There are lots of hidden downsides to being a successful online (or live) poker player. These are downsides that you would never even consider. These downsides might include losing track of reality when it comes to money and incurring a bunch of "online debt" that you will never have any hope of collecting.
If you are a successful poker player, and especially if you are young and inexperienced, there are a number of things that you can do to avoid stepping in any quicksand that risks ruining you in the long run.
1. Practice bankroll management. This is an obvious one. I don't need to elaborate. Avoid playing over your head and taking "shots." Play at limits that you can easily beat.
2. Hire an accountant. Sure they charge a decent amount of money, but they are worth it. Print out all of your bank records, keep track of any withdrawals and deposits, and if you play live, keep all of your entry tickets.
3. Declare all your income. Don't mess with the IRS.
4. Don't loan money. Just don't do it. Tell people that you don't lend money to anyone, even your closest friends. The amount of debt that is floating around out there in the poker world is incredible. Don't end up being a Newhizzle.
5. Place a limit on the length of your sessions. Before you start, tell yourself that you are going to play a certain period of time.. say four hours. Stick to it. If you start playing 16 hour sessions in a row, your health will decline and you won't play nearly as well.
6. Exercise / eat well. These are pretty obvious. If you sit at your computer for eight hours per day, it becomes pretty easy to pick up some unhealthy habits. Try to exercise and eat good foods, or else you run the risk of adding 30-40 pounds without even really realizing it.
7. Get out of the house. Busy yourself in the outside world. Take a class at the local college. Join a baseball team. Hit the gym. Just get outside.
8. If you are thinking about dropping out of college, don't. You're probably thinking "Why stay in college when I am making $20k a month online?" Just finish out your degree. Then you have the best of both worlds; you can choose to play poker full-time, but you will still have your degree to fall back on. What happens if you drop out of school and then bust? Most poker players go bust at least once in their lives, usually much more. What makes you think that you are any different?
9. See the world. If you are a really successful player, take the opportunity to use poker to take you around the world. Play events in Monte Carlo, the Bahamas, Poland, etc. You will have a chance to gain a bit of culture and still play poker. It can be a life-changing experience.
10. Make time for your family and loved ones. If you have a girlfriend that you are crazy about, don't put her on the side burner for poker. Let her know that poker is your job, but that you will always make time for her. Stick to play a 7-8 hour session, and then let everyone know that you are "off work" and available for them. Take some days off during the week. Treat it like a normal job and everyone will be happy, including yourself. If you find yourself saying "if my girlfriend can't deal with me playing 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, then she isn't the girl for me", then enjoy being alone.
11. Save and invest. Don't leave all of your money in your online bankroll. Withdraw a good chunk of it. Invest in some mutual funds. Buy an apartment. It can be easy to treat the funds in your account like a score in a video game, and disassociate the balance in your account from real money. If you withdraw on a regular basis, you will be reminded of just how real the money in your account is. This may sound stupid, but it is true; a good deal of successful online players completely lose track of how much money they have, and just blow it. Save and invest and you will never have that problem.
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