If telling the truth were easy, there would be no closets to come out of, and no skeletons to hide in them. But telling the truth is far from easy, particularly when you fear that by telling the truth, you'll lose something. Be it a physical object, like a house or a car, or an intangible object like respect or love, fear is the main reason we shy away from complete honesty.
I know tons of people - myself included - who have experienced this anxiety about telling their family and friends about their passion for poker.
There’s any number of reasons not to want to tell people about your desire to tear up the felt, full-time. Some people are playing underage, for example, and - let's face it - despite our age, many of our loved ones just won't "get" poker.
Still, all reservations aside, keeping things a secret is a recipe for disaster. It can cause pain, resentment and on a physical level, it can even manifest itself in disease. Think about all the studies that expound the negative effects of excessive stress. Think about people who abuse drugs to bury wounds in darkness instead of bringing them to light and dealing with them.
Secrets, my friends, can be dangerous.
It's with an aim to steer clear of danger that I am going to show you how you can share your love of the game with those closest to you with as much success as possible.
Let me begin by saying, I know what it's like.
Both my parents are lawyers - part of the traditional workforce - and I'm sure they would have liked me to do the same. However, it wasn't in the cards for this kid. When I told them that I was interested in pursuing a career in poker, they weren’t exactly thrilled. However, I made it clear that while I would love their support, this was something I was going to do regardless. It may seem harsh, but my approach let them see how important this was for me. It made it clear that I was going to follow my dream, no matter what.
Now, all this said, having a conversation isn't a one-way street. You have to consider the other side, which means, while you are talking about your life, it ain't just about you. Having a successful discussion about your plans to pursue a career playing poker means you have to consider a number of things.
This includes understanding their concerns. The main concerns you'll encounter involve the amount of risk involved, whether or not you are contributing to society, and your ability to control yourself. And these are valid concerns.
Let’s address them here.
1. The risk factor. Unlike a lot of jobs out there, poker lacks what we traditionally think of as security. There’s a lot of risk involved. A lot of people think poker is like craps, roulette, slots, black jack or any number of other casino games. You know it's not, and I know it's not, but if you are having this conversation with your family and friends, chances are they don't know this. But as is evident by the thousands of people who do play poker professionally and earn an adequate, if not cushy income, there is stability in playing poker - if you are willing to put in the work.
No, you can't just watch Rounders, sidle up to the table and win consistently, but if you do your homework, study like crazy, play, learn, rinse and repeat and are committed to continually improving, then sure, you've got a solid chance of making a living from the game. As good as you'll get from any profession, really.
Onto the next concern, then...
2. Giving back to society. To many, a worthwhile profession has to give something back to society. It has to be something that improves the world. At first glance, a fair number of people would put playing professional poker on the same level as being a professional thief. And hey, I'll concede that other than arguing you're providing entertainment to people looking for action and inspiration for people looking to play (or just be inspired), playing poker doesn't make the world a better place for you being in it.
However, the same thing could be said for most professional sports. And, arguably, movie stars. But like movie stars and pro athletes who use their fame and fortune to give back to the world, so can - and do - pro poker players. Look at Barry Greenstein. The guy's a saint. Using the time and money he incurs from playing poker, he does make the world a better place - and so can you.
A true professional will always invest - yes, in him or herself, but also, in the greater good. A true gambler, on the other hand, will always squander money on short lived highs. This is what your loved ones will probably worry about, and it's your job not to fall into this trap, for yourself, and for their peace of mind.
Gambling is addictive, and it can consume you if that's the only thing you have in your life. While skill plays a huge role in playing winning poker, there is an undeniable element of luck, and as a player, you are not immune to falling into the gambling trap. And this leads me to the next major concern...
3. Can you control yourself? Poker should be something you do. It shouldn't define who you are. If you are finding yourself blowing off commitments to play one more game, to make back what you lost, to try to recapture the high, then you've gone too far.
It is of vital importance that you play mindfully. Gambling can cause people to start to devalue money. You have to communicate to your loved ones that you respect it. Bankroll management is a primary priority of yours. You have to make it clear that playing poker is not about getting a fix: it's about developing your confidence and your character through time, patience and practice so that you can acquire a skill. After all, not only is poker a great way to nurture and refine the analytical side of your brain, but it is also a fantastic way to develop your self-awareness as well as your understanding of and empathy towards others.
There is so much to be gained by approaching the game properly and there is so much to be wasted by just mindlessly playing games and not making an active effort to continually improve. You need to make the differences clear between approaching this as a profession, and it just being another video game.
When done right, poker can provide you with a lot of freedom, and tons of opportunities to develop yourself as a person.
When your family and friends see you crushing it at the tables and in other areas of your life, trust me, the last thing they are going to do is shun or criticize you. But, to begin, if you want people to hear about what you want with an open mind, you are going to have to be open-minded about their concerns as well.
When I discussed going pro with my father, we made an agreement that if things weren't working out after a couple of years, I would reconsider my choice and start looking into another career option. He was placated because I was willing to concede, and I was happy because he was willing to give me a chance.
Remember, if you try, and going pro isn't working out for you - if it is taking the joy from the game and/or too much money from your pockets - you are not obligated to keep playing.
You are allowed to change your mind. It is one of the wonderful things about being human and not a robot. People change careers all the time. Just because you want to give poker a go doesn't mean you're locked in for life. Communicate this. Let them know you are being realistic; that you haven't been brainwashed.
The more comfortable they feel with your making this choice for your life, the more you'll be supported. The more you feel supported, the more confident you'll be, and the more confident you are, the better you'll play, and the better you play, the more likely you are of being able to make a solid career of poker, and the more they see this, the more they'll support you. It all comes full circle. You reap what you sow. You get in what you put out. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and other such analogies. You get the idea.
Now go get 'em, tiger.