When we were down in the Bahamas in the beginning of January, I did an interview with Lance Bradley, President and Editor in Chief of Pocketfives.com, where he asked me something to the tune of “How do you balance everything you have going on between poker, parenting and the streaming/creating content?” I don’t remember exactly what my answer was… I think I talked about how that was something that I was still trying to work on and that I had to get better at it. I’ve thought about this a lot because so many people ask me about it or say “I don’t know how you do it”. Now that a lot of poker players from the Moneymaker boom era are in the point of their lives where they are starting families, I thought it was a good idea to write about what I think I’ve learned over the years as a poker playing dad/husband. I think these thoughts apply for anyone not just poker players so even if you aren’t a poker player maybe you can take something away from this.
1. Compartmentalization and scheduling of time
Poker is tough when it comes to scheduling. You are in charge of your own schedule and you have to be accountable to yourself. There is no one there to make sure you play or to make sure you play your best. Additionally, it’s not easy to make a set schedule as there are a ton of variables in play. If you play tournaments you could be playing anywhere from 1 minute to 5 days. If you play cash, the game could be so good that you need to play for a long time or it could be bad and maybe you decide that it’s not worth your time. When you throw a family into the mix, figuring out an optimal schedule is absolutely necessary. There are so many things that come up unexpectedly. I’ve always had the most success when Jody and I are able to sit down and work out the schedule for the week and if I’m attempting to work 30 hours a week I try to give myself 45 hours on the schedule to account for the variables.
The second part of this is the compartmentalization aspect. You have to be able to separate your job from your family life. You need to have clearly defined work and home hours. It’s really important to try to just do your best to make your decisions in each of these roles and then let go of them. When you are trying to balance all of this stuff between family and poker, you have to compartmentalize and just be 100% there for each of them rather than mentally in the other place. If you are always thinking about poker when you are with your family and always thinking about what’s going on with the family when you are trying to focus on poker it’s going to be very difficult to have success with either.
If you read any of my content, you can probably guess what I will recommend for help with being present: meditation. It helps me organize my thoughts better and stay in the moment when I need to be and not worry about the past or the future. Almost all stress exists in those two places so if you can exercise your brain to stay in the present it helps so much in the compartmentalization aspect. As always this is far easier said then done.
2. Support of significant other/A healthy relationship
In order to be successful balancing poker and family, it is absolutely essential that you have the support and belief of your significant other. 11 years ago Jody was 6 months pregnant with Ava when she got laid off from her job. She had recently graduated from Drexel with a degree in Information Systems and was working in her career field. Things with poker were going well so after Ava was born she decided not to go back to her career and instead focus on taking care of Ava and allowing me to focus on achieving my dreams. This was a massive sacrifice for her to make and it relied on her belief in me while subsequently putting her dreams on the backburner . Throughout all of the ups and downs in my career she has always been there to support me and that belief has never wavered. She was with me at the bottom when we had nothing and she has always trusted my judgement. There is zero chance I’d be able to succeed in poker without her by my side. I’m excited for her because now that our kids are a bit older she will have more opportunities to focus on herself and building a career.
Having a healthy relationship and a supportive significant other make it so much easier to focus on playing your best. As with any relationship, communicating with each other is essential. It’s important to work out your schedule so that each of your needs are met and your relationship doesn’t get pushed to the background with all of the chaos going on.
3. A strong mental game specifically with mindfulness.
This last one kind of ties everything together. In both poker and parenting there are going to be massive highs and lows. You have to be so mentally and emotionally strong for both. The feelings that come up when you get your aces cracked for the 18th time in a week are not that much different from when your kid is losing their mind in the middle of the store for whatever random reason they came up with that day. They both require an incredible amount of patience and the ability to stay calm when it feels like nothing is going right. This is where the mindfulness and compartmentalization comes in and being able to be present in each moment and separate the poker from the family. Mixing the two is almost always a recipe for disaster. You have to be able to stay even keeled and not get too high or too low and you have to be in a good place mentally to be able to handle the swings because there will surely be many.
Hopefully these thoughts will help some of you. I’m sure I’ll have many more on the topic and if anyone has any comments or thoughts please reach out to me to share them!