way to do this. There are lots of people who dont gamble or play MMOs (or whatever) because of their personality traits. At least you know your limitation before it got out of hand.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:28 AM on July 28, 2007

Best answer: To people who take their poker seriously (and I have to put myself squarely in this camp) poker is One Long Game - as the saying goes, "sex is better, but poker lasts longer." The speed of play in online poker, as well as the ability to play multiple tables at once, makes it a particularly dangerous activity if you are prone to compulsive behavior or have trouble setting limits, as there is no reason to get up or stop, except for attending to basic physical needs.

On the other hand, if you are good enough to have a solid edge over the other people you play with and can approach the game with a certain level of detachment, these same conditions (fast play and playing multiple games simultaneously) allow even low stakes players to reap a nice profit. This is where the "one long game" ethos becomes important - you have to be good enough to realize what your edge is, what your opponents' flaws are, and how you can turn their mistakes into your profit. If you can't recognize those things -- if you can't state clearly WHY a particular game is good to be in - then you shouldn't be playing in it.

What does the above have to do with your question? Well, it is very, very hard to play poker seriously in small chunks. The game lends itself to long hours, waiting for ideal situations to develop -- holding good cards in good position, against the right type of opponent. For most of us who play regularly, we develop a sense of how long a session should last, and then, win or lose, we manage to disengage, put it away, and come back to it again the next day. It really is one long game.

Since you just started playing online with regularity, you still have a lot of learning to do. One of the things you need to figure out is if poker is a worthwhile use of your time. Online poker is an oddly solitary activity, and much more solitary than casino poker. It can be cerebral, frustrating, rewarding, exasperating, humbling, and exhilirating, and it can be all of those things in the same session - a powerful mixture of emotions, and that doesn't even take the gambling aspect into consideration. Ultimately, however, you are the only one who can decide if it is a good use of your time.

I played a lot of poker in 2006, almost exclusively online (at home, after the kids were in bed and my wife was asleep). I approached it as a business venture, kept careful records, and by the end of the year I had made a substantial profit - about 130% of my regular income. But to do this I had to take it seriously, and I put in a lot of hours - it was work. I also have a tendency to be compulsive, so I had to be careful and make sure I was playing because I thought I had an edge, and not just because I wanted "action."

I think it's possible to play poker online in a manner that is not compulsive, degenerate, or unhealthy, but I also believe that there's a fine line between playing seriously and playing compulsively, and it sounds like you got a whiff of that. You are the only one who can decide if your poker playing is a healthy or unhealthy pursuit. My suggestion would be to treat it as a business and keep careful records, then evaluate after a few months. The numbers don't lie: if you are good, you'll see a positive result, and if you aren't good, well, that will show up, too. As for the non-financial aspects of playing online - the health and happiness consequences -- those should be apparent as well after a few months.

Good luck ;-)
posted by mosk at 6:08 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

How do you play poker online without getting an unhealthy addiction?

Have a life. Seriously. Have enough other fun, interesting hobbies (working out, mt. biking, photography, playing scrabble, whatever) that online poker isn't the One Big Thing you got going on -- it's just another thing you do once or twice a week.
posted by LordSludge at 10:28 AM on July 30, 2007

Response by poster: I've decided online poker isn't for me. Thanks the feedback everyone. All the answers are great. I'll quit while I'm ahead.
posted by sjvilla79 at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2007

Response by poster: That's thanks for the feedback. Dang it.
posted by sjvilla79 at 10:12 AM on August 11, 2007

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