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I'm Ready To Quit

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Oct 22, '10


A reader praised my books, but said they “depressed him.” Since his email was quite long, I’ll edit it.

“I played over 500k hands of online poker. I crushed 2NL/5NL, but struggled at 10NL, and I am at best a break even player at that level. I am not really a big fan of online poker as the competition is a lot tougher. It’s less enjoyable compared to live.

“I enjoy playing live a lot more and do better there, but that only confirms that I can only beat the weakest of players. I don’t bluff much if any at all. My game is unimaginative and boring. When I bet, I usually have a good to strong hand, but since live is filled with calling stations, I usually get called…

“I quickly discovered that my edge was only as good my cards as I had no other why to win as each pot was multi-way with players who called too much.

“Reading your books made me very depressed because I knew I lacked certain essential traits, had the wrong motives, didn’t really know how to play at an advanced level, overestimated my abilities, underestimated other players and didn’t know how long the long run was, etc.

“I don’t have the time to put in the hard work or the volume due to life commitments, work, girlfriend, etc…. nor do I have the bankroll to play anything beyond 2NL. It’s really sad.

“Maybe you think that’s excuses for not wanting to improve how I play poker (I want to improve), but the reality is I am not good enough. I will never be making a living of poker…

“To think of the money, time, effort, energy etc. already spent to improve my laughable poker skills, I have dozens of books in my room I now wish to get rid of.

“So where does that leave me in regard to poker? Do I become another donator, another losing statistic in the player pool? Do I grind another 100k hands at 2NL only to move up to 10NL where I can’t beat anyone but the softest players? Do I play 200NL live where I will be playing outside my bankroll and taking the occasional shot there once a month?

“Let’s be honest. Even if I trained, got a coach, followed good bankroll management, read the best of books, I truly believe I couldn’t beat 50NL because I am not good enough.”

End of his email.

My first reaction was that nearly everyone occasionally feels this way.

My second reaction was that he is more honest than most players. Hardly anyone says, “I am not good enough.” In fact, I wrote an article you can read at this website, “I’m Quitting This #%&@ Game!” (1/3/03) It didn’t even mention the belief that “I’m not good enough.”

On the contrary, most players aren’t as good as they think they are. They deny that painful reality with bad beat stories and other excuses for their disappointing results. So his honesty is a huge, rare asset. Because he recognizes his limitations, he can make more intelligent decisions.

But that doesn’t solve his problem. It really bothers him to see that his dream will never be fulfilled: “I will never be making a living of poker.”

I can certainly understand his feelings. I’d love to make a living playing poker, but I’m not good enough either. Neither are tens of thousands of other wannabes.

My poker discussion group once spent a lot of time on this issue. Two members are famous pros. They said that an excellent $15-$30 player’s chances of making it as a full-time pro are between 1/200 and 1/50.

That was before people multitabled online and got rakeback. So it’s probably a bit easier now, but the undeniable fact is that most wannabes don’t make it as pros.

So, should he quit? I’m not sure. Let me quote from my article: “Poker is a game, and games should be played for pleasure. If it’s not fun, don’t play. Even if poker pays your bills, you should quit if you don’t enjoy it. Your life is too short and precious to waste on a ‘job’ that makes you miserable.”

Let’s look again at his email. He wrote, “I enjoy playing live a lot more and do better there.” So it sounds to me as though he should stop playing online and play at whatever level he can beat in live games.

I must add that for some people it’s not critically important to win. In DUCY? David Sklansky and I had a chapter titled, “Some Bad Bets Are OK.” It said that it’s OK to lose a little at poker or other games if:
• You can afford the money you lose, and
• The pleasure you get is more valuable to you than the money.

Since his results really bother him, that principle does not apply to him, but it may apply to you. I hope that you think about his email and my comments, and then answer a few questions in the COMMENTS box.
1. Do you think he should quit?
2. If he should keep playing, what would you recommend?
3. Do you ever get so depressed about poker that you think of quitting?
4. If so, when and why?
5. What do you do about it?

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


over 11 years ago

1. of course not. making a living isn't the only reason poker is a great game.

2. decide where your poker priorities lay. is it more important to make money or challenge yourself or have fun. when you have your answer act accordingly.

3. of course

4. as an online mtt'er when you hit one of those bad runs it can really suck the life out of you.

5. depends on how bad it gets. usually I just fire up another tourney as one deep run is all it takes to get out of the "dumps." but if I'm on a really bad stretch I will just walk away for a few days. after a week I'm dying to play again.


over 11 years ago

Keeping in mind: “I don’t have the time to put in the hard work or the volume due to life commitments, work, girlfriend, etc…. nor do I have the bankroll to play anything beyond 2NL. It’s really sad," I'll take a stab at #1:

The thing he really needs to quit is the way he thinks. Anyone who wishes to improve at something but doesn't want to (or can't) put in the time and effort to make it happen is just fooling himself.

Advice? Play your best poker game at your comfort level and have fun. Otherwise, get a dart board. That's fun, too.


over 11 years ago

This is it:

"Poker is a game, and games should be played for pleasure"

You recently noted in another article to ask ourselves - why do I play poker? - and it made me think about my motivation(s). I like a lot of different games and when I think about them they are mostly solo pursuits. I defined it years ago on a poker forum as a hobby. I had not seen anyone else describe it that way before and yes it probably was not an original thought.

I think the author of the email needs a good night sleep, try double digits. As a previous commenter wrote: what 'he really needs to quit is the way he thinks'

Tomorrow I'm going to play in a massive freeroll. Since we bought a larger more expensive house and are trying to keep the old condo as a rental property, I don't have a bankroll anymore. Should be fun.


over 11 years ago

I look forward to my question being answered Alan. Guys, if you have a serious question in terms of thought processes, give him a shout, he's happy to help you!


over 11 years ago

"ScaredWithAces" sent me an email about his "Monsters Under The Bed." I started to write a blog on it, but realized that the topic is so important that it merits an article in Card Player. Accordingly, I've drafted an article that will appear in about six weeks. That's the earliest it can get out.

More generally, I'm getting requests for ways to cope with destructive feelings. Two future blogs or articles will discuss coping with guilt feelings.

If you have a problem with feelings, let's discuss it.


11 years ago

Hi, I made a mistake by saying six weeks. There are other articles in the pipeline, which will make the delay longer.


11 years ago

1. “I don’t have the time to put in the hard work or the volume"
(expect a negative expectation then) This is absolutely necessary.

2. Don't be so hard on yourself. Poker can be brutal. Accept that you might not have the commitment or bankroll currently to try to play poker for a living(for now). I would recommend lowering the "making a living expectation" from poker to "making some side money" while you continue to work on your game. Also, don't be so results oriented.. be more concerned with making good decisions and +ev plays. Increase your knowledge of game theory and understand why certain things happen. Be honest with yourself regarding the true nature of your mistakes versus variance, bad beats, bad games and the like. It sounds like you play in L.A., the nature of those live "capped games" you are playing in... high variance, little fold equity, % poker for the most part.. are very frustrating in general. With all the multiway action pre-flop you get huge pots with little money behind. Like I said, higher variance. In L.A. they make it hard to have a decent edge unless you play big and then you need both the bankroll and a higher level of expertise.

3. Yes, but not really. I hate to lose. I like to win. Your control over outcomes is limited in poker. Variance and bad beats are brutal when they transistion into a downswing.

4. See above. My money is always in as a favorite. I actually play better deep... I love snapping off those $300 river bluffs. L.A. needs better structure @ lower/middle NLlimits(and less rake, but good luck).

5. Build my bankroll so I can consitently play deep. $5/$10 in L.A. (or move to vegas..) Current bankrol: 20k Current downswing: 5k winrate: $30-$40hr Playing poker fultime 40 to 50 hours a week for 2 years. Current leaks: Occasional tilt, loose play due to tilt or boredom, fancy play syndrome. boredom @ lower / middle stakes. Contempt for bad players... I mean I love them.. but I hate them too. So ego. Playing when tired. Trying to get even after bad beats. Hmmm, maybe I need to take a break too.

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