Poker is pretty luxurious these days. Hollywood has made the game cool and sexy. People are likelier to associate it with lavish excess than a dark, dangerous underworld.

However, poker isn’t quite as glam in the real world as those in the industry will know.

While it does have its moments of luxury, the game is incredibly complicated and takes complete dedication to master.

For many, poker becomes part of their identity.

This relationship can be a good thing: It can change their worldview, how they overcome adversity, and how they manage tough life decisions daily.

  • But what happens if passion becomes an obsession and starts interfering with other areas of your life?
  • What if your first thought when waking up in the morning is where to play poker in Las Vegas?

Today, we will examine some of the lifestyle challenges associated with poker and the importance of a healthy work/social-life balance.

Friends and Relationships

The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Friends
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Friends

Since poker players have the luxury of choosing when they play, you’d expect them to have a pretty flexible schedule. While this is technically true, a poker player’s win rate is heavily linked to the quality of their opposition, meaning they must select their games carefully.

This fact results in far less freedom than you might think, so making time for friends is difficult, especially for professional players.

  • Good games ran around the clock a few decades ago, but the segregation of online poker markets changed things a lot. It divided the player pool and made it challenging to play across time zones.
  • s a result, fewer recreational players are active during daytime hours (since most are at work). So, there are more reg-infested games that are much tougher than those available in the evenings and at weekends. This factor makes it much harder to turn a profit during the day.

Many poker players understand this and often boycott daytime games altogether. They use this time to study poker combos, rest or do another job instead, saving themselves for the more lucrative evening and weekend poker games. 

The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Scheduling
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Scheduling

Although this helps them maximise their win rate, it’s a strategy that can cause some social issues. In addition to occupying a lot of recreational players’ free time, it puts pros on the exact opposite of the 9-5 schedule.

This conflict of availability makes it tough to spend time with friends outside of the poker community, especially if either of you has other obligations (like a family or a full-time job).

Choose Your Own Holidays?

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 for poker pros in particular. While they can always take a ‘holiday’ to make time for friends, several downsides exist.

Missing Primetime Sessions

The biggest is that making up a primetime poker session during the day is much harder. The games are more challenging then, and your hourly win rate will be lower than usual. So, you will have to play for longer to recoup the money missed by skipping a weaker primetime session.

  • This fact isn’t a complete disaster, but you’re unlikely to find “longer sessions in tougher games” at the top of many people’s Christmas lists!

Explaining to Friends and Family

This concept is difficult to explain to people outside of the poker sphere, which can lead to misunderstandings among friends and family. To them, all poker games are the same.

  • When you refuse to skip a session to go for a beer, they may feel that you’re being selfish or that they aren’t a priority. 
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Explanation
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Explanation

It’s essential to explain why your poker schedule is so anti-social. Remind people that things are often busier and more expensive during the weekend. There’s no quick-fix poker cheat sheet to compensate for this.

This fact makes the missed earnings that come with skipping a session even worse. This explanation should help them see things from your perspective and not take it so personally when you skip an event to play poker.

And they’ll probably try to be more flexible themselves, too.

Romantic Relationships

The different schedules can also affect your romantic relationships if you don't get the balance right. Evening games usually start at 7 or 8pm, meaning poker sessions can often run into the early morning hours.

This timing can make it harder to spend quality time with partners. Simple things like going to bed or enjoying a morning coffee together become impractical. These small intimacies can compound over time.

According to,research has shown that couples with different sleep schedules tend to report less satisfaction and intimacy,” suggesting that a nocturnal poker schedule can detrimentally impact your relationship.

The schedule can hinder the time you can spend together, too. If you’re not a pro or your partner works a regular 9-5 job, they will just be getting home and settled as you prepare to play.

The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Romantic
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Friendships

Time together during this crossover will likely be rushed and not very intimate, making your partner feel like poker is more important. The same is true of a rushed hug during a 5-minute tournament break. 

Online players often grind while their partners are at home, which can present other difficulties. Playing well requires a lot of focus.

  • So, your inability to chat or do something together, despite being in such close proximity, can make your partner feel frustrated and ignored.

They may have to repeat themselves because you were focusing on a tough decision. Although rudeness may be unintentional, it can be irritating, nonetheless.

Poker-Life Relationship - How to Fix It?

Leaks in your relationships are like leaks in your poker game: they might seem innocuous, but they can compound and ruin things over time. And teaching your partner how to play strip poker may only be a quick fix!

So, it’s crucial to stop things getting out of hand.

Communication and compromise are the key.

Explain that it’s difficult to listen to someone when you are concentrating and that you can’t pause a game of poker. Ensure your partner knows any rudeness isn’t personal, but they may have to give you a few minutes if you’re playing.

The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Communication
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Communication

With that said, if you’re playing most evenings and weekends, your partner is probably not being unreasonable if they’re feeling frustrated or neglected. Grabbing dinner or going to events together is essential in any relationship.

You should be prepared to late reg or sacrifice some poker sessions to satisfy them.

Focus on the value it adds to your relationship and not the money you’re leaving on the table. Many of the reasons poker players neglect their social lives are selfish. That’s one of the most unattractive traits a person can have.

You should make changes if you’re struggling to find a balance or if the fear of missing a good game is stopping you from making time for your friends and family.

It’s normal to experience a little FOMO if you get a text about a good game. But cancelling plans or rushing away early to take a seat are signs of a problem and unlikely to make anyone feel valued.

Remember, relationships are vital to being human and crucial for your overall well-being.

The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Well Being
The Importance of a Healthy Poker/Life Balance Relationship - Well Being

According to Dr Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, seeing friends twice weekly is vital for good mental health.

This time away from a poker board game benefits your game, too, since happy people have better discipline and are less prone to tilt.

Remember, you’ll break even if you skip a session but stand to lose a lot if you neglect your relationships.

Appreciate the value of spending time with your friends and family and try to find a healthy work/life balance.

Good luck at the tables and in life!

Dan O’Callaghan is a professional poker player who got his start in the online poker world as danshreddies. He has racked up over $290K in online earnings.