As most people are aware, there are two ways to approach poker:  The first is to take a systematic, strategic approach to the game, striving to make the best and most profitable decision possible in the pursuit of +EV. It's the way poker should be played, and it's the way serious players try to approach the game.

The second is a little less sensible. It involves going all out 'balls-to-the-wall' in an attempt to gamble and 'spin it up' wherever you can. Usually fuelled by alcohol, tilt or a lack of skill, it's the equivalent of flying a plane with your eyes closed, a  monkey on your knee, and banana flavoured controls. It's complete degeneracy (even if it does work out every once in a while!).

Although the latter approach is pretty uncommon, this degenerative, gambling style of playing is actually how a lot of poker muggles see the game. Even more annoying than this negative stereotype, though, are the issues that it can cause when trying to meet people.

Unfortunately, most people have heard a gruesome tale of 'some guy gambling his house away on the horses'. Unfortunately, many tar poker players with the same degenerative brush. This can make dating hard but relax! I've learned the hard way, so you don't have to.

Here are a few tips to help you land a sassy señorita (or señor ... whatever you're into).

Tip 1: Be Prepared to Challenge Stereotypes

Like it or not, some people are going to find it weird that you play poker for a living (or at all). So, being able to show you're not a degenerative lunatic is pretty crucial. You don't have to mention it at all, of course. But, since what you do for a living generally comes up during or before a first date,  I wouldn't recommend you try to hide such a key part of your identity.

Generally, people will have one of two reactions to finding out you’re a  poker player:

1: “That's really cool! Do you have a good poker face?”

2: “I don't like gambling.”

Naturally, reaction one is great, but it's straightforward to handle the second response too. The trick is to find a way to explain how poker works and to emphasise the importance of skill in the game. Now, before you get too ahead of yourself and start waving your HEM or Sharkscope graphs in their face, the truth is that explaining EV and variance is unlikely to get a date's juices flowing. Instead, try to compare it with something cooler or less socially taboo. 

Since poker is a form gambling by definition, I always liken it to gambling in the same way a casino or stockbroker does - since there are a lot of apparent similarities (which I'll save for another article). Remember, good poker is primarily about making calculated risks in an attempt to 'gamble' with the odds in your favour. Spin it in the right way, and you're basically The Wolf of Wall Street - He seemed pretty damn cool!

Pro Tip: If you're using online dating, it can actually be pretty GTO to include a poker reference in your bio. It's an easy way to filter out people that aren't very open-minded, which will probably lead to dates with better, more compatible matches. #lifehack

poker player on mobile phone with the hashtags #dating

Tip 2: Handle Downswings Professionally

Soul-crushing downswings are an unavoidable part of playing poker, but, if not tackled properly, they can devastate your dating game too. Like most destructive things, negativity is both toxic and contagious. And, an inability to leave your run-bad at the tables can ruin your mood faster than an instant un-match from the sexiest of Tinder señoritas.

Pessimism is really unattractive and can make you difficult and uncomfortable to be around. Even if your partner's particularly compassionate, understanding, or just generally good at cheering you up, it's unfair to let them take the brunt of your downswings.

Aside from being a huge turn-off, this negativity is going to take its toll on your partner, which is sure to impact both of your overall happiness eventually too.

Like so much in life, a strong mental game is key. Being stoic and maintaining a positive approach to running bad is a great way to stay on top of your game. It's also a vital component in your maintaining a happy and healthy relationship.

Jim leaves his downswings at the table.

Be like Jim.

Tip 3: Work With A Sensible Schedule

Let's face it, one of the best things about being a poker pro is the freedom that comes with it. As a consequence, though, this flexibility means that most of us are a little out of touch with reality. Look at taking a day off work for example: For those in the real world, it can be really tough to lock down specific days. Even if you are able to get a holiday approved, it often needs to be requested weeks or months in advance.

Poker players have no such issues. If you want a day off, you take it! In fact, it's not uncommon for a poker pro to go weeks or even months without playing a hand every once in a while, especially if they're hitting the lab.

This freedom is perfect for both dating and relationships. It makes the whole juggling of schedules far easier to manage since there's only one inflexible schedule to deal with. This scenario is fantastic for holidaying with an existing partner and great for planning impulsive last-minute dates too.

It's also beneficial if you feel burned-out, overworked, or are suffering a downswing. It allows you to take some time off and get your head together, ensuring you're in the best frame of mind to bring the best you to your relationships.

If you're prepared to keep your schedule as flexible as a Chinese gymnast, that's a definite +1 for dating.

Tip 4: Balance You Evenings and Weekends

As fantastic as a poker players' freedom is, however, a conventional poker grinding schedule can pose problems during evenings and weekends. Since these are the times of day most people are off work, typically, this is when the games are a little softer. Therefore, most players play the bulk of their volume during these peak game times.

Unfortunately, it's likely that this is the time of days when a partner is going to be free and, therefore, going to want to spend time with you. Being unavailable when your partner wants to hang out can definitely cause problems. 

Time zones help a little, but the truth is that in many countries (especially in Europe) you're going to have to find a way to balance your work and relationships during these times. Live players struggle most with this (since their games often start in the evenings. They'll not only be unavailable during these times but will also be out of the house. Without the right balance, this can often leave your partner feeling abandoned or lonely, and so finding a healthy work-life ratio is vital.

Here are a few ways I've found to tackle this:

  • Schedule your sessions in advance, if possible, but allow your days to be flexible depending on your partner's availability.
  • If you're a cash game or sit and go grinder, take regular breaks for a couple of hours at a time, and spend them doing something with your partner - Maybe coincide this with an evening meal or a TV series.
  • If you live together, make sure that you're not up too late grinding so that you are still going to bed and waking up with your partner. This synergy will ensure you can always have at least the routines of breakfast and pillow talk together. It will also help you have a regular sleep pattern, which is known to keep you sharp between the ears.

Grinding during the day is another option, but since the games are far tougher then, this will lower your ROI, which is essentially the same as giving yourself a pay cut. I'd use this as a last resort.

Finding the right work-life balance is one of the most challenging things about being a grinder in love, but it's vital for a happy and healthy relationship that you do.

Tip 5: Remember, the Poker World Is Unique. Don't Be A Douche!

Simply put, poker players are weird: We'll often have little to no contextual concept of money. We can be hyper-logical when facing emotion, and for some reason, we'll try to find the GTO ways of doing the most mundane of tasks.

We can work all day for minus money, our use of poker lingo is 'tilting', and we can't pay for a meal without a round of credit-card-roulette! This behaviour is alien to a lot of people and can seem a bit sociopathic to people working 'in the real world'.

If, like me, you're generally pretty laggy with your money, try to respect it. You might just be being nice, but splashing it around has a pretty decent chance of making you look like a douchebag who's just trying to show off. Being an uber-nit can be just as unattractive too since it can make you seem tight and your date feel undervalued.

Try to be level headed with it... Oh, and one other thing, poker muggles don't necessarily like to 'flip for it' when they had a salad, and you had a steak. Simply put, it really does take a special kind of person to understand a poker player - I wish you the best of luck finding/keeping one!

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.