Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy


When Pros Lose Interest In Poker

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Oct 13, '10


A few days ago I posted a blog, “I’ve lost interest in poker.” After reading it, JohnnyOnTheSpot commented: “Alan, while your advice is good for this person, do you have any suggestions for someone who plays poker professionally? If that person loses their drive to go out and play poker — not permanently, but for what is likely to be an extended period of time — how can they deal with it? Obviously they can’t stop playing if it’s their only source of income, but they also get screwed if they play because they aren’t in the right mindset. Seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.”

Since I’m not a pro, I didn’t have a good answer. So I emailed the question to three friends who play professionally. Here are their answers.

Roy Cooke wrote, “This is major issue regarding playing for a living and is the cause of many good pros going broke. Once your desire fades your ability to play fades with it. In all people’s lives events will happen that will affect the players’ focus. You need to plan in advance that these events will take place and build a bankroll that is healthy enough that you can take a significant break from playing.

Take that break and make the break longer than when you start feeling you want to play. Don’t come back until your heart is REALLY in it.

If you are playing for a living with no other safety net, life management is just as important as bankroll management. Keep your life simple; keep personal problems to a minimum. Maintaining a professional level of play over the years is much harder than learning to play at that level. This is why so few players survive the test of time!

Matt Lessinger wrote, “The only thing I might specifically add is that the ‘little income’ is probably the main reason he’s not compelled to play poker. When the losses hurt more than usual, which it sounds like they would in his case, then the desire to play goes down because you don’t want to experience the more-painful-than-usual feeling after a loss. The wins don’t feel as good either, because the money usually has to go directly to pay a bill or something, and you don’t even get the chance to experience the enjoyment of the win…

I’ve been waiting for the time when I don’t feel like playing anymore, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes I feel like taking a day or two off, but I’m typically ready to play again after that. The times I’ve taken a week off to visit family or do something else, I’ve been very ready to get back to playing.

Barry Tanenbaum wrote, “I agree with Matt. But consider: Professional poker is a job. Not everyone looks forward to going to work. But you go and do your job. Just like an office job, or manual labor, or anything else, you do the work because you need the money.

“I know some pros who became dealers, floor persons, or casino security because they lost their desire (and with it their edge) and stayed in the business because of their connections and because they understood the new tasks. So the real question is not that this person lost their will to play, but did they also lose the ability to focus, concentrate or do whatever else gave them a wining ability? If just playing tight got them the money, then fine. They can do that. If it was creativity and imagination that went along with their desire, they had best find a new source of income quickly. Or at a minimum, try something to revise the spark: play a different game, change casinos or cities, or something.

Thanks Barry, Matt, and Roy. I feel very lucky to have friends who help me, not just with my writing, but also with my playing and many other stresses and problems. Without them I couldn’t cope. I urge you to develop relationships with people who will provide you with whatever help you need.

Help – including psychological support during rough times – is particularly important for pros. Without it, the financial and emotional swings can be too tough to handle. I’ll have a lot more to say about this subject here and in my Card Player magazine columns. In fact, the most recent issue begins a series, “Which Help Should You Get?”

If you want to improve your game and yourself, you need help. Make sure you choose the right kinds.

If you have a question, please add it in any comment section, or e-mail me Before emailing, please check my first blog, “What is poker psychology coaching?”

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


almost 11 years ago

This is pure Gold Al.

I am please to see your still coorisponding with Matt , Barry and Roy. I do chat with Barry form time to time but havent spoken with Roy or Matt in many years. its great to here they are still in the loop.


almost 11 years ago

First off I would like to say that your book "Poker Winners Are Different" really helped me tremendously in developing a solid approach to winning consistently. In fact, it may be tiime for me to read it to get those ideas fresh in my mind again! I completely agree that having supportive poker friends is so important to surviving in this game. Every time I feel like I just can't take it anymore, a good friend of mine will swoop in and pick me up. I know they know what I'm feeling because they have been there before. I feel very lucky to have such good poker friends and I cannot imagine where I would be without them.


almost 11 years ago

I feel exactly the same way about "poker buddies."

EVERYBODY needs them, right up to Doyle and Chip.

In fact, Doyle said so in his autobiography.

Anyone who doesn't have one or two should make it a top priority to create a poker buddy relationship.

Better yet, start a poker discussion group.

I published an article in Card Player about discussion groups in 2003 or so. You can find it on this website.

ALL of you are invited to attend meetings of the two discussion groups we have here in Las Vegas. We've had visitors from all over the world, and we go out of our way to make them feel welcome.

Newsletterbanner Twitterbanner Fbbanner

Most Viewed Blogs