The Insecurity of Being a Poker Player

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When you are in poker, there are various situations that you can find yourself in where you don’t feel secure.

In this episode, we are going to explore some of them. And in doing so we aim to arrive at practical steps that can allow you to help yourself see through and deal with the insecurity of being in a variable income environment.

Either listen or read below:

Let’s start with a common situation:

Playing Staked or Under-rolled

We are going to start with a situation where you are playing in the position of being under-rolled. Where perhaps you’re in makeup or in a situation where you are playing on a bankroll that is limited for the games that you play.

Then if you’re in this position, can we actually look at this objectively:

What typically is going on in your mind here?

Quite clearly, if you are in this position where you’re not secure with your bankroll then this is going to lead to a mind that is desperate to win.

And if you’ve ever experienced being in this situation before you’ll be able to recall that this desperation leads to all sorts of issues.

Because if you’re going into play poker desperate for a win then you’re psyche is on wobbly ground.

Because the reality is, the actual fact is, you cannot simply go in and win.

You can go ahead and try to play well but, of course, you do not have complete control over whether results go in your favour.

And so when you’re going in to play poker with a mind that on some level (whether it is consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously) is desperate to win then you’re on shaky ground.

You’re going to be playing poker from a mind that is insecure.

What’s really important to realise (as we’re going to cover with all of these examples) is that the mind wants security.

Before we get into this let’s see if we can bring in some other examples, which leads to this desperation for needing to win.

Another one that comes to mind is if you have a lot of responsibilities; say for example, with providing for a family or providing for a loved one.

Then with that goes this necessity for poker to go well.

And if this situation is combined with the other situation of this person playing from a backdrop of not having a very comfortable bankroll then this leads to all sorts of psychological issues based on the fact that the psyche is built on this unsteady ground.

The Poker Player Lifestyle

An another example or another case where this desperation for winning can be built up is with the case of a poker player who is attached to their lifestyle.

Say they have a lifestyle where they spend a lot of money and they have a certain image that they wish to portray to others.

Then this in itself quite clearly requires money.

And of course in poker, you don’t make a fixed stream of money. So again the whole psyche of this person ends up being on this wobbly ground.

And now you might be reading this thinking,

“Ok. This is all well and good. But none of these cases necessarily capture my life or even if they do: what am I actually supposed to do about this?”

And rather than simply just jump to a solution let’s go back to what was common for all of these situations.

All of these situations that poker players commonly find themselves in lead to this feeling of insecurity. And the question that arises from this quite naturally (looking at this from a broader objective perspective) is:

Is there security at all with being a poker player?

Can I look at this question very clearly and honestly and not allow what may be this fear interfere with looking at this question very clearly?

So if a person was to look at this question very clearly then they have to go back to what they can observe clearly.

In the poker environment, I can observe that games, in general, are becoming more difficult and competition is increasing.

And even if I find myself in an environment where the competition is weaker and there is great opportunity to make a lot of money will that environment stay the same?

Or will that environment last all the time?

What’s really important to realise is that if there is any environment where it appears that there is easy money to be made then that environment at some stage will become saturated.

Other human beings will move into that space to also make money. Because they’ll hear about it in one way or another.

Private Games

But if you’re reading and play private games for a living you may think,

“OK this doesn’t affect me.”

However, what are private games driven by?

Private games are driven by what tends to be a handful of players that inject money into the environment.


And what’s important to realise is the money these individuals keep pumping into the system won’t last forever.

At some stage, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you continually keep losing, that does take it’s toll. And as a result you either:

  • stop playing or;
  • play less or;
  • gamble with less money.

And so if you are in this opportunity where you are, say, playing with a ‘whale’ or a ‘big fish’ (whatever you’d like to call it) then it’s important to realise that this opportunity is limited.


It’s not going to last forever. It never can. It never will.

The situation that you’re in will undergo some change in some way.

Either this person will:

  • get much better at poker or;
  • will stop playing or;
  • will play less or;
  • the game will shutdown.

Factors such as these show that the situation that you’re in is never static.

And the thing is when you’re looking at this the whole thing might look very simple.

And on some level as a poker player, you probably know all this.

However, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of this.

They lose sight of the fact that the environment that they’re in is not static.

And it does beg the question:

Why does this occur?

If you go into this, it’s quite clear that a person doesn’t really consider the fact that their environment is dynamic and is always changing.

And there isn’t really a security to being a poker player.

Because quite honestly and frankly they become absorbed in the content of what’s happening around poker right now; their results:

And there isn’t really a security to being a poker player. Because quite honestly and frankly they become absorbed in the content of what’s happening around poker right now:

  • Their own results;
  • With their friends results;
  • With other players’ (that they play with) results;
  • With players’, that they don’t like, results;
  • Poker celebrity results.

All of these become (if you’re honest about this) just incredibly important in the psyche of a professional poker player.

And now rather than stick to the topic of the absorbing nature of the poker environment, let’s get back to the insecurity of being a poker player.

What we’ve arrived at is the fact that there isn’t really this security there to being a poker player.

Because the environment is under many changing effects that we’re never really fully in control of it.

And all sorts of things can change.

And even though we’ve explored this within the profession of poker you can actually look at any profession in this way as well.

There may appear to be what feels like, on the surface, a sense of security and structure but when you go ahead and penetrate it you realise that it doesn’t necessarily exist.

Why is there insecurity to being a poker player mentally?

So what’s happening here?

Looking at this you find that this sense of security is built up through the mind.

Because the mind wants to be secure in whatever environment that it’s in.

So it automatically through the process of thought seeks security.

And one of the most disturbing ways it does this is to create this sense of ‘I know’.

“I know the poker environment that I’m in is dynamic and is not static.

But I don’t look at it.

I don’t act on it.

I simply just acknowledge it. And then carry on.”

But if you’re reading this and see the real danger of what we’re talking about here:

The fact that the psyche is built on something that is false; this false sense of security then it sparks this passionate to act.

You must do something about this.

And without wanting to prescribe a particular plan or something to do, I think from this something very obvious springs up.

The first is the fact that you’re not clearly seeing this absorption in the poker environment taking place in real-time.

And so to see this in real-time requires this awareness.

The awareness to catch when you’re acting in a way that is built on the false. Or thinking in a way that is built on the false.

You can see where the mind isn’t really rational. And see what it is like to be with the dynamic nature of the poker environment. And with living in general.

You see through observing that this habitually thinking mind is what creates this sense of security. And that it is an incredibly important thing to be aware of.

The other thing that, is of course seen, is that the poker environment is less stable than any other fixed-income environment in general.

And so because of this, you must make plans for say worst-case scenarios.

And also, perhaps, make plans to not be solely reliant on this unstable environment.

We won’t go into this now because it is too individual a thing to actually go into.

But what is both interesting and beneficial to point out is the false sense of security that a person has with being a poker player does exist.

And because of this there is a reluctance to actually look at alternatives.

There’s this reluctance to come up with contingency plans outside of poker; if things don’t go well.

The identity of a poker player

What is very interesting to look at is the identity that you have as a poker player.

And the mental constructs that are there that create this identity.

From looking at this and breaking it down, there is a seeing of things that is clear of restrictions and boundaries.