It Always Comes Back to Balance, Doesn’t It?

Hey Guys,

Couple of things before I get into this post… I’ve finally gotten my blog rehosted and up and running.  There should be no problems from here on out.  I should warn you, I’ve been sleeping very poorly, and I’m currently failing at trying to fall asleep.  If this post is a bit rambly and weird… no complaining… you’ve been warned.

I wrote this without thinking or editing much.  As I said when I started this new blog, I want to share a little more of the real me.  So far the feedback I’ve gotten has been in tune with that… you guys said you liked seeing how I handle my downswings, how I think through things.  I’ve been continuing to deal with the current downswing, and I wanted to share a bit more about it.  I’ll continue to try my best to be open and honest.  For anyone out there who still views me as invincible or a poker superhero, I hope I don’t completely shatter your image of me.

-Phil

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I feel like half of the advice I’ve ever given, regardless of the topic, could be summed up in one simple word:

“Advice”  Just kidding…   “Balance”

In high level poker, being well balanced is something I stress tremendously, and something I think about constantly while playing.  Anyone who’s read any articles or watched any videos of mine probably gets annoyed by how much I stress it.  Sometimes I even add it when it’s unnecessary:  “I think the best play here is to check-raise… obviously I’ll have to balance with check-raising some of my weaker hands, and of course I won’t ALWAYS check-raise this hand… maybe 80% of the time.”  PHIL, just say “I’d check-raise.”

I can’t help it.  It’s kind of an OCD type thing in poker for me, where I feel if I don’t state the disclaimers that I’d be giving incorrect advice, or be advocating a flawed strategy.  And if I were to ever employ a strategy that is drastically unbalanced, I don’t know what I fear would happen.  My face would fall off or something.  I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Anyways, what I was thinking about today was another kind of balance that I’ve always advocated to poker players: Balance in life.

Ever since I started playing poker, I’ve had plenty of poker playing friends.  However, the friends that I spend most of my down time with were always non poker players.  This was something that was extremely soothing (can’t find a better word to describe it) for me, especially during my early-ish years where I was grinding day in and day out.  After I dropped out of college, I stayed in Madison, WI for a while.  I loved it there, and I loved my friends there.  I would go from a 60 hour week at my computer to hanging out at a bar with eight people who knew absolutely nothing about poker, and barely knew anything about the details of my career in poker.   I’d play for 14 hours and then wind down by watching a couple hours of TV with my roommate, who, again, had a relationship with me built entirely on non-poker life.

Even though I’d stopped school (which had been helpful for balance), I had my friends, I was in an improv company that performed and practiced weekly… it was as if I was leading two lives, in a way:  Phil-the-poker-player and Phil-the-regular-person.  This was very very helpful for me.  I needed an escape from poker.  I truly believe it’s absolutely necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life.

From Madison, WI, I moved to New York, NY.  I moved their with a friend of mine, and following a handful of our other friends who had moved there in the previous 1-2 years.  I built (not literally) a home that I loved, I played some flag football, formed new relationships while maintaining my current ones, and achieved a balance similar to the one I had in Madison.  I was happy again.  Or happy still.  Whatever.

Fast forward to 2011.  Boo.  2011 sucked.  I was already having a bad year, and then Black Friday turned my world upside down.

My life is not at all the same.  I don’t feel as though I have a home anymore.  I spend some time in Vegas, some time in Vancouver, a tiny bit in New York, and some more in Maryland.  I sleep in four different beds.  I don’t feel as though I can focus and build a life and routine anywhere.  The only city of those that I have a solid core of non poker friends is New York, where I’ve spent the least amount of time.

So, I rarely hang out with friends anymore, other than a few poker friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I have some poker friends who I absolutely love and love spending time with… It’s just not an escape from poker.  I don’t have any regular activities going on, as I don’t know how worthwhile it is to start doing something ‘regularly’ when I’ll be in a different city soon.

My daily routine usually consists of waking up whenever I stop sleeping, playing poker, eating while playing poker, waiting for games to run, playing poker, and trying to fall asleep while I watch TV.  I’ve lost my balance.

For the first few months, this was fine.  I missed online poker badly, and I was so excited to be playing.  I was crushing, studying my game, working hard and putting in a ton of hours.  And I was having fun doing all of that.  All seemed great.

Things have changed since then.  First of all, it’s been a while, and the reality is setting in that this is not a business trip… it’s my new life.  I don’t know if and when I’ll move back full time to one city, or what city that would even be.  I have left behind many of my best friends in the world, who mean much more to me than anything poker can give me, for who knows how long.  I no longer miss online poker, as I’ve now played more hands in six months than in any of the last five years.

And now, what’s worse is: I’m losing.

See, normally, I have a lot of things going on in my life… a lot of things that make me happy.  If poker was going badly, I had my friends, my activities.  I truly was leading two lives.  Phil-the-poker-player was losing and stressed, but Phil-the-regular-person had a full life outside of poker that even a $1.5m downswing couldn’t put a scratch on.

So now, I’m in Vancouver on a downswing.  A somewhat rough one, though no worse than I’ve experienced many times before.  But this time, it’s different.  I step away from my computer and what do I have?

I can go out with my poker friends.  It will be fun, but I won’t stop thinking about poker.  We’ll definitely talk about poker.  I won’t forget about how much money I just lost, or how much EV I’ll miss out on if I don’t have enough online $ to play in some good bigger games if they run.

I can go for a walk.  That helps me sometimes.  It’s a nice escape, for maybe an hour.  Now I’m back home.  I can go watch TV?  I can take a nap?  I can look at the Pokerstars lobby and watch other people play poker.  I can talk to friends on AIM (mostly poker friends) while watching other people play poker.  I can write a blog post for other poker players to read.

I think that just about does it for my options.  Sound depressing?  It feels depressing, but like… I know I’m not supposed to be depressed.

The reality is, my life is great.  I would be an idiot to think anything different.  If the above sounds like complaining, well, it kind of is, but I know that I have it good.  Better than good.  I think I chose to write about this now because I know it will help me.  I know that when talking to you guys, I have to admit to myself that I have a very good life.  I’m forced to accept that fact.  I’m forced to stop feeling sorry for myself because I know how many poker players would love to be in my shoes.  I have had every advantage in life, and if I am unhappy and remain unhappy, I have no one to blame but myself.

Look, downswings hurt.  They’ll always hurt.  Losing is painful, and losing money is stressful.

But the truth is, as long as I keep my level of play up, put in some reasonable hours, and stay responsible, I should never be under any “real world” financial stress.  I really should treat poker like a video game.  The money shouldn’t matter outside of the game.  Sure, I’m competitive and passionate about this game, and I want to win badly.  I will of course feel bad when I lose.  But once I shut down the game, turn off my computer, and leave my office, I’m back to my regular life.  The game is left behind until I play it tomorrow, or whenever it is that I start again.

My regular life should be awesome.  I have the freedom to work when I want, and my job is playing a game that I love.  I have great friends, my health, an amazing family.  So why doesn’t it feel that way now?

Obviously it’s my lack of balance.  I need my friends and my real life to remind myself that there is a Phil-the-regular-person.  I need to be reminded that there is more to life than how much money I won or lost today, or how much confidence I have in my game, or how much EV I’m missing out on by not playing tonight.  I need to remember that it’s just a game.

When Waluigi wins a race in Mario Kart, he feels amazing.  When he loses, he’s miserable.  That’s all he has.  When you turn off your Wii and to out to dinner, he’s still in there racing.

For the last eight months, I’ve been living my life stuck inside a game.  When I lose, it hurts badly, because it’s all I have now.  Some days I win, some days I lose, but it has to be either one or the other.  There are no alternate outcomes for me each day.  I am either playing poker, or doing other things in order to play poker… I need to grab something for lunch and dinner so I can play all day.  I need to fall asleep soon so I can wake up for games tomorrow.  I need to go for a walk to clear my head so I’ll play well.

What I really need to do is leave the game and walk away into my real life, but I don’t have a real life to walk away into anymore.

Over the last few months, I’ve actually tilted to the point of clearly playing worse on more than a couple of occasions.  That’s something that never has happened to me in my first full seven years as a poker player.  That should have been my first clear warning sign that something was very wrong.

At least now I know what the problem is.  That’s the first step, right?  Next, I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to do about it.  Easier said than done.

My current plan:  Post this blog.  Sleep.  Figure it out later.

Thanks for listening, guys.  Sorry if this was ridiculous.  At the very least, hopefully you can take this as a warning to not fall into the trap that I managed to avoid for seven years before falling into now.  Balance is important, and I believe that nothing is more important in your life than your relationships with other people, and your day to day happiness.  I’d even go so far as to say that those are very important parts of your poker game as well.

Take care and good luck.

-Phil

168 Replies to “It Always Comes Back to Balance, Doesn’t It?”

  1. Hey Phil,

    Why not treat yourself to some sort of non-related poker (or relatively non-related) vacation…perhaps with some friends, and come back anew (hopefully) to your computer screen? I’m sure you have thought about it and I feel that it would help immensely.

  2. It’s something everyone struggles with for sure. My general remedies:

    1.) Take a break. Self-exclude from Stars and delete your shortcuts so you don’t even open the lobby.
    2.) Diet. Eat well, generally pescatarian.
    3.) Exercise.
    4.) Force yourself to do at least a few “things” a day.
    5.) Manage your day with a handwritten schedule.

    Good luck Phil.

  3. Hey Phil.
    I totally agree with you on your idea of balancing of life.
    You are my HERO…I started playing PLO only after watching you play it so much.
    You are a great PLO player and will always be the best IMO.
    ATM even I am losing a lot.
    Have been feeling the same way in which you are feeling.
    This blog from you will really help me a lot.

    Thanks a lot
    Ankur Agarwal
    (from INDIA)

  4. Hi Phil,

    What you’ve done in this post is pretty amazing. Everyone needs balance in their life–not just poker players–and I think you’ve made people stop and think. Pretty cool.

    Whenever you come to Maryland, let me know and I’ll take you to a Washington Capitals hockey game. That’s how I release my work stress and for 2.5 hours I don’t worry about anything else.

  5. Hi Phil,

    Best of luck figuring it out, I’m sure you’ll manage to get back on track:) Take some time playing less poker, join non-poker activities etc. Seems to me that the only way to get balanced is to start a non-poker life now you’ve kinda overcame the rush of playing online poker again.

    Good luck & thanks for this blog!

  6. “When Waluigi wins a race in Mario Kart, he feels amazing. When he loses, he’s miserable. That’s all he has. When you turn off your Wii and to out to dinner, he’s still in there racing.”
    That gave me a good laugh.

    Have you considered picking up an online game? It’s not a complete substitute for “real” interaction, but you can make some great friends online (as you already know). A big bonus is that no matter where you are you can always sink a few mindless hours into a game, like Team Fortress or World of Warcraft, with the same people you’ve always played with.

    It may be the case that sitting at a computer, no matter what you’re doing, reminds you too much of poker. Similar to how your poker friends remind you of it.

    However you go about it, I hope you find the balance you’re looking for. 🙂

  7. Hi Phil.
    This is such a great post and i am extremely impressed that you can write so much great stuff while being tired.
    It is just awesome how honest and open you are writing and i really hope for you that you can find your balance as fast as somehow possible!
    GL from germany

  8. I knew as soon as I heard about your swing that you were out of whack. Are you getting in your exercise? Try to get your workouts in and build a routine. Get your meals in on time and eat consistently. You can start by establishing balance by doing things to physically keep yourself balanced. Look at your bed room, is it clean? That’s a representation of your mind.

    Are you doing anything to build a social life outside of poker? I have met tons of friends at the gym. Are you seeing a therapist? Have a place to channel your thoughts in a safe environment. Life coach? I just got one and it’s been incredibly helpful. It’s been a guide for me, keeping me straight, like braces for my soul.

    Overall just know and trust you’ll be fine. Money comes and goes, and the lesson you learned is priceless. You’re blessed to have learned this. Sometimes we have to go off our path to know that we were on a right path before. But you’re a resilient, intelligent person and you know this.

    Good luck, man,
    Jeff
    also, feel free to hit me up on skype: notanormalgent

  9. Great post Phil.

    I agree with some others… Maybe taking a trip to hang out with friends in NYC for a couple weeks would allow you to decompress, recharge your batteries, formulate a plan and tackle whatever comes next.

  10. Hi Phil,

    This post was just great. Balance… We all need, whatever our profession is. Since being a pro-poker player has some more stress issues to deal with, it is even more important. I have no doubts you will get that balance back in your life, just give yourself time.

    Have you tried registering to some team sport activities? Since you are in Canada, you could try hockey (in gymnasium if you don’t like on ice). I personally love it and I’ve met incredible people playing this great sport. Once you start getting the hype of the game, it’s hard to stop! I’m sure you would love it, and it keeps you healthy and in shape.

    You are definatly a great and wise person. Keep us informed, I’m sure you will be back to balance in no time!

  11. Wow! This hits me on a couple of levels and I have been in your shoes, unfortunetly it was because I could not win…consistently. I did not have the balance which you described so well. I got my balance at the end of 2006 where I met my wife, she has three kids and we have one together, for a happy total of four. I had a real job and would play when I could. Still cannot consistently win but now it doesn’t eat away at me anymore, I have a 17 year old, 10 year old, 8 year old and 3 year old with a wife and a love of the lord that balances me out. I am not suggesting that you find a lovely lady with kids, nor am I saying you must find the lord, which could help. But what I am saying is that you put into writing what had been eating away at me for a long time and it is awesome that you would allow us into your world and show us how down to earth you are. Phil, you had your balance, I don’t know if you want to volunteer for the local boys and girls club, or volunteer for anything around your area, joining a church and sometimes leads gaining friends without poker knowledge,(but sometimes they are unbalanced themselves, lol) because those friends are truly refreshing. I know that I was in a vicious cycle and did things, not cruel things, but I did things to continue to play that I would not do today(did not hang out with friends,etc.) because of my lack of balance. Someone suggested a vacation for you, yeah that’ll help for a while, but you need to look at your implied odds as well right, in the long run it won’t sustain. I hope you find your balance and I am sorry for rambling but your post hit the spot for me. I plan to get back on the tables in February so, Phil, good luck, prayers coming at you(like it or not). Stay nice as rice and mello as jello!

  12. Hey Phil,

    now when i read this, i understand why i have played badly for the last few months and why i didnt see that fun anymore + my motivation is not the same as it was like 5months ago! We just simply play TOO much , think TOO much about poker and it doesnt helps in longrun for sure! I will take a break from stars & poker completely and come back only when i will be feeling that old feeling in me: “Yes now im ready to win again and crush souls”. Hope you do the same, take like a ~2week or whatever number of days/weeks u need to forget about losses & bad things that happened & come back stronger than ever!

    Sorry for my english, i know its horrible, hope you understand what i was trying to say with this post!

    Take care Phil & good luck to you~

  13. I think separting poker from the rest of your life is very important.Treating poker as your business in a way.

    Learn to just play a few hours a day within in set schedule.(Kinda tough considering the nosebleeds). Or even a set amount of hours a week. By doing this you can use the rest of your time to be much more PRODUCTIVE. Can’t think what to do in your spare time? There are millions of hobbies to take up, escecially now considering it is the information age. The options are endless. Get out of your comfort zone, TRY NEW THINGS, meet new people. What your doing just now isn’t working.

    I find Julien Smith’s blog to be extremely helpful especially this post

    http://inoveryourhead.net/the-complete-guide-to-snapping-the-f-k-out-of-it/

    Craig

  14. Hey Phil I love the Waluigi comparison, I’ve certainly felt like that before. Coming from an American who can’t leave the country, and can’t grind online, I wouldn’t mind being Waluigi for at least a few weeks though. Good luck and thanks for the posts!

  15. I feel completely the same when I am loosing… I almost don’t have any other activities except for playing poker and preparing to play poker…
    When I am winning it’s a different story – i don’t care that i don’t have anything else to do…
    But when I am loosing I feel *sick*……..
    No advices here… lol.. well, maybe i should workout again..

  16. Phil, have you ever tried out meditation or autogenic training? sounds pretty weird in our western culture, i know, but i guess that is incredibly helpful for dealing with daily variance – not only in poker but in life. there are so many things we cannot influence, but our mood depends on it. and thats exactly what you can practise with those methods.
    i dont wanna advice you about anything. i ve just been in a pretty similar situation were i had basically everything for a good life, but wasnt really happy – so maybe it will help you sometime

    anyway, thanks a lot for all those great blogposts. i enjoy reading them a lot! keep up what you re doing and all the best to you

    cheers 🙂

  17. Hi Phil,

    great and very honest post!
    I’ve always admired you as a player but now I truly admire you as a person.
    I really feel for you, never know, maybe this current lack of balance and the way everything is at the moment will work out for the best for you. Situations like this are sometimes good in a sense they make us want to change things, to find a way to make our life better and happier :).
    Btw, we all want to see you crashing high stakes asap!

  18. Phil…. Get a life and stop complaining,, No one really cares,,,,, Quit if you’re not happy…….. You have a great life… If normal people want to hear you complaining they can talk with all the losers that they run into…. People look to you for motivation not listening to you;re depressing story…..At least you have millions unlike all these losers……. These people are trying to pay their electric bill……Good Luck……. But I suggest you quit,keep what you have and just get a normal job and or business,,,,Scott

  19. Phil,

    Flush the negative out. Replace with positive in.

    When you get into a rut it’s one of the most challenging things to do.

    I’m bouncing back after a pretty big down swing myself. (Divorce, short sale of my house, down turn in my business, and moving to a place it turns out I hate.) LOL. So now I’m on an upswing. I started by being “open” to some different opinions and things. Then I got honest about some things. (much like you did in your blog post.) I have a dream board. I have goals. I listen to positive motivational stuff on cd or read a positive book a month. I haven’t watched the news in years.

    I’d love to send you a book if you’re open to it, or an audio book… It might help. It can’t hurt 😉

    – Fittsy

  20. Very honest and interesting entry

    I totally agree about work/life balance. Whether it is family friends, or just fun, it is good to have a life apart from your occupation, gives you a stress release and a bit of perspective in general. Also when you have success in your career it means more to you.

    When you lose this balance and perspective then your job (poker in your case) becomes much bigger and more central to your happiness. Also life can start to feel a little empty and that breeds negativity. When i’m winning, “what’s it all for?” and when i’m losing “it’s a disaster, i’m a failiure” etc

    On the bright side at least (i assume) you have more freedom than most people both financially and timewise to be able to take a break and try and resolve these issues. Unfortunately with many employers constantly demanding more and more from employees (generally for the same or less reward) i feel many people get dragged involuntarily into this kind of situation and don’t have the same opportunity you have earned go be able to change things.

    If yor recent tilting really is a symptom of life (or lack of one) off the table then probably is time to take a break and make some changes to avoid it happening more.

    Good luck!

  21. You need a vacation.
    I offer you my home here in Madrid (Spain).
    One week without poker.
    Just beers and chicks.
    Then back to work with a fress state of mind.
    That is if you don’t get hooked with some spanish hot chick.
    Gl with whatever.

  22. Hey Phil, love the post… My only thoughts that others haven’t brought us, is the idea to go serve somewhere. Finding a local charity, soup kitchen, or something like that to go serve others. It takes your mind off of things, forces you to meet other people. Keep it up, and thanks for your honesty.

    Brandon

  23. Maybe a week long break would do you a lot of good. Take some time off, and only go play when you really feel like you want to and will crush. Also, it’s absolutely ludacris for me to give you BRM advice, but stop lossing at 50% of your peak once your 4-5 BI ahead is always a good plan. Also, maybe 8 tabling isn’t your best plan of attack.. Go back to the days of hanging out at 100/200 and 200/400 and play 2-4 tables HU or SH or whatever, and concentrate on each decision.. Hard to blame yourself for playing bad when you have 10 tables of HS PLO on the go.. Try going back to what has worked for you in the past.. You’ve proven you can hang with the 10 tabling degens.. now take back your rightful spot in the nosebleeds. Take care, Phil.

    Matt

  24. Hey Phil,

    Sounds like your going through a real ‘rough patch’ there stuck in the poker zone…I empathise with how you feel, going through something similar myself though I don’t quite have the multi million $$ BR to reset and reload like you can and will I’m sure… hell I might even have to get a real job again heaven forbid!

    But that’s the least of my worries cos at least here in Melbourne I have all my friends and family in the one place….most of whom know nothing about poker. On that note – you’ve hit the nail on the head with your thoughts on balance and personal relationships, it’s pretty much the key to playing well too – get the balance right, get your self in the right head space and the rest takes care of itself, especially if you know the game as well as you do!

    If I were in your position, I’d jump on a plane and head for home – hang out with your closest friends and family get some perspective back, clear your head of poker and only return to canada once your really hungry again…. and that’s not to say your not hungry now… but as you honestly admitted before playin so much and so long, you tilted yourself… I do the same myself (all too regularly unfortunately)and as such I ended up railing the high stks action last week instead of playing and was actually really surprised by what I saw… I know the action was pretty loose what with isildur and co, but I was surprised at both some of the way you were playing and also frenetically reloading, heck I know you were running horrible but it just didn’t quite seem to be the same measured and ‘balanced’ if you will phil galfond we’re use to seeing crushing the online high stks… I guess you’re human after all! 😉

    Anyways…I’m rambling now – I’m sure you’ll work it out mate.

    Keep up the great work with your blog and videos, such insight and honesty is so refreshing.

    All the best, Cheers

    1. Sounds like despite some tough sledding you’ve still got your wits about you.

      A solution to your life situation will come. Try to remain frosty until it hits. You’re a smart guy and back inside your brain you’re working on it. Like your next upswing, it will come. Maybe quickly, maybe not. You really can’t force it.
      Tom Arrr

  25. We’re with you, Phil ! If there’s anybody, who can figure out what to do in this situation, it’s you ! GL and show them who’s the boss !!!

  26. hey Phil, i recently read an eerily similar blog by a DC member, and there was a great reply by mitch:

    Well it’s good you’re realizing happiness is internal and it’s a very bad idea for it to be dependent on your external environment. Bottom line is if you can’t be happy with no money, no friends, no nothing, then you’re probably going to have a tough time being happy no matter what cool things you have.

    But Dude you’re totally projecting all your problems on to poker. When I was 18 and in this “terrible isolating job” I lived by myself in Argentina, would go out most nights with friends, learnt Spanish, flew to island to do Health Retreats, would fly out to where ever a cool Tony Robbins event was, would find the most interesting 30-40 year olds I could and basically pay them to hangout and learn from them, it was the coolest thing ever.

    I still occasionally get calls from Day Spas offering me a job because one day I thought “oh I should learn massage” and instead of going for an hour once a week like most people can only afford (in terms of time and money) I spent 2 months doing an intense, full-time professional massage course.

    I could go on and on about other similar shit I’ve done. […]

    Go to India and chill with yogis or Peru and trip on Ayahuasca or America and train with SEALs. I bet you could do any of that within a day and the financial costs would be relatively minimal. But instead you’re going on short day trips and sitting on a computer writing emo blogs about how tough things are, and that’s the problem, not poker.

    It might sound scary but you just got to throw yourself into this world dude, or just quit poker, because if you’re not doing that then you’re wasting your time.

    and something else:
    http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20060630/study-money-wont-make-you-happy

    and something else:
    “The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich.” – Nassim N. Taleb

    maybe this is helpful, maybe not. cheers.

  27. Phil,

    I think the answer is to develop a new group of non-poker friends in Vancouver. Easier said than done, I know. Regardless of your religious preference, some churches are great places to plug into a community and feel welcomed immediately. You could also join a Crossfit gym. Lots of those have a family feel because of the shared experience. Maybe join a rec softball league or YMCA or something. Even if these things don’t pan out, they will help give you a non-poker life again. And chances are one of these options or another like them will work and you’ll have a new group of friends pretty soon who distract you from poker. Good luck.

  28. I used to go to aerobic classes (I am male). It gives you a good schedule, very good for the body and you can meet new people, especially healthy pretty girls :).
    The male/female ratio at these spots are very good.

  29. Hey Phil

    Nice blog post, sorry to hear about your current situation.
    If I were you I would (Im not a big fan so I don’t know if you have done any of the following):
    (1)try and find a girlfriend (easier said than done) or more local non poker friends in vancouver. Just having someone to talk to at the end of sessions like you said really helps you keep balance.
    (2) Take a trip to Africa. Really check it out, it will give you a new perspective on life. Besides just seeing the poverty, have fun also and check out the Sahara Desert and also the Victorian,Falls, go on a Safari. Take a month out of your life if you can and do this.
    (3) Start a charity/non profit organization that you are passionate about. The bigger the better as you will feel proud of what you have accomplished. Often poker players (especially the successful ones) have a weird feeling years down the road because yes they have all this money, but what have they actually done to help the world and even themselves? By starting a charity/non profit organization, and keeping up with the day to day operations you will have a second ”job” that you can really be proud of. Plus you will be providing employment to people, which is a great feeling also.
    (4) Go to Burning Man this summer in Nevada. Ask Antonio Esfandiari about it, as I think he went last year. Go with a group of people; the best would be to go with people who have gone before and can get you into one of the camps.

    Hope some of this is ok advice. GL

    -Mike

  30. Also start swimming laps. Many people stress working out at the gym. I find swimming to be the best for of working out, as it is just you and the pool, and your thoughts. It really is awesome

  31. Phil, You are a very great person and your honestly impressed me again. Keep up the good work and we cross our fingers for You.
    CJ

  32. Hi Phil,

    I really felt for you while reading this post. First, you should never feel ridiculous for complaining or feeling depressed. Mental health is an often neglected or misunderstood subject. Just because you’re doing well financially doesn’t mean you’re fulfilled or your life is necessarily better. When our financial needs are met, that only puts more focus on the parts of life that we aren’t doing so well in, and those are the ones that can hurt us the most.

    It seems like what you need (or want) right now are some social distractions away from poker. I’ve said this before, but I find Vancouver to be a particularly difficult city to start a new life in without knowing anyone, because though people are friendly and polite, they’re less used to opening their lives to and accepting strangers. Even my friends who’ve lived in Vancouver all their lives, when trying to branch out and meet new people through a common hobby, have not found it easy to make real friends. However, I’m going to do my best to brainstorm for you because you seem like a good guy and I want you to be happy again.

    – Take a class in a subject you’re interested in (and that others your age will be interested in… so not something too practical like accounting, in the unlikely event you have an interest in that). Pro-tip: you can sit in on large lectures at UBC – unlike many US schools, you don’t need ID to get into the buildings.
    – Volunteer.
    – Join an improv group.
    – Play a team sport recreationally – there are lots of drop-in facilities for volleyball, basketball, hockey, etc.
    – I’ve suggested meetup.com before, and though I understand why you might hesitate to try it, just go into it with no expectations other than it being a break from poker, like going for a walk but with 20 other people.
    – Think about the structured activities (e.g. not just drinking) that you used to do with friends in other cities, and try to find their equivalents in Vancouver.
    – See if your friends/family know people in the Vancouver area.
    – Go back to NY/Vegas/Wisconsin for a week every two months to recharge.
    – Become a neon-clad vigilante.

    You’ve probably already considered all of these options already, but sometimes it helps to hear it from another person. Also, stop thinking of Vancouver as a destination on a business trip and as the city you’re going to now LIVE in. Doing so might help you make the first investment in life balance. I’ve always been very lucky to have made new friends when I moved to a new city just by meeting really friendly people, or as a circumstance of the way the workplace was. I’m kind of introverted, so though I enjoy being alone and focused for the most part, being EXCLUSIVELY alone for even a month is not ok. If I were in your situation I would be going out of my mind too. And that’s when I’ll know I’ve reached the point that I need to go outside my “comfort zone” (hate that term) to get some life balance.

    You’ll probably receive lots of replies to this post. Replies sympathizing, giving advice, cialis spam, or Vancouver poker fans offering to hang out with you. And though you should be and have every right to be suspicious of their motives, it might be better for your mental health to take up a couple of the offers just to get away from the problems directing affecting you now. It’s going to be an awkward fan-hero dynamic, but you can always leave when you feel uncomfortable. Don’t feel guilty or rude about doing so, because if you’re getting a weird vibe then they probably have not-so-cool intentions. (Though probably not the sexy stranger danger intentions that sentence made it sound like.)

    In the mean time, I find it helps not to think directly about a problem (your downswing), but rather “around” it. Telling yourself to avoid thinking about it just makes it harder when the memory returns. Take a small break but don’t force yourself to avoid poker. Maybe even try writing that poker book or play some 1/2NL at the casino. Sleep regular hours. Make sure you sleep at a time and in a way such that you won’t wake up to a lit room when it’s dark outside. I find that to be a really depressing and isolating sensation. Buy some groceries and cook a nice meal for yourself. Go see a stupid 3D movie. Rent a bike and cycle along the Seawall. Buy yourself something you don’t need or want but think will look funny in your apartment. Get yourself a douchebag outfit and act like one for art’s sake. Read a novel. Clean and reorganize your space. After doing some of these “normal people” things for a while you’ll probably start feeling good enough to want to play again without tilting.

  33. That’s the kind of blog I truely ever wanted to read from a poker player like you.

    It shows me that you are honest (to yourself aswell and thats the most important thing I guess). And it shows that u exactly know how to get away from the stress @the tables. And that’s just the key to your problems…just stay away from the tables sometimes if you feel lonely in this new city where u just know some poker guys. Even if the games might be good, stay away…sometimes. Let other things happen in your life. Meet new people and get to know them. Even if you get to know 2 or 3 new people/week, this is brilliant. Go clubbing, make some outdoor activities with a group where u might not even know a person. They will let you come into this group and you’ll be a part of it. You are such a cool and smart guy, I cannot imagine that the people there dont like you. And if you get to know new people, you might even find some friends for your lifetime. Try it out, it will work. And the feeling that you found a new friend in your life is one the best feelings ever. Success @the tables will come back automatically, because you feel way more self-confident und balanced. A new start is always a chance…a chance to change some things. A chance to learn something new and last but not least: A chance to find to yourself and become a better person.

    Btw:

    I really have no doubts at all, that you are a good person :-). And I hope my english is not that bad so u can understand my intention. Keep your head up dude, because you know life is good :-).

  34. Hope u can get back to a more happy lifestyle phil. I wish you the best, u are truly inspirational, not because of how u play, but due to your sincerity and humbleness even w all your success.

    Just curious, feel free to to answer or not, are u gay? I mean, i have read your entrys for like 4 years, and u never talk about girls or a girlfriend, etc.

  35. Do something not poker related. Me and a couple of my buddies go out once a week to the bowling ally and just have a couple drinks and bowl 2-3 games. Obv we all play poker but all more or less suck. (One guy plays 200nl online the rest of us play micros) We just go out and have a good time and micro stakes gamble on bowling stuff ($20 a game or something). The good thing is we live in vancouver and you are more then welcome to come out with us if you wanted. Im sure you get fanboys trying to hang out with you all the time but the offer is still on the table. I promise that we will try not to talk poker with you 😛

  36. I think separting poker from the rest of your life is very important.Treating poker as your business in a way.

    Learn to just play a few hours a day within in set schedule.(Kinda tough considering the nosebleeds). Or even a set amount of hours a week. By doing this you can use the rest of your time to be much more PRODUCTIVE. Can’t think what to do in your spare time? There are millions of hobbies to take up, escecially now considering it is the information age. The options are endless. Get out of your comfort zone, TRY NEW THINGS, meet new people. What your doing just now isn’t working.

    I find Julien Smith’s blog to be extremely helpful especially this post

    http://inoveryourhead.net/the-complete-guide-to-snapping-the-f-k-out-of-it/

    Craig

  37. Easiest solution ever !! Start working out and get in shape. Don’t turn into a 20 something year old that looks mid 40’s. The best stress relief ever and when your appearance behind to change and improve you will be surprised how much of an impact it has on your non poker life .

  38. Really like your post and the way you open up is awesome. I remember something that the buddha said, it started with “Life is Suffering”(Its more than just that, sure you can find it if you google it), its like no matter what you have in your life theirs always going to be problems, its so easy to think about the things that are wrong in life but on the other hand its harder to see the great things, I myself try to see any problem has a challenge, and just do my best to try fix them one at a time. I completely relate to you with the more than one bed, never starting activities because “ohhh, why start if next month I might not be here” and it just sucks, however in my case I feel its more like a fear of trying new things. I would not worry to much man, your situation is TEMPORARY, im sure than before you know it your going to be in the USA playing online poker! So just try to make the most out the time your grinding in canada, don’t see it has “my life” and more like you said “temporary work trip”, listen to some music and grind that downswing out, be happy with what you got and the challenges life is going to give you in the future, remember the start of the path and where you are now, and where you want to be soon, and just do it champ.

    English is not my main language, so my bad on any spelling/etc

    Best of luck Phil,
    Dante

  39. Phil,

    I am a young poker player trying to supplement my very modest living expense by playing poker 3-4 days a week at local Indian casinos in Oklahoma. Your honesty in this blog is helping me deal with downswings and the pressure of poker. Thanks so much for sharing and being so honest!

    Seems like you really love living in NYC. Maybe you could live there and focus on live poker in New Jersey (although I guess the trade off would be lower stakes?). Or you could live in NYC and rent an apartment in Toronto where you could go on what would truly be “business trips” and play online poker for a week or two every month in Toronto. Just a couple of thoughts.

    Jason

  40. Phil,It really sounds like you need to take a good healthy break from the game. You have been tilting and not playing your A game,also you have been under stress and not enjoying playing.Come back after a good break mentally strong and fully rolled.My PLO game has improved greatly from watching your videos you are the best. All the best Phil.

  41. Sign up for some dating sites or even better get a hot escort willing to do whatever you want. One thing you have is lots of money, put it to use.

  42. Hey friend.
    From the limited information I have about your situation I believe you would benefit from a fitness programme. Healthier lifestyle, (healthy body, a healthy mind) and having non poker related goals to work on will certainly give you more balance… just my advice from personal experience… Peace

  43. Everyone says I play ok, mainly a mtt/sng player, but I can’t seem to win anymore. The variance is getting to me obv and its affecting my life. I achieved SNE on Pokerstars in 2010. That was the highlight of my career but everything has gone downhill since then. Theres so much on my mind at all times so I can definitely relate to you (obv on a much lower scale but relatively just as much). I live in Vancouver, would love to meet you and talk more about mental side of poker and other stuff. (I think about that a lot more than strategy because I gotta convince myself to go back and play the next day after losing daily). It hurts because I’m a pretty humble Canadian so at times I think maybe I’m just over the hill. I watched all your videos and others that I think can help with my game. But everyone I talked to (friends, backers, coaches) all say my game is fine. Sorry for rambling I just have so much to say on this topic.

  44. Amazing blog Phil. Luv your personality. I did learn to balance my life several months ago. Thx again for the reminder.

    “hope is a great thing, maybe the greatest thing of all, and no great thing ever dies”

    Yasir Jamal
    Memphis TN

  45. Hey Phil, I know you probably wont respond to this but its worth a try, I live in the area of Vancouver and I admit that I am a regular poker player, but only recently started taking the game seriously (1year), I am a retired gamer(@22yr) and choose not to allow myself near any game, unfortunately poker made its way into my life, for better or worse its in me forever. The only good thing is that I got a solid 5 years to find this balance you speak of, I have found balance with a wonderful gf and a cool group of Guy friends, all of which have no understanding to the game. I have mastered the RL side of my life and hate to see you suffer with the social side of yours. I wish there was some way that I could help you. Some of my friends are avid marijuana users and gamers that I still hang out with. If you ever want to use a volcano vaporizer or try snowboarding (expert) just send me a email, I will not even mention poker in person.
    ~Dave

  46. Phil, you need to step back and look at what you want to accomplish in life. In ten years from now, try and visualize the accomplishments that can be achieved through playing poker. Sure, you can make (or possibly lose) alot of money. But in reality, will there be much accomplishment there either way? Poker is zero-sum; while you are writing a blog post now about being in a rut, there is sum European who is high-on life because he has a newly found five-hundred grand.

    Pull up your chips. You will be looked at as the ultimate winner because you came for a few years, took the money, and then developed a fully-financed life based on it. This is the definition of a real winner. Don’t make a life out of it because it worked for the past seven years – that’s being too results oriented. Do it as a hobby and in the summers. Poker doesn’t provide a much accomplished feeling even when you win, and even then, someone else is feeling the opposite, just like you are now.

    Please don’t take this as sounding all-authoritative, demeaning or degrading. I’m just trying to express this as honestly as possible. If you ever need someone to talk to you have my e-mail.

    -David-

  47. Phil,

    Thanks for the great blog, you expressed the plight of the disenfranchised US online players well. My gf and I were also uprooted by black Friday and have had to deal with similar isolated conditions on the road.

    We chose to keep a small home close to our family in Texas, even though no legal poker is available. What the home costs us in work opportunity it more than makes up for in quality of life. Time here certainly helps us recover from our downswings faster.

    I hope your life gets back in balance soon and you continue to write about the process here. I’m really enjoying your thoughts on the game and the life.

  48. hey phil,
    first of all, great post

    i dunno if u read this, but my advise would be:
    get a real life job for 4 weeks (or w.e u have in mind), like becoming a bartender or so. u can talk to ppl that have no idea what u really do for a living, and become friends with vancouverians who dont play poker.

    w.e u decide to do, gl solving ur problem

  49. Thanks for all of the advice and encouragement, guys.

    I purposely started eating better, cooking, and exercising when I got to Vancouver for this very reason. I wanted to be improving in more than one area, and I knew I needed something else to do. I haven’t stopped these things, but they’ve definitely slowed down quite a bit as games have gotten more hectic and my stress level was increasing. I’ve been making an effort to get back into the swing of things with this.

    To those suggesting vacations… I’m weird. Vacations aren’t very enjoyable for me, for the most part. I like my home, my routine. Being away for too long gets very stressful and draining for me. And a quick trip every once in a while is just as bad. What I really need to do is “fix” my normal day to day life.

    Maybe the solution will be making friends in Vancouver. Maybe it will be moving back to NY and taking frequent trips to Toronto to play. Maybe I will live like this until online poker is legal in the US.

    The truth is, I was very happy during my first months in Vancouver. Part of this, as I said, was due to it still being a new thing and not my real full life yet. Part was due to an upswing. If poker turns around, I know I will be happy and enjoying myself as I play. It’ll just be unfortunate if that’s what I have to depend on for the time being.

  50. Hey Phil, thank you for your honest words. I felt it like confession and I felt it with my heart. I think you’ve just helped me a lot to realize something about me much clearer though.
    In order to find balance try to practise a kung-fu or other martial art. It is very, very helpful- Mens sana in corpore sano. I wish you all the best, cheer up!

  51. Firstly I wont to say that Im ayour fun and U r one of very best players on planet, I think U will find solution to regain balace, can t be tougher then beating noseblide games:).

  52. Hi Phil,
    I’m a habitual animal as well. But for some reasons, I have lived in different cities and different countries since I was little. At the worst time, I had to move at least once every year. I never learned to adjust. I had to. And every time i settled down in a new place, I had to rebuild my routine. And every time i left my old routine behind, i felt like something have been taken away from me. For certain period of time, I didn’t even know why I was so depressed about my life. I felt like I was constantly stuck in a place where I didn’t belong, and I was too young to find any way out. It was as if I was living in a vacuum. I couldn’t get anyone in and I couldn’t get myself out. 

    I don’t know if you are in the same situation, but your writing definitely reminded me of my own experience. 

    What i have learned, in a hard way, was that there is this powerless feeling in your life that u just have to learn to deal with. There is no way out. This is your own battle. You need to find your own weapon and your own shield. Nobody can give you an answer about what you should or could do to make yourself feel better. 

    It is tough and it hurts. But you just have to have faith that it will come to an end, because it will. And when you are over with it, you will be stronger, you will know yourself better, you will have a clearer mind of what you should and could do.

    Don’t think it as a disaster, treat it as an opportunity to know more about yourself and get stronger. When you are living a good life, when everything is good and smooth, you don’t learn anything, about yourself or about the world around you. 

    Things change. People come, people go. I cannot give you specific suggestions on what you should do to get yourself out of where you are. I can tell u what I did. I build my focus on something in my life that will not change. Something not that significant. Something that I can take with me anywhere I go. It might sound silly, but it worked. It doesn’t really matter where I am. When I know there are things in my life that I can control, I can have peace of mind, even just temporarily. Then I can continue with my life, till the downturn is over. 

    Just hang on there. Like I said, things change. Good things don’t stay forever, neither do bad things. If you are already at the bottom of your life, things cannot go anywhere but up.

    Vancouver is a beautiful city, too bad you didn’t come at the right time. Wait till April, when u see the cherry blooms, maybe u will start to like this city.

    Best of luck

    K

  53. Good luck with everything Phil. For your information, before you’ve said that it sounded depressing, I was like “Oh wow, it sounds very much like me when I was depressed”, and I’m still on a therapy with medicine everyday (antidepressants, strong sleeping pills, and a last one tat helps to put my brain asleep, and have more “easy-going” thoughts, for when I sleep), I would just go crazy with poker; I thought it was the very last thing in my life that could go well, and any losing session was a disaster. Anyway, I like the way you handle everything, and I am very much looking forward to how you are gonna handle this. First because I am curious and second because I might be able to apply it to my case and learn from you.

    I have a question though; why do you have this website? Why would you answer everyone’s questions? I mean, I like very much, I’m just wondering.

    Take care!

  54. Great post Phil! this is what I was wishing for when you asked what info we would like from your blogs.

    You have given us an honest blog about what life is really like as a poker pro, never read anything so honest and insightful before.

    I’m sure you’ll get out of this downswing soon.

    Keep up the good work on and off the felt.

  55. Hey Phil,

    just wna say how awesome it is that you are so open and transparent about your thoughts and what you are going through right now. For many, esp highstakes well known poker players, i think thats the one thing they’d never do, which is open themselves up or admit they might be vulnerable. I know you are not seeking anything from all of these other than inspiring and educating us(railers) about living a high stakes life and that in itself makes you an admirable and better person(than many scumbags of the poker world who only desire money and nth else)

    Just like to suggest an advice which is maybe you shld take a break from online poker? Maybe travel the world to play live cash games and tournaments. From players tweets i can tell they have fun while at different cities participating in tournaments. You could also catch up with close friends such as Dwan and co. The action on the cash games seems juicy enough for you to want to be involved and from what ive seen on the aussie millions, they are certainly playing PLO as well. I think this is the best for you. Take a few months off, travel, really use your money to enjoy yourself and still make money while travelling.

  56. Phil,

    i’m really happy about what i just read. you contact with your fans in a humble and honest way. you solved your problem by telling us your thoughts and analyzing them at the same time. you have alredy done the biggest step by realizing WHAT is going on.
    should i feel sad about your current situation? I don’t think so. downswings are part of the game of poker and life in general and hopefully you just found the key to solve one of those terrible downswings.

    good luck and take care
    rob

  57. Phil. For lack of a more elegant way to put it: it takes a lot of balls to write a post like this, and I applaud you.

    I think you hit a very important note when you mentioned that you have the flexibility, both financially and “lifestyle wise”, to do whatever the heck you want to do. It’s pretty clear that what you want to do is spend time with your good non-poker friends. So do it! Whenever I’m financially able I’ll grab some of my best friends and take them on a trip. Pay for the ones that aren’t able to travel. They will have a blast and you will have a blast giving them a gift and enjoying their company. Come back refreshed and grind some more, and then take another trip.

    It’s obvious with your personality that while you might be able to take an extended break from the game financially you just don’t want to. You are happy and love playing poker when balanced. The DOJ won’t let you be balanced in a daily basis/routine so establish a monthly or quarterly routine that is intense grinding and then intense fun/reward/relaxation. It may not be ideal, but it seems like a good compromise.

    Cliffs: Treat some of your best non-poker friends to a month in Europe, or a few weeks in South America, or whatever. And do that regularly. Balance life in larger chunks because the DOJ won’t let you do it in small chunks.

  58. Become a Vanouver Canucks fan. Go see some Canucks games. They’re talked about enough in Vancouver that it will take away from some of the poker talk. Go up to Whisler, enjoy the world class snowboarding and skiing. Take a ferry trip over to Victoria, the capital city of B.C. Visit the Royal B.C. Museum there, so you can check out a bit of B.C.’s history. B.C. is an amazing place, there are things to do that are only two hour drive or ferry ride away.

  59. I find it odd that one of the more famous poker players is in a spot in life where he feels like he has no friends.

    Phil, I imagine 99% of your readers would hang out with you in a non-poker capacity.

    Heck, I’ll go one further. When you go to Vegas, you can hang out with me in a poker poker/gambling capacity as I am a professional sports handicapper who studies poker for balance.

  60. Phil its not that complicated, you have identified the problem. You know your not happy or balanced at the moment. Perhaps Canadian winters are compounding the problem? NYC winters fly by when you’ve got places to go and people to see. You expressed a lot of uncertainty in previous blogs about your living situation this seems to be the core of your lack of satisfaction….compounded by the fact that your on a downswing. If you really don’t need to play NOW go back to NYC. Best regards and warm wishes are being sent your way from myself and many others following you.

  61. Hey Phil,
    Great, honest blog post. Based on what you have said, I feel that this is not something that you can solve with a quick holiday somewhere to recharge. Soon enough afterwards you will find yourself in this same situation. From my own experiences, you need people around you on a regular day to day basis that can provide the non poker balance you are looking for.

    Whether this is in Vancouver or somewhere else, I hope that you are able to find it as I believe it is one of the most important things that you can have in life.

    Good luck!

  62. Dear Phil,

    Please sleep more.

    Sincerely,

    A concerned internet person 🙂

    Seriously though, great post. Balance in life is hard to maintain at times…regardless of your profession. I’m an elementary school teacher who plays poker on the side, and finding balance with just work and life in general is hard. Just keep a positive mind and you’ll find your balance again.

    Maybe you can take up a hobby? Or take some classes? Cooking classes are a great way to meet people (and ladies?!), and it’s a great skill set to have!

    Good luck!

  63. I love the honesty in this blog..

    Sorry about the downswing, but meh, so it goes.

    The unfortunate truth is that as poker players – especially slightly introverted ones like you presumably may be – it’s slowgoing to make new acquaintances in new cities. With that said, poker players are always going to be the easiest new friends to make. As I’m sure you’re well aware of, there are those of us that will babble all day about “downswing this, cooler that, did I play that right, etc” and then those of us that simply acknowledge a “how are you running?” which more or less serves as a simple hello for us, and proceed to actual interpersonal conversations. Most of my good friends from poker I would describe as the latter and they add much more balance to my life than even my closest friends from home. They’re there if I find that I need to talk shop, but mostly, they’re just there to grab a drink with, play sports with, go see some shows, spend some time outside, all that normal person shit. Most good poker players are already people that have cultivated balance in their life and have plenty of interesting hobbies – sounds like you just need to find some different poker players in Vancouver.

    Either way, best of luck in poker/life; keep your head up..

  64. Hey Phil,
    I hope all is well with you.You do seem to been at a sort of crossroads as of now.Even Doyle in S.S. stressed the need for vacations.You are in my opinion one of the top three poker theorem minds along with Sklansky and Malmouth you will break out of this swing.You are to talented and bright not to.Hang in there.
    Chris

  65. Appreciate the candidness Phil. Put simply, you need a break bro. Don’t play any poker up until the WSOP. Go on a vacation. Get a GF. Trust the itch never leaves. Taking a break will just allow you to recharge.

  66. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You have to figure out what that first single step is and when to take it. You sure sound like you have to move back to New York and surround yourself with your friends. Why not commute to Canada and treat online poker like a job. Thousands of business men do this every week. Thousands of labour workers do this also. 4 days in, 3 days off.
    Figure out the secret to life.
    Mine is a happy wife and healthy kids. You can’t beat it.
    Good Luck

  67. “The reality is, my life is great. I would be an idiot to think anything different.”

    You are the great Phil Galfond because you were always thinking different.

    You would never be where you are now if you were stopped by this thought (‘The reality is, my life is great’) at some point of time in the past.

    So I hope you won’t let yourself to surrender to this thought even at such a difficult time. You definitely don’t deserve to live in exile, and the Waluigi metaphor is awesome by the way. You are not trapped in poker, the door is open 🙂

    Actually this post is so much about myself, that I am really looking forward for an example to look up to. Please update soon with the decisions/solutions!

  68. This is probably one of the most helpful things ive ever read in my life.. Ive been through this before for long periods of time.. Ended up in the hospital actually (also combined with another issue), figured out this life balance issue myself, but very glad to see a smart pro explain it in detail.. well done

  69. Hey, Phil,
    It’s truly a very sincere post.
    By the way, I don’t know if many people noticed: you lost weight. This helps a lot to your health.

    I would come with a different suggestion: spend some cash in real life! Helps the housewives go over their tantrums, could help us men too :))))

    So, in other words: go shopping! But dont do it in a hurry. Go over the malls, take your time to wander around and look at things. Decide what you like and what you don’t. It is a different kind of analysis, but helps get in touch with yourself: what you like and suits you and what you don’t. Don’t go into luxury, just check the quality of things.

    Find the fun in your life. Period. Poker and everything should be FUN and give you good spirits. Remember: if you are depressed or have an issue poker will go BAD. We all experienced it, at any level of stakes.

  70. Hey Phil,

    I’ve followed your progress and always talked about you as one of my favorite players and definitely my favorite player as a person (aside from just the poker aspect). I always tell everyone you are the best poker teacher I have come across. But this is the first time I wanted to post something.

    This blog post seemed almost as if it came out of my own head as I made a move down to Mexico back in September to continue playing online, and moved back home after just 3 weeks because of everything you talked about. I couldn’t stand that poker was basically everything in my life while I was down there. I strongly agree with you that balance is essential, to life, not even just poker. It may be a great accomplishment to become the best at what you do, but if you don’t maintain some sort of balance, it can be so detrimental to your mental and physical health. You seem to have a great grip on things. I continue to admire you and root for your success. You are a good role model in a poker world that doesn’t always bring the best to light.

    By the way, I really enjoy this new blog. Keep it going!

  71. Hi Phil,

    I think I know the answer to your problems.
    “I have the freedom to work when I want” and from anywhere I want! Internet gives you that flexibility. Do you know what is VPN? Why don`t you set up VPN link from Canada to NY?!

  72. Hi,

    Firstly, sorry for my poor english, a french guy is speaking :p

    Probably one of the best blog entry I’v ever read on poker and there is much more than poker here… It’s Galfonus Maximus, the philosopher :p

    I think the key of your thoughts is that we have to diversify our activities/occupations “in order to live a healthy and happy life.”
    It really helps to put in perspective when something is going a little bad.
    This is more than a poker tought I believe.

    And there could be more than two Phil Galfond (we have ever found here Gafonus Maximus 😉 )

    Those activities could lead to build new relationships. And I don’t know if you have a girlfriend, but often, sex and affection is a nice cure when you feel a little depressed.
    It works for me 🙂

    Good luck to find/retrieve your balanced life

  73. Hey Phil!
    I kinda have the feeling like this might be the beginning a bigger development. The realization that poker probably isn´t what´s going to make you happy. Let´s face it, the money you are making or losing at the moment does not have any real direct effect on your day to day life at the moment, and it should be really hard to think of the day in the future that it will. Maybe it´s just the revelation that there needs to be a change, a change toward doing something productive, something that matter or will matter to someone someday. To use that great brain of yours for a greater good, be it for others or just for yourself, not to just earn money that you don´t really need in the first place at a (let´s face it…) computer game. Every poker player I know sooner or later gets to this point in life, many make the (if you ask me) wrong decision. Some have gotten used to a standard of living that is just too expensive to maintain without earning the absurd sums you do at playing poker, some are afraid they will never reach a similar success at something different so they find reasons to not even try, some are really just too addicted. There are a lot of reasons, but I´m sure that you sometimes looked at some of the old “greats” sitting at some table, waiting for game that wouldn´t change anything for them financially even if they had the biggest winning day of their lives and wondering if whether this could ever be you. It´s hard not to pity most poker players, and I am talking about the winning ones. If I were you I´d 1. definetely get a therapist (not because your problems are any bigger than anyone elses, but because I would suggest it to every single person, but for the fact that most people cannot afford one) and 2. really start trying to pick some new interests, maybe visit university again, not necesseraly to try to get a degree but go and just pick the things that really interest you (dont know it this is possible in Canada or the states or if it goes hand in hand with paying huge tuition fees), start reading more, try to do something good for others. Don´t do anything to the extreme but widen your spectrum a little bit, there is more to life than your job and your friends and family. Maybe you should start focusing on politics a little more, the direction your country is heading in at the moment would call for more young bright people to pay attention. I´d just ask you to do one thing: Look at the successful people in poker, and try to figure out whether you think most of them are happy or not. Should you come to the same conclusion that I come to, ask yourself why that is and especially how that is really different from yourself. Just to clear up, it doesn´t make you a bad person if you just grind away for the rest of your life. Will it be a wasted life to some extent? yes, in my eyes, probably. but there is no need for you to care about me or anyone else judging the way you lead your life. I don´t know if this helped at all but this is how it went down for me, how a general small unhappiness with poker really helped me to become more in touch with real life and helped me become a more complex, wise and also happier person.
    cheers, Niki Jedlicka

    PS: now that you live in Canada, do you maybe rent out your apartment in New york? I would not be renting permanently but maybe for a trip or two…

  74. I think it’s very natural that you are feeling a bit depressed. And the fact that you are talented and successful doesn’t deprive you of the right to feel bad.

    Relocating is extremely stressful – it’s one of the most stressful experiences a lot of people have in their lives. It’s hard and it feels bad and different, even though there are a lot of positive things. And I assure you all the money in the world isn’t going to make it feel any less strange or make you miss your friends and your family any less.

    Hope you manage to find your balance man.

  75. Hey Phil,

    Sorry to hear your going through a rough patch right now, its hard when you have one thing in your life at the moment and its not going well.

    I agree with several ideas by other posters: taking a break, going on an actual vacation(no casinos), visiting friends and family,and so on.

    As a poker player, your constantly going to be thinking about your swing and hands you played and so on. It will always be in your mind and its hard to do other things when your alone.

    Something that may be rewarding for you is to use your expertise and do something good for someone else, with no financial gain for yourself. Simply, the great feeling of helping someone change there life will be the greatest reward.

    Pick a protege and take an hour of your day a few times a week to coach him. Knowing what you’ve accomplished for yourself is great, but knowing what you did for someone else is incredible.

    Thanks, and goodluck. Your a smart guy I’m sure you’ll find your way to happiness.

    skpye: gzannella
    Stars:gpzann10
    email:gzannella@hotmail.com

  76. Wow! What a post.

    You need to find a hobby that is:

    * non poker related
    * something you could do in any city you are
    * is both mentally and physically challenging
    * can occupy your mind even when you’re not actively participating in the activity
    * is something that involves other people you haven’t spent months or years developing a strong bond with but is still very intimate

    You’re a smart guy you can figure it out. BF has forced you to become a serial killer!

    (Dear police… is joke… I watch too much Criminal Minds)

    Or check out meetup.com or craigslist for local activity groups… flag football, hiking, biking, tag-team crochet whatever you’re into.

  77. Hi!
    Just play poker 2 days a week. First 3 days you do something out of poker,next 2 days u read about poker and work on your game without playing to get the love for poker coming back! GL
    -Dont play hungry:) Always eat before!

    Hakuna matata

  78. Phil! I think your missing what Vancouver has to offer! The amount of amateur pick up sports teams looking for players is insane! Even going somewhere like the Robert lee YMCA downtown and playin pickup basketball, volleyball, squash, swimming. Beach volleyball on Jericho beach or even beer league pickup hockey!

    Lots of stuff around to clear your head and get away from it all!

    Need any help with what’s available let me know and good luck!!

  79. Hey Phill,
    Great honest blog again mate( not sure how you do it).This will not fail. You need a holiday bud, beach,sun,girls,good food,beer,wine,surfing, girls and girls=Good times!!!! Australia

  80. Hello Phil, that was an awesome and truly inspiring blog. I too was consumed by just poker and had no balance in my life. I have since taken up golf and exercising. This is not an either or but a compliment to a healthier and happier body and mind. You are a great poker player but if you don’t find an outlet that you enjoy outside of poker, you will be drawing dead. All the studying, training, posting on forums and playing will not compensate for the lack of balance. I too live in Maryland and if you never need an outlet while visiting I can take you out for a round of golf without the poker talk. Life is too short to be unhappy!

  81. God. Bible. People.

    Jesus. Pray. Get together with a wise Christian or a group of wise Christians.

    Balance out by putting a first priority on Jesus.

    I heard that Negreanu is a Christian, but I don’t know how mature or wise he is as a Christian. And I think there’s a poker playing Pastor in the San Diego area. I think he has a blog. An Asian guy, if I recall correctly.

    I offer up the suggestions above as something very different from the other suggestions you’ve received.

    If poker’s all you got, and that’s the meaning of life, then it’s not all that good. Depressing, really.

    Go “All In” with God/Jesus. Take care.

  82. Hey Phil!
    I really like theese honest posts. Your video about the downswing also helped me alot.

    Have you ever thought of taking some classes on university (just 4fun). sth that interests you. you obv dont have to take the exam. I find it pretty nice to have a little bit outside of poker which challenges me mentally. maybe back home in new york or sth. Also you are in a bit different society again. You can talk an listen to people about things that have nothing to do with poker. Alot of people have amazing experiences and storys to share.

  83. Awesome Post Phil. You’re an idol in the game and obviously a role model in life. I’m sure you’ll come up with a plan, return to crushing, and find at least one outlet to restore your balance. Gl

  84. I haven’t gone through all the comments but should you stick it out in Vancouver (and I think there’s good reason to believe you should):

    1. Sign up to an online dating site. Free sites like Plentyoffish or a cheap pay site. Why free/cheap? More people to meet. More people out of your comfort zone/world. Don’t mention poker on your profile. Say you work online or something else. This isn’t too meet your dream girl per se. This is to get out of the house and get out of your comfort zone and to have something to look forward to, to have that natural and healthy anxiety about it. Some girls you will meet you’ll have a good time with and want to see again. Some will message you and you won’t reply (and vice versa). It is fun, totally removed from poker, and completely harmless if you approach it with the right attitude.

    2. Work out. Basketball. New sport. Take skating lessons or learn to ski/snowboard or kayak… just something you can’t do atm.

    3. Have good sex (even if it is just with yourself). Schedule it. Turn the lights down low. Look forward to it.

    4. Have a side project (I hear once you were part of some sort of training site? Wasn’t that fun when things were going well…)

    5. Have things to look forward to. Right now in this endless loop of pokering and downswings, do you know the next 3 things you are looking forward to? Always have 3 things. Months from now, weeks from now, whatever. Always replace item number 1 once it is done. You don’t want to run out of things to look forward to after you finish them all. Then life is going to stand in place again. What do you have to look forward to? Oh I am really excited for this trip to NY on day X. Oh I am really excited to work on project X from date A to date B. Oh I am really excited to play the WSOP or to go to Europe for WSOPE and all the things that go with it. Writing projects sound like they could be such a thing for you. Don’t have a stasis chamber in Vancouver where you go there to play poker like Luigi racing around an endless track. Have things to project into the future and poker will become your day job again (and you’ll be able to enjoy working hard at it again).

    Just some ideas. Best

    Gareth

  85. You said you will always have money to do what you want. For now, while you live away travel etc, until online poker is sorted in the US maybe instead of having your life revolve around poker, poker should revolve around other things in your life.

  86. Maybe you should foster some kittens or a shelter cat or something. I would tell you to adopt an animal but since you’re bouncing around from city to city it may not be the best situation. Animals always help me feel happy and they’ll be your best friend. Or maybe if there’s a shelter around when you go for a walk, you can volunteer to walk a dog. That way you can give back and you’ll feel like your contributing to the world. 😉

  87. Hey Phil, thanks for your honest insight. I grind MTTs online and relate to what youre feeling fully. I just moved to Whistler, BC and I find its the perfect place to balance life and poker. Every time I’m up on the mountain I completely forget about poker/downswings etc. Also, the scene is great with tons of 20-somethings from all around the world here to enjoy life. Cheers Phil, hope you find your balance.

  88. Phil, get a hobby, make some more friends! Or have you considered playing video games online? It’s often overlooked, but the social aspect there is still pretty therapeutic

  89. Hi Phil!

    Thank you for your honest blog.

    I’m in a similar situation like you. Since my mother past away in 2009
    i’m alone. My friends are gone (mostly moved to other towns for work)
    and the only friend i have is working in shifts so i can meet him only
    every four weeks.
    As a self-employed worker the financial crisis hit me in the beginning
    of 2009. Since then my business is going down.
    I started to play poker in 2007. First i played with playmoney and i ran
    good. I made a ton of playchips and decided to start with real money.
    My thoughts were: If the cool players (like you) can make money with
    poker and make a living with poker, why not me?
    And – what a surprise – it went wrong. I make on step foreward and two
    back, two steps foreward and three back and so on.
    For me it feels like i fight against windmills and sometimes i think i
    can’t win in this game. But i’m heavyly addicted.
    Last year i started to write a poker based diary to fix my thoughts.
    And i stated that makes fun and gives me a different sight.
    By the way one chapter is about balance…
    A half year ago i decided to change my diary into a poker based novell
    which will end up in a crime scene – i’am still writing…
    By reading your whole blog i found you write good, describing exactly
    what you think and form it into written words. The fun you have by
    writing is obviously.
    So think about to write a book. A poker book is the first option – you
    will have many readers, no doubt. Or start to think about writing a
    novell, you may fly away with your phantasies like i do.
    This is the way i flee from the depressing, but also loved, game.

    GL Phil
    – RaWi

    PS: Sorry for my bad english (schools out for a long time)

  90. Phil,

    I play HSMTT’s for a living. I moved to Van. as well. You need to know that you’ve become much more to poker than just a player. You’re an ambassador, a leader and a role-model to so many. I’m sure that I am only one of many that look up to you and actively try to take attributes from not only Phil the player but also a Phil the person and add them into who I am each day. Times are tough, but you’re changing things and people like me for the better.

    Jason Koon
    Jason Koon

  91. I think you should make an agreement some nights you go out with your poker buddies in Canada to simply not talk about “work”. You wouldn’t want to talk about business all day long in most other jobs, why should poker be different? Maybe try and dedicate a certain percentage of each day to poker and the rest to things that have absolutely nothing to do with poker. I know for me anyway that while being in a downswing, poker is the last thing I want to talk about with people. Anyway, good luck to ya Phil! Thoroughly enjoying the blog!

  92. Hey Phil,

    You are in a beautiful new country. Explore it a little. I would suggest checking out the Rocky Mountains.

    Maybe view a bit of Canada by train.

    Read an enlightening book, such as Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.

    Cheers,
    Aaron

  93. Hey Phil,
    That was a great read, thank you for sharing…
    If I was back home in BC I’d have invited you out to go hiking in Capilano, then catch the Canucks OT the Blackhawks…
    Stay true bro,
    Tyler

  94. Take it all in Phil. You will look back and smile one day and think to yourself, “Damn, I was one crazy mofo.” As of right now, look at all of the feedback you are getting here, you are truly loved.
    In my experiences, letting my “inner voice” speak is the best way out of these situations. Things that help me with this are writing things down(Grab a pen and paper and write), painting, drawing, listening to music, meditating, sports, exercise, cooking, eating healthy, conversing, etc.

    “When we learn to attune ourselves to our inner compass we follow a map that only we can see, our own path.”

    Good luck on your journey Phil, I hope you can find a way to truly enjoy it.

  95. Try this podcast:
    http://www.aquietmind.com/

    It’s really great, full of insights into centering yourself, learning to accept the good and bad, relax, enjoy your life again, live in the moment, etc

    It might be helpful if your current situation is causing you to tilt more. Personally, I’m a tilt machine and this podcast is my medicine 🙂 It’s based on Eastern philosophies but it isn’t religious at all, so anyone can enjoy. Let me know if you like it.

  96. Thanks so much for sharing all these thoughts on your blog Phil! I have more motivation than ever to play good poker and to “balance” it with the rest of my life than ever.

    Good luck with your downsing and BALANCE!

  97. “And I think there’s a poker playing Pastor in the San Diego area. I think he has a blog. An Asian guy, if I recall correctly.”

    Hi Phil,

    Just a correction to my previous comment. He’s not a pastor. And he’s in the Orange County area. His name is Alan Ng.

    He’s got a blog and he’s written a series of posts titled

    Poker and the Christian.

    Warm Regards.

  98. I’m in Van too Phil. The sun came out today, you might have noticed a difference in your mood 🙂 I’ve been smoking and feeling unhealthy, but some rays today got me to throw on some running shoes and I feel better. Diet and exercise is huge…and you’ll only really know this once you become addicted to such a routine of regularly getting a sweat on. 1-2 months. The sun should be out quite a bit now through to the weekend. Soak up some rays, go hike our mountains that are now in your backyard. Grab a snowboard. Put poker on hold. Re-energize yourself. The sun will help, but go running in it!

  99. If You wanna read a really good book, which helped me a lot in reorganizing my thoughts after some serious disappointment in my life, take “Flow – The psycology of optimal experience” written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (former head of the department of psychology in University of Chicago, now at Claremont University).
    U not gonna regret reading it, im quite sure.
    Take care!

  100. Hey Phil,

    I was wondering if you could post a weekly live strategy video for PLO? Maybe an hour’s worth of content. I’ve been watching Jason Somerville’s Eating Cake videos and they’re 30 minutes long and are great for somebody just starting to play poker. I was hoping you could do something similar with PLO. All the best.

    – Matt

  101. Find a wife?

    Two week vacation in NY?

    Schedule your vacations? You can probably afford a couple of days a week, or a week a month. But that isn’t balanced: it’s like only value betting for 3 weeks, then only bluffing for one week.

    I think you need to join a theatre group in Vancouver.

  102. Hey Phil,

    I think it’s very important that you find the energy to analyze your situation. Most people stay quiet and get off balance even more. Hopefully you get some sleep!

  103. Hey Phil!

    Vancover is now blessed with our “room-mate” from Sweden :(, or she rented a room in my familys apartment. She´s only been there a couple of weeks, she´s on a 20 week abroad program. A bit of Tom Boy, really loves hanging out, watch sports etc. We miss her alot. From what I´ve seen on your blog u seem too be a decent guy.
    I´d love to set u up on a blind hang out, I’ll get u tickets to a canuck game.

    As a thanks for all greate games I´ve railed.

    Cheers

    Anders

  104. Hey Phil, very honest post. You just need to really get out and join some events/teams and get socializing with others. Indoor volleyball and soccer are usually great choices, you sign up as individuals usually and they put you on a team. You play, have drinks after and have a great time. Plus with the team counting on you to play, you leave poker behind for awhile and enjoy some fitness and social activities for a few hours.

    Hell, you may even meet that special someone like I did 🙂

    Take care, I’m sure you’ll get out of your current runt.

    P.S. great blog btw.

  105. hey phil your blogs are really fun and interesting to read ive been reading a few poker books and want to get involved i already have a pokerstars account my name is good2cu11 iwant to start playing but cant really afford it are you able to stake people say $5 or $10 that may just sound stupid because im a stranger but just want to get started

    thanks

  106. Hey Phil, great read.

    I am also in a similar situation and find it difficult not to be able to talk about it or “have the right to complain” as much as other people. I am not a poker player, but a day trader. I started when I was 18 and by the time I hit 20 I had already netted over a million. I am now 25, several million later, and feel somewhat depressed, much like how you were describing. I have no friends within my profession because my success over shadowed virtually all fellow traders (I made millions no one else could pay rent). Anyways, before I ramble on any more about myself, just wanted to say I completely empathize with your feelings.. Maybe starting a family may be a good way to be more balanced?? But that would make making millions at a young age less fun. :/

  107. Hey Phil,

    There’s been lots of good advice in here already, but I’d like to mention something that hasn’t really been posted by anyone here. How is your cooking? Most poker players seem to live off the delivery guy, which can be both unhealthy and expensive. Consider joining a cooking club, I’m sure there’s something like that to be found in Vancouver. This would get you out of the door at set times, put you in socializing spots (even if its with middle-aged women) and learn you a thing or two. I think you’ll find meals you made yourself a lot more enjoyable. Cooking isn’t hard, you’ll learn some easy recipes and enjoy doing them, giving you a sense of accomplishment.

    Also, you mentioned you don’t enjoy traveling and like a routine, a regular spot that’s all yours. But, have you thought about travelling around the Vancouver area? I personally have never been to VC so I can’t say If It’s a very interesting spot, but why not try it out. Visit (walk/cycle) parts of the city you haven’t been to before and just look at the buildings and people around you. Canada is a vast country, why not a daily visit into the countryside, (very cliche but true) get some fresh air.

    Also, (has been mentioned before so feel free to skip) never be hard on yourself for feeling unhappy. Your life might be above-average but that’s no reason you can’t feel bad. Don’t be scared to see a therapist, even though there might be some social stigma. These people can help you out a lot, It will feel good talking about your thoughts to someone who’ll listen. If you don’t want to see a therapist, consider just writing your thoughts down to blow off steam. This doesn’t have to be on here (preferably not I’d say), just get a notepad and start writing, you don’t have to show it to people or ever look at it again. You might be amazed at how mucht it’ll relieve you.

  108. Hi Phil,

    I haven’t read all the comments (only skimmed over a few) but I don’t think a ‘vacation’ would do you much good. If you take a vacation for 2 weeks, you’ll come back to Vancouver refreshed and ready for poker. You’ll play again with hunger etc. but after a while, you’ll realise you haven’t solved the problem and it’s still there. The problem is the everyday life and activites (or lack thereof). Assuming moving from Vancouver isn’t an option, the only real solution I can see is trying to get stuff going in Vancouver. It’s all obvious enough and I’m sure you’ve thought about it yourself so I’m not going to bother to get into too much, but it’s basically all about creating non-poker activites and meeting new non-poker people. You know yourself better than I know you, so I’m sure you’ll know the best way to go about finding these non-poker activites and friends!

  109. Balance is important but I would disagree that it HAVE to be something out of poker.Of cause having one or two things to look forward to that isnt poker related is good.

    But havent multiple poker related focus is also good. What I mean is playing poker and analyzing your game is two different things. Discussing poker and coaching poker two different things. Fighting for poker rights and fighting for a “cleaner” poker industry are different things. You can have multiple focus related to poker that have nothing to do with grinding.

    That is also consider “balance poker life” imo. If all you do and focus on is playing poker of cause it is going to have a great impact on you when you are down-swinging. But when you have alot of other things than matters to you that you can focus on even if it is poker related (for example pokerstatic), it helps in this scenario.

  110. Phil … you should give a try to psychoanalysis …… analysis is for few people only, but i believe through reading your post that your are one of those, give it a real try, dont give up easily, it will change your life.
    In your letter you are expressing the lack, psychoanalysis will give you the light on it, you’ll “understand” what s happen to you … give it a real try, find a psychoanalyst ( freudian school or lacanian ONLY) you like … few are competent, and cause you have no clue about what it is a good one, follow your feelings Phil, i hope you do.
    good bye,gerard

  111. we love you Phil, even if it sounds like you’re complaining. To be honest, everyone will go through this phase and at a certain poinr feel they need to maintain a ‘balance’ again.
    Maybe:
    1) When going out with poker friends, treat them as ‘friends’ not ‘poker friends’. You’re friends with them through poker, like people make friends at Uni or School or Sports teams. Catergorising someone you care about is stupid, if you like and care about a person, they’re your friend. Don’t always talk about the subject you both do regularly, talk about anything else in the world.
    2) Try something new; doing a new sport or activity is a great way to relieve the stress of losing anything, money is different but it can still your mind off of the bad times.
    3) Someone mentioned dieting, true to an extent, better food routine. Simple; eat good=feel good, eat crap=feel crap.

    I’m sure you’re downswing won’t last!
    Near

  112. Hey Phil

    Did you think about having another hobby? Something to keep you away from thinking about poker? Learn to play drums or the guitar, start a garage band and have some fun with it.

  113. Phil,

    I sincerely hope you are not actually racing with Waluigi. He is a menace who will do you no favors. It sounds like you know what needs to be addressed in your life, but I didn’t want you to overlook this glaring issue. The sinister cry of this mustachioed villain could put anyone on tilt. May no corner go unturned in your search for balance, I say.

    Good post, by the way.

  114. Hey Phil,

    I think most poker players go through what your are experiencing. I really like this quote from Zugwat “When poker’s the only thing in your life, your happiness is totally dependent on whether you’re winning or losing,which is basically out of your control.”

    To work on this, I recently got fairly into weightlifting. I still want to improve and I was thinking of taking an improv class. I remember you spoke highly of it in your well, would you still recommend it to someone who is a bit shy and has no acting experience?

    Great blog, thanks for sharing.

  115. Phil,

    If you’re still reading these responses, I recognize everything you’re describing and have some advice that may help with a long term solution. The life you describe in Canada is exactly how it is being on the road as a contractor. I’ve spent many years working as an IT
    contractor and have spent many months living in cities I didn’t call home.

    You’ve even hit on the emotional cycle that happens: 1) It’s great being here doing “work” I enjoy so you jump in full time plus and have fun with it. 2) You’ve been at it a few weeks and you’re still ok, but you’re just kinda coasting through. It’s not exciting, but not painful either, it’s just what you’re doing each day. 3) You’ve been at it long enough it’s not really fun any more. You “work” each day because that’s why you’re there and there’s not really any more motivation than that. If you’re not on the computer, you’re watching whatever junk is on TV because you don’t know anybody except “co-workers” and while they are friends, you really don’t wanna sit around and talk shop over a beer.

    SOLUTION:
    There are 2 choices, and you have to make a decision…are you going to relocate to Canada, or is NY your home and Canada is where you go to “work” as a “contractor”.

    When you moved to NY, you relocated and made it your home. If you want to make Canada your home, there are a lot of good suggestions in the above responses to help you settle in
    there. You know yourself best, and can figure out what it will take to make Canada your new home.

    If you want to be a “contractor” (which is what you have been doing so far) then acknowledge that NY is still your home and you just need to work out how to manage your schedule properly, and I’m not talking about the daily schedule. You need to work out a general schedule for the next few months to a year. Some suggestions:

    1) Stop grinding and spend some time in NY to unwind some before you start.
    2) Think back over the last few months and find roughly when you hit phase 3 above. That’s when the emotional downswing started before the bankroll downswing hit. That will give
    you the MAXIMUM time you can spend in Canada without affecting your life or your game.
    3) Put upcoming tournaments or other events you plan to attend on a calendar, then plan to spend 2 weeks or more at home in NY before each event.
    4) The gaps in between events will show you the time you have to split between “working” in Canada and relaxing at home. DON’T fill all those gaps with just grinding, figure out what works for you to balance your time at home in NY with Canada.

    If you read this and have questions feel free to send me an email.

    Best wishes

  116. I started playing poker seriously five years ago, in my senior year in college. I was making decent money from it and considered making a career out of it. My parents ended up pressuring me out of pursuing it and in retrospect i’m thankful that they did. I think you missed the main issue with having poker as a career — there is no satisfaction in it except for money. In the end of the day you did not create anything , did not grow as a person and did not help anyone. If you lost money on top of that then you’re emotionally fucked. I’m a software developer and i’d have to say that i’m far more satisfied than when I was playing poker. I build tools that help other people, even if a project does not go well then i learn something and grow as a professional. I also get some socializing done by collaborating with co workers. Poker though is just money moved around with nothing being created. It would take more fortitude than i have to handle such a job.

  117. Downswings in poker are just part of the “job” if you are a full time poker player. People go through divorces, family deaths, illnesses, and still go to their “job” because they are forced to adapt.

    It’s not possible to live a fully balanced life in the world of “poker”, where it is impossible to achieve stability. It’s not like you receive a set amount of salary per year. Regular people’s exit strategies are to put money aside for retirement. What’s yours? Are you going to grind your whole life with no set goal/exit strategy?

    The way I see it, as a ‘poker’ player, there is a cap to how much money you can earn. Have you ever heard of a poker player or gamblor billionaire? No, because the upper limit in poker wealth is pretty much Phil Ivey and he’s nowhere close to it.

    In the end, all poker players leave poker to set up profitable businesses on the side and retire – this is what all old timers such as Negraneu, etc have done. They play poker for fun now for side income/ enjoyment/ sponsorship. I’m sure they are living much better lives now.

    You seem like a smart guy and we are of the same age – find a way out and go back to school, build businesses unrelated to poker, and try turn your profit from poker so far into something much larger, a legacy that you can pass on to your children and their children, etc.

    Basically, why not think of poker as a stepping stone to bigger things? I’m not saying quit, but I’m saying psychologically there seems to be a high positive correlation between depression and downswings. It’s not something you can set aside and this, over and over again HAS to be unhealthy for your mind and body. It’s not something a balanced life can cure, simple prolong and minimize the damage.

    You’re probably on a weird downswing now because you lost a sense of goal/belonging outside of Poker. It’s time to set that goal and only then should you jump back in imo.

  118. Hey, Phil

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about it a lot through my poker career as I’ve struggled with this issue too. But I’m happy to have my wife who gives me that balance outside of poker now.

    I think what you need is a hobby which is not poker related in any way. I suggest you start taking dancing lessons. It’s a good way to socialize with new people in a new town, plus physical activities will reduce the stress levels and will bring back the chemical balance in your body.

    Nothing beats going out and making some physical exercises when it comes to fighting blue moods. But if you’re not much into it, I suggest to start digging deeper into something you love. Whether it’s history, photography, making music, cooking or whatever – it’ll take your mind away and give you a new perspective in life.

    Good luck with it and keep up this excellent blog. You’re an inspiration to all of us!

  119. Hey guys, hey Phil,

    One question: you want us to feel sorry for you just because you busted your bankroll and now you don’t really feel like poker is a good idea?

    One comment: you said that for 7 years you were nice and happy – of course, back then, others were in your actual situation (losing their bankrolls, losing balance, losing joy of life).

    One advice: Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. If you want to deserve the ‘poker superhero’ status, that you attributed yourself, then you need to learn that poker (as life) is not always fair you us. You have to stop bragging about ‘how cool it is to be a high-stakes poker player’ and doing that only when you win.

    One honest opinion: You made a fool of yourself with this post – crying out loud how bad it is to lose and how lonely are you… when you lose.

  120. I feel pretty similarly– I go from Indiana to Toronto to Vegas and sometimes travel to random circuit events. It’s hard to put your foot down and maintain relationships or start new ones. I find myself doing the opposite of grinding too much, but it’s no better. I wind up dabbling here and there in a million things, feeling like a jack of all trades, without much stability.

    The most important “escape” for me at the moment is the gym, and I noticed you didn’t mention this in your blog. Weren’t you an all-world running back in HS? Doing starting strength and having linear gains at the beginning just feelings amazing, adding a martial arts class or a rec league sports team or swimming or something else you enjoy is awesome. I easily spend 90 minutes a day doing something physical, and even when I don’t have much balance it gives me a semblance of productivity.

    It’s sweet writing blogs like this though. I know when something happens in real life or I have some profound thoughts I just think: “Man, I’m gonna complain about this in my blog and it’ll be sweet.” I think Dave started it.

  121. Phil, I’ve read this post for a third time now – awesome stuff my friend … I think you should be thinking about a book deal in your future – people would love to read about life of a poker player – one that is successful both online and live … great article, chin up and enjoy Vancouver, one of the most beautiful places in my home of Canada – thanks again for writing this.

    Eric

  122. Start working harder on your game, work more intensely, and innovate. Stop mistaking balance and drive. Believe you have no bounds. Challenge.

  123. hello phil i have a proposition for you or for durrr or kid poker or ivey . if any of you sponsor me for half a year in the wpt, ept, wsop, all the winings are split 60% for the sponsor and 40% for me , after that i will have my bankroll for shure and i give 50% of my winings for 1year to the sponsor.
    now speaking of you phil you new how to handle it in this worst time, if not you never achive your status, you are a top player of the world, keep going best of luck . regards 😉
    please think about the proposition if you are not avaiable for it tell this proposition to tom , daniel and ivey please .
    this is not a joke this is a real deal for real people!!!

  124. Hey Phil,

    I have two pieces of advice:
    1) I would try meditation/yoga. I think your old coach Tommy Angelo would prob recommend it if you asked him. However, this point is trivial. Many people have already said the same or similar and everyone is offering you different pieces of advice; all of which they believe are valid for their own reasons. It’s up to you obviously to decide what changes you implement in your life
    2) NEVER use the excuse when your depressed/down/etc “My life is too good for me to be unhappy” or something of that ilk. This is very important. Speaking from experience, I graduated first in my High School, finished 1st in my class for my 1st 2 yrs on university on a full ride scholarship for engineering, had a great girlfriend, loving family, job that I loved doing and more money in the bank than pretty much all 20 year olds I knew that weren’t trust fund kids/ poker players. However, I still felt depressed and at times suicidal. But whenever I would feel like this, I would come back, “My life is so much greater than everyone elses, I shouldn’t be feeling like this.” Well eventually, shit hit the fan, my girlfriend broke up with me which along with other things around me collapsing put me in a tailspin for 2 years where I eventually reached a point where every morning before work, I would contemplate throwing myself out in front of the subway to end it all and eventually went into therapy because of it. So 8 months of twice a month sessions which helped out as I was going. But about a month after I stopped and moved back to finish school and had stressors in my life, it was like I was before. Eventually the meditating/yoga thing turned me around after I decided to try it immediaetly after reading Elements of Poker, but only because I realized “It’s okay to feel this way, regardless of my fortunate situation in life. I feel this way and am not going to internalize it but work through it and experience this to find out why exactly I’m feeling this way” With this in mind, you will begin to see things more clearly with other aspects of your life once you grasp that concept. It also helped me add, the aforementioned ever so important balance in my life. I remember reading (from your well on 2p2 I believe, that you (at the time) envisioned yourself in 10 or so years not playing poker and teaching, which is something you clearly like to do. I’ve reached a similar point now because even though I graduated with a Engineering degree, I’m currently running a pool which is always something I wanted to do and something that is fulfilling to me.

    I hope this helps and I wish you good mental health

  125. Hey Phil,

    This is very engaging writing and you make great points, as usual. The one part that I don’t understand is that although you say that your friends and life outside of poker give you more than poker ever could, your choices and actions contradict that directly. So much so, in fact, that I question whether it’s true.

    I point this out because it’s something I struggle with myself. I routinely tell my wife, my kid, and myself that poker is always a distant second (at best) in importance to them. But is it? Often, my choices don’t reflect that. When I catch myself putting poker ahead of them, I tell myself that I’ve got to make a living and provide for us all–Erin and I both work to keep us in our decent middle-class existence. I like to think that though poker provides me with validation and mental stimulation, it’s mainly a means to that end.

    But I see you, accomplishing far more in poker than my modest definition of crushing it (300k/year would be that for me), and you are apparently still mainly driven by a desire to do more in that area. That scares me, for myself, because as you probably know, I, too am a driven competitor with a singular love for poker itself.

    What gives? You don’t need the money (hopefully that’s not too presumptuous of me). We get validation from winning. We love thinking about, improving at, and playing this game. That’s valuable in itself. But more valuable than personal relationships? No way in hell. And yet…

    Watch out, man. Get into some outside interests where you are living. Don’t worry about whether it’s worthwhile to start when you’re not sure how long you’ll be there. It’s worthwhile. I’m going to set about regaining some balance over here, too.

  126. Phil, I respect you very much, and I think you are (and you are!) one of the best poker players in the world. I know, that my opinion is nothing for you, because I am not shure that you even read this post. But anyway.
    I am from Ukraine, and average salary in my country is 200$ for a month. 200 f**king dollars. I am 21, I played poker for a year, but this type of earning is not for me. I am a programmer, my salary is 500$ for a month. I work from 9-00 till 19-00 to support my family. Just look at numbers. You still think you have a bad life?

  127. phil – love how u share ur feelings and thoughts here – and wish u the best to get on an upswing.

    given u have money – why not use some of it to take ur mind off things?

    get a hot girl for the night or two (or guys if that is ur thing) – great way to have some fun and escape.

  128. First time I read your blog, will def be back. Great sharing. It remind me of my life when I was supernova elite. I’m happy it’s very different right now. Basically my real life is now the priority. I’m struggling to play more hours of poker this time, so I guess it’s the balance coming from the opposite direction. I’ve never thought about using this word “balance” to describe it, but I liked and it will for sure help me in the future. What I’ll keep doing is putting my life ahead. Will try hard to balance with poker, but if it has to go one side that should always be life. If the seesaw is heavy on the poker side, it wouldn’t even be good to poker anyways. So I guess the lesson is, balance is what we look for but if it has to go to one side, make that be life.

  129. grunching, and pretty obvious, but just sounds like you need to pick one city where you can play online poker and stay there, while focusing on meeting as many interesting non-poker people as possible. like you said about how it’s not just a business trip – make another life for yourself, somewhere online poker is legal

  130. Hey Phil,
    Are you a sports type of guy ? I’ve been doing a lot of different sports all my life, and there are many advantages to practicing any sport you like.

    Friends or no friends I can go to a basketball court and play for hours and be completely focused on the game and have a good time and even make new friends and get back home and have a couple of beers and rest and you’ll feel a different person after that.

    Or soccer, or tennis, or skating, or whatever works for you.

    Or even some other game ( online or not ), like chess or bridge or go or anything you like. Play for a couple of hours, or go into a club and play/watch some games there and you’ll have to be completely focused on that other game so you’ll forget about for poker for a while.

    GL.

  131. Hey Phil, the best thing I ve encountered for balance in this time, is by far meditation. There is this 10 day course that is being taught in Merritt, about 3 hours outside Vancouver, that shows you a way to obtain inner peace and to remain balanced inside. You should read about it, I will post the link here and the same course is offered in 10 different across the USA as well. It would obvious not replace your friends and family obviously, but gives you an insight that you wouldn t achieve without meditation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana

    peace

  132. this might be the best poker writing ever!!! totally dig it. no need to live for game. it’s all about fun in first place. u are good – enjoy! Hare Krishna!

  133. Hey Phil, i totally agree with everything you’ve written on in this post, and it is what keeps me happy.
    Anyways, here is a suggestion if you ever feel homeless (not living under the bridge type), and want to keep playing poker with balance in life. I am not sure if this has ever crossed your mind, but have you thought about backpacking through Europe/South East Asia etc. for however long, and poker while travelling. By stepping out into the big world, you’ll feel completely free and it is so easy to get away from the “game” and while away you are always reminded how small poker really is. Solo travel is a great experience and I think you are in a great position to do it.
    Take care

  134. Hey Phil,
    I’m a great fan of you. I’ve learned a lot about poker from your thoughts and videos and I really appreciate what you are doing. Now, about the topic you are talking about here. Yes a balance in life is definitely what a human being needs. I would say you are living a dream life not realizing it. I mean a standard day for a person is wake up 7 am go to work and get back at night, kiss wife, kids, dog (ok we can skip that) hopes he/she will get enough sleep to be OK for the next day.

    All I can say is that “If you are doing one thing again and again, you can’t expect a change to happens”. So I would just go out, find a girlfriend or company, try to build a social connections apart from poker world. You really don’t realize how money can help you achieve what you want or what people you can meet (well, some say degrees helps as well – well, I have 2 MSc degrees and yet I’ve not met Warren Buffet to discuss business so…).

    I’m dealing with same problem – it’s just that one is stuck to his/her computer/work and saying like “I can’t leave…I will miss something” The fact is YOU wont miss anything!

    Get yourself a daily schedule – like morning gym 3x a week, lunch at local bar at 14h. You can afford the time and it will really improve your life. Trust me – I’ve been in a burn out for over 2 years! And I couldn’t do a damn thing. Your health determines your mental health more than vice versa.

    Good Luck and regards from Prague :))
    Martin

  135. Phil;

    I don’t expect an answer, or really for you to even read this – but like your post, I’m going to preface it with an “attitude” fix. I don’t usually get involved in these types of discussions, except with close friends, but for some reason I’m led to post. I am not preaching, just sharing what it took me to learn to even start to scratch the surface of a balanced life over the last 35 plus years. It has been a challenging journey, as yours will be:

    – One component of balance must include faith, hope, spiritual things. I can share mine, but you must seek and find yours – it will serve you well and those you choose to be part of you life even more.
    – you must keep physically & mentally fit. All the disciplines you have in poker can be applied to personal fitness. Just prioritise & allocate. Food intake, physical exertion, and mental sharpness.
    – family is an important aspect of balance, either dealing with what has been wrong with family, embracing parents/spouses/ siblings/kids that are right with family or planning on the future family for yourself.
    – you already know friends are important, both inside & outside poker. Now friends in the different aspects of your life are important as well. Be deliberate and develop them in the development of balance in your life. And most important is a handful of friends who will answer your call for help @ 3:00 AM whether you have money or not. They answer because you have a mutually transparent relationship AND shared character or value system.
    – and you must balance your financial life – separating your vocation from your future (investment) finances. You are fortunate to have wealth already, if you balance your vocation with your investments, you already would be in a position to never “worry” again.

    To accomplish the true balance in life, you will learn to use different periods of time to focus on different things. You must live through seasons where imbalance is dealt with or focused on to bring balance. Balance is a journey. You will have days to be very productive, mixed with days that simply clean up the messes of life, and foremost, you must have days to rejuvenate.

    Good Luck, break a leg, and I pray you find balance.

    JC

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