As the post title suggests, he’s mostly critical of poker as a detrimental influence. After identifying himself as a losing player -- a detail that frankly derails most of the subsequent discussion -- he explains how even when he wins he can’t seem to enjoy himself, constantly asking himself “why, why, why am I doing this, especially when it can be so up and down?” He goes on to use words like “unfulfilled,” “unhappy,” and “empty” to describe his poker-playing experience. He understands and acknowledges the allure of money, but appears to have concluded that money isn’t enough to make poker worthwhile (for him). “The money is what keeps people around,” he says, “and without that, or if we realise there is more important things than money, the bottom falls out.”
Reading back over the post again yesterday, I was reminded of one of the Poker Grump’s “Poker Gems” from earlier this week, a quote from David “Viffer” Peat, a cash game pro who frequents the $50/$100 and $100/$200 no-limit hold’em games in Vegas.
The quote comes from the very end of an interview with Peat that appears in the latest issue of Card Player (the 20th anniversary issue). Peat mentions there how he’s discovered that for him the life of a poker pro is “not fulfilling,” yet he keeps at it, since “The money keeps me playing.” According to Peat, “Poker leads to a lonely life, and you never get a sense of accomplishment. The only fulfillment for a poker player is winning money, that’s it.”
Pretty grim stuff, and seemingly evidence strongly supporting the Two Plus Two poster’s thesis. Of course, the comments on Poker Grump’s post as well as many of those responding in the thread belie the notion that poker “sucks the life out of you.”
Whenever one encounters such pronouncements, one instinctively compares the views they express with one’s own experience. I’m a recreational player, and always will be. Even if I were to luckbox my way into some huge score, or if circumstances evolved to a point where I somehow managed to make more money playing poker than from any other endeavor, playing poker would never become a primary occupation for me. Thus, I cannot (nor will I ever) be able to address from a personal perspective the specific quandary faced by Peat and others, namely, the way poker can be unfulfilling for some of those who make it their primary job.
I can, however, relate to the idea of doing a job that is somehow less than rewarding, a job for which the “only fulfillment” is the relatively hollow one of earning a bit of cabbage. I think most of us can.
I’m reminded of that much anthologized essay by Dorothy L. Sayers called “Living to Work” (written during WWII and first published in 1946). The British-born writer was best known for her terrific series of crime fiction novels, most written during the 20s and 30s and featuring the amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey. She also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Sayers begins the essay by “dividing people into two main groups, according to the way they think about work.” The first group, “probably the larger and certainly the more discontented -- look upon work as a hateful necessity, whose only use is to make money for them.” These are the “working to live” folks who “feel that only when the day’s labour is over can they really begin to live and be themselves.”
The second group instead “look on their work as an oppportunity for enjoyment and self-fulfilment.” These are the lucky ones who “only want to make money so they may be free to devote themselves more single-mindedly to their work.” They are “living to work.”
She goes on to analyze each group in greater detail, making the important point that while we might find discover certain types of employment producing more members of one or the other group (e.g., artists and scholars may well be more likely to “live to work”), what we’re really talking about here is a “fundamental difference of outlook” that doesn’t necessarily depend on the type of job one has. That is to say, anyone can potentially land in either group depending on a variety of circumstances, some externally-produced and some coming from within.
As you might imagine, Sayers doesn’t list “professional poker player” as one of the job types under examination and so doesn’t offer any opinions about whether the poker pro is more likely to “work to live” or “live to work.” It would be an interesting question to consider, I think, given the special, direct significance money has to the poker pro as an unambiguous measure of “success.”
So which group do you belong to? And where does poker fit into your ideas of work and leisure?