I was just reading Daniel Negreanu's blog and he wrote something interesting related to what I've been writing about recently. I don't always agree with Daniel's thoughts on a lot of things but he has a unique perspective that's always worth reading. Anyways, in his latest blog entry he wrote the following:
Money comes, and money goes when you play poker for a living. Whether you have money or not, though, happiness really is completely unrelated to the size of your bankroll. That might not be true for "regular people" who have real jobs, but poker players are a different breed. In fact, before the boom I saw a vicious cycle that I even feel victim to at one point. You work so hard to make money, playing day in and day out, then all of a sudden you've made that money. Now what? All you've known is the grind for so long, so what do you do now? You don't NEED to play poker anymore, you don't NEED to work at all. How do you replace that time?
Well, you either find a passion for playing the game again while balancing a healthy social life, or, you get self-destructive and blow the whole bankroll so you'll once again have a purpose! Back to the grind to build it all over again.
I think Daniel really hit the nail on the head this time. Preceding this was a classic discussion about how great these young online players are, but "we'll see how many are still around in 5-10 years". This is where I think most people are greatly underestimating the younger generation of poker players. I would argue that of all the poker players under 25 who have made say 7-figures plus playing poker, a lot more will hold onto that money, or indeed even build on it, than people think. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that so many young players have such a different background and approach to poker than the older generation would have.
Think about it. 10-20 years ago, before online poker, before poker on TV, how did people get into poker? Two cases seem most likely to me:
1. You played with your buddies growing up and realized you liked the game and were good at it, then decided to take it more seriously.
2. You already spent time in casinos, then saw the poker room one day, decided to give it a shot and got sucked in.
In the second case clearly these are people who were gamblers first, and poker players second. The ones who ended up being successful were clearly very talented people, but still much more likely to have degenerate and/or self-destructive tendencies. Some of these people learned enough self-control as a part of their growth as poker players to get by. That discipline enabled them to stay away from so many of the readily available pitfalls. A lot probably never did. I've read many stories from the older generation of poker players admitting that they would always have gambled regardless. They were just lucky to find a game they could beat to outlet that part of themselves, and muster enough discipline to stick to just poker as their gambling fix.
The first case is not as clear cut, but I think it's at least fair to say that, on average, the type of people who grew up playing poker with their buddies all the time are going to have more gamble in them than the average person. Keep in mind this was before poker was on TV, when it was still viewed as a backroom shady activity in society in general. Deciding to try to play cards for a living is something a lot of people would probably never have done, even if they loved the game and felt they could succeed.
Today though, there are a lot of young players attracted to the game from seeing it on TV. It's a generation where we actively play video games and strategy games of all types. Then poker comes along and these kids who love playing games, and are already very good at games, realize there is actually a game they could make a living, hell maybe even a fortune, playing. Obviously a lot of us were immediately attracted to it. Of course the money and the gambling is what separates poker from other games at its core. But overall, this generation's attraction to poker is more about the enjoyment of the competition of playing the game than the thrill of winning and losing money. There are a lot more young players who are poker players first and gamblers second. Not to say there aren't plenty of young players who have or are going to lose their way and turn into those sad stories Daniel is warning us about. On the whole however, a lot more of these "kids" are going to pass the test of time than ever before. Just don't expect to see all of them still playing in 5-10 years. A lot will likely have moved on to newer more exciting things.