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Lifestyle Costs, But I'm Fighting Back

by Roy Winston |  Published: Aug 29, '09


Next month I will reach the two-year point of playing poker professionally. I am often asked what makes a poker play, a “professional” poker player. The answer is both simple and complex. On the surface, if you are playing pretty much full time and it is your principle “vocation,” then you are by definition a professional.

One of the major negative factors, which affected me over the last couple of years, has been my getting out of shape. Ten years ago I was doing triathlons and in the best shape of my life, three years ago I was still running and hiking several times a week and in ok shape. By this May I had gained 20 lbs and had stopped any and all exercise. Finally in mid June I got sick of it and decided enough is enough. As a physician, I know just how bad inactivity is and how the longer you let it go the tougher it gets. Let’s face it, the poker life style is not really conducive to a healthy lifestyle. I began running and spending some time in the gym with a trainer. I didn’t think I really needed a trainer, but being put on a schedule, and having to show up, coupled with paying someone helped me stick to the commitment. I have also tried to eat better.

It has been almost 10 weeks now and I still get to the gym regularly, have dropped 12 lbs and am running 5 miles 3-5 times a week. I think part of the reason I’m writing this is to push me to continue, I have 8 more pounds to go and then want to stay in shape.

I do believe that being in decent physical shape helps you focus while playing poker. Although poker is not physically demanding, the continued mental acuity that it requires is a lot like my two other careers, anesthesiology and flying. Both have been described as hours of boredom separated by moments of terror. Poker can have some of the same elements. You may play long sessions of 8 to 12 hours or even more at times. In the main event of the WSOP in 2007 I played 5, 14-hour days, which was very mentally draining. The summer before I flew across the country in a restored Navy trainer/fighter, a North American T28. (This is the actual plane ) I started in Palm Springs CA and hop scotched cross-country over a few days, winding up at my parents place in Massachusetts. When the time came to return home I left early in the morning, made 4 fuel stops and was home in Palm Springs by 10pm, which was a lot of flying with no autopilot. There is no way I could physically have made a flight like that 2 months ago, but I’m getting there.

I believe that my improved physical condition has begun to pay dividends in my poker game. By that I mean that my head is clearer and my mental focus stronger. I guess I will just have to wait and see what happens over the next year.

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: or send an email to: with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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