It’s been a struggle, folks.

If you’ve ever met or interacted with me, you know that I’m usually a very positive-minded individual. My modus operandi has pretty much always been to look on the bright side of life. It’s a trait I’ve always been proud of and one that I genuinely hope inspires others.

But even the most positive-minded individuals can’t just channel their inner ostrich, stick their heads in the ground, and pretend everything in the world is hunky dory. The ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions to our daily lives are pretty much unprecedented in modern human history.

Let that last sentence sink in for a moment.

It’s at inflection points like these where it seems prudent to perhaps do a little bit soul searching and ask oneself some deep questions, such as:

  • What do I really stand for?
  • What are the repercussions of my statements and my actions?
  • To what degree can I allow external factors to affect these statements and actions?
  • What is of true importance and value to me?

I wrestled hard with these questions last night through a very restless few hours of at best intermittent sleep. The general conclusion that I came to is that I best express myself through writing, and that producing this op-ed would ring true to my core values and likely restore my internal peace.

Whither Poker?

I love poker with all my heart. It’s the default of what’s on my mind at almost all hours of the day. I live and breathe the game. I know the same is true for so many of you, too.

When external factors throw you off your A-game, you’ve got to figure out how to step up and respond to those challenges.

I’m no doctor, so it goes without saying that I encourage those physically affected in any way by the outbreak to seek and follow the advice of trained medical professionals.

I do know a thing or two about happiness, though, and am convinced that I have value to offer you all in the form of the list below. When the storm clouds gather and threaten to plunge us into gloominess and despair, it’s up to each of us individually to summon our internal light, create our own happiness from within, and try to radiate that joy unto others.

With that in mind, here at my top 10 prescriptions for poker positivity. To be sure, I’ve compiled the list as a direct response to the current uncertainly and panic weaving its way through our community, but quite frankly adhering to the advice offered below is a net good pretty much anytime as far as poker is concerned.

poker positivity prescription

Get More Online Home Games Going

As governments worldwide tighten the noose on large public gatherings, there’s no better time to promote private home game gatherings online.

There’s nothing like playing live poker in a casino or dedicated brick and mortar poker room. At least temporarily, however, there may be restrictions placed on the amount of possible activity allowed in such venues.

Restrictions notwithstanding, we poker players have a primal urge to play. We may not be able to riffle those chips or touch the cards, but we are social creatures whose innate desire for face-to-face interaction at the felt cannot be denied.

Online home games offer the perfect solution to this problem. I speak from the perspective of a de facto “home game expert”. Not only have I co-hosted the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast for over five years, but beyond that, without any legal poker rooms here in Israel, the only live poker I get to play when not abroad is in home game form.

online poker home games

Over the better part of two decades, I’ve cultivated some of my closest friendships around home game poker tables and am blessed to have a core group of buddies with whom to gather at the felt and enjoy each other’s company.

Social distancing notwithstanding, there’s no need to starve yourself of poker joy. Get that online home game going!

Tip Generously

If you do continue going to play poker in casinos and dedicated card rooms, be a bit more generous than usual when it comes to tipping.

We all know that many employees count on tips to make a living wage, but in times like these with decreased foot traffic and curbed working hours, every coin, chip, and bill matters that much more.

tips

Moreover, tips don’t just stop at money; a kind word goes a long way. If you’re in the fortunate position to be playing the game of poker in a live setting, whether for a living or recreationally, go a little more out of your way than usual to thank those around you – dealers, floor staff, chip runners, wait staff, etc. – who continue to make such a pursuit possible.

Offer Work If You Can

As mentioned above, many on the service industry side of poker are likely to feel the pinch during the resultant virus-inflicted economic downturn. If you’re in a position to do so, offer work/gigs to those affected as well as freelancers like dealers, live reporters, etc. who may not have work coming their way in the immediate future.

I’d just like to give a shout out to my friend Yori Epskamp, who has done precisely this over at PokerNews.

Whether it’s inviting someone to deal for tips at your home poker game or even hiring someone to do something outside their professional expertise such as errands, housework, etc., offering someone work isn’t just a good, helpful deed, it also helps keep the gears of the economy turning.

Play More Online Poker

If you’re fortunate enough to be living in a jurisdiction offering legal real money online poker, go ahead and exercise that freedom you’ve been afforded.

Anyone who has ever played even a single hand of poker online knows that among the best things about it are the instant accessibility and ability to play from the comfort of your home.

If you’re such a person but have exclusively limited your poker playing to live venues until now, check out our reviews of the best online poker rooms before you select a place to play.

Especially for those of us who will at some point have to enter quarantine, online poker represents the quintessential balm to soothe poker woes. Even if it’s only for play money, it’s good to have the option to scratch that poker itch.

Lobby Actively for Legalized Online Poker

Hand-in-hand with the above recommendation, ever since Black Friday, is has behooved us all to advocate for the passage of legislation to allow for real money online poker play in as many jurisdictions as possible.

Liquidity is the lifeblood of online poker and the more people who play, the better it is for players – recreational and professional alike, operators, and industry as a whole.

Whatever jurisdiction you are currently in, and despite authorities having pressing medical matters at hand, there’s perhaps no better time to remind ourselves that we ought to redouble our active efforts to get online poker legislation approved far and wide. No magical “second boom” will come without the proper steps being taken to facilitate it.

Get in the Lab and Study

There’s never a bad time to study and try to improve your poker game. While some poker players, notably the professionals, tend to study year-round, typically there’s a push to do more poker study at “downtimes” during the calendar year, such as post-summer and around the holiday season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in an unexpected “downtime” of sorts for us all. As such, especially if you’re taking a break from actually playing poker, it might be a good time to check out some of the best poker training courses, pick one, and get in the lab to boost your poker skill set.

Watch Poker on PokerGO

While I’m friendly with many of the people who work for PokerGO, I’m not an affiliate or theirs and the following is an unsolicited, unsponsored recommendation.

If you’re not already a PokerGO subscribers, now would seem to be an ideal time to sign up for a free trial, monthly, or yearly subscription.

PokerGO logo

As of this writing, the network is still producing some live event streams, plus you can catch up on or re-watch older live broadcasts or many popular poker shows of yesteryear. And, of course, there’s plenty of original programming to enjoy including one of my recent favorites, the Big Blind.

Work on Your Mental Game

The best poker players are experts at minimizing tilt, or have essentially eliminated it entirely as a possibility. Staying well-grounded through everything the deck and your opponents through at you is a critical component to succeeding at the tables.

The analogy to current coronavirus-fueled events is clear. Thinking clearly prevents panic from setting in. The ability to remain calm and not fan the flames of paranoia in the face of “variance” of this nature is an absolute good thing.

Poker players who never freak out are model citizens and serve of examples of what we can strive for at the felt. By the same token, we ought to try to replicate the example being set by the more stable, well-educated and experienced voices in our society in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Use this opportunity to work on your mental game. In this regard, I’d specifically recommend enrolling in Elliot Roe’s A-game Poker Masterclass (read our review here) and reading Jared Tendler and Barry Carter’s The Mental Game of Poker Volumes 1 and 2.

Get More Sleep and Detach from Screens

Sometimes life has a way of telling us to slow down. As someone who doesn’t sleep much (4-6 hours nightly on average), this is advice I can’t just allow myself to dispense without taking myself.

To a degree, we’ve all become addicted to our screens. This addiction has only been exacerbated by current events, as we incessantly follow the latest COVID-19 developments with bated breath.

As a practicing Orthodox Jew I observe the Sabbath, during which time I abstain from using electronic devices. I also use the weekly 25-hour break from work to catch up on some “missed” sleep. I can’t help but reflect on how peaceful and tranquil last Sabbath was. Sure, there was plenty of coronavirus talk in our local community, but we were utterly present; undistracted by screens and minute-to-minute news updates. This coming Sabbath will bring more of the same, and I’m excited to welcome it come sundown Friday.

When playing poker and facing a bad run of cards, you just need to stay patient, wait for spots to make pinpoint moves, and wait for better cards to come your way. Forcing the action can only lead to the loss of chips in the long run. As for the coronavirus, this too shall eventually pass, whether we become aware of every new development the instant it happens or not.

I’m personally committing to trying to get an extra hour of sleep each day. That means rather than drift off with phone in hand while on the couch, scrolling updates (as I did last night), I’ll be unplugging from my devices, be present in the moment, and be getting into bed a little earlier than usual to let sleep come.

There are enough scientific studies out there proving the value of more sleep. I bet none of them cite likely improvements to one’s poker game, but I’m pretty certain there are multiple benefits to be had.

Reflect with Gratitude on Your Blessings

My good friends like to make fun of me that I always try “just a bit too hard” to see the good in everything. In a situation where a train’s running late, my gut reaction is to say “thankfully we have a train infrastructure in the first place!” In a situation where someone complains about taxes being too high, my immediate reaction is to say “well, thankfully that means you’re making money and not on welfare.”

Tis better to give than to receive. If you’re fortunate to be in a situation where you can give, give. Whether it’s time or money, there’s someone out there who will appreciate your magnanimity.

In poker and in life, there’s always someone out there who’s been dealt a worse hand. Regardless of your personal situation, I can pretty much guarantee that you have blessings to count.

If you’ve gotten this far in the article, I encourage you to do the following RIGHT NOW: Take a step back from the doom and gloom with which we’re being inundated. Take a minute to reflect on your blessings and be grateful for them. That’s the best prescription for positivity I know how to give.

Stay strong, folks. That’s the best antidote.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to my home game.

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