Detox Files #2: How Do You Take A Responsible Shot At Pro Poker With A Family?

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast: Detox Files Episode 002

What Are The Detox Files?

Founder and CEO of Poker Detox, Nick Howard, joins the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast to sit down with Coach Brad Wilson and share consults, advice, and poker guidance for players (current or aspiring) who are looking for a path forward in the game and striking a healthy balance with their overall life. Every poker player experiences anxiety, downswings, uncertainty, frustration, and doubt in their poker journey. The man who has helped countless players detoxify these elements from their poker mindset joins up with the CPG pod to share these enlightening sessions and consults.

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Today’s show features a consultation with Nick Howard where the guest is a family man who is heavily considering transitioning away from his IT job into playing poker.

Is this a reasonable thought and how can he test the waters without diving fully into the deep end of the pool?

Find out in today’s episode.

Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Nick Howard from Poker Detox on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

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Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Presents: Detox Files #2: How Do You Take A Responsible Shot At Pro Poker With A Family?

For hearing impaired fans of CPG, or for those who simply want a good read instead of a listen, we're taking steps to transcribe as many episodes of the Chasing Poker Greatness podcast as we can. Watch this space for a transcription, and by all means, contact us using the form at the bottom of the page to make a request for an episode transcription and we will do our best to push it to the front of the queue.

Brad: What is happening my friend? Coach Brad here and I just wanted to let you know real fast that these episodes are experimental and a little different than what you’re used to. Their career consults Nick Howard did for free to aid folks along in their poker journey. They ended up turning out so chock full of value and dripping with greatness bombs, that he wanted to share them with as many folks as possible, so I gladly agreed to help him spread the word on Chasing Poker Greatness. If you love these episodes and find them especially valuable, please let me and Nick know and we will continue to collaborate in this format in the future. Also, as somewhat of a spinoff from Nick’s career consult idea, I’ve created a similar offer for you in aspiring episodes of Chasing Poker Greatness, where you and I have a heart to heart discussion on your specific poker situation. And we come up with a plan together so that you can progress and move forward with more clarity and purpose. If this sounds like something you desperately need, head to and book your poker career coaching session today. The Price is $100 and the session will last one to 1.5 hours. One more time, that’s and now, on with the show.

Poker’s legendary champions, next generation stars and tireless ambassadors of the game, sharing their wisdom and guiding your journey to high achievement on the green felt. This is Chasing Poker Greatness with your host, Brad Wilson.

Ricardo: I currently do have a steady job. But I’ve been trying to get into the know the poker landscape, the poker game. I’ve been playing, I guess recreationally for now for about, I would say 10 years total. Started off really, really low. I’ve been able to get to I played as high as 5-10. But that was mostly just taking shots. I typically hover around the 1-2 and 2-5 realm for the most part. So, I mean, I’ve wanted to transition to playing more. I guess if you want to call it professionally for quite a long time, but I just have a have some apprehension about it because I’ve obviously never done it. So, I’m not sure what to expect. And I think that the you know, once you start doing it professionally, the pressure becomes quite a bit more as it, as it is now where I don’t really use it as to, you know, to pay the bills, and stuff like that. So, I’m not sure I could handle it because I don’t do so well when I do have the occasional downswing, although they’re not, they’re not all that often. But I don’t do well when they do come around.

Brad: Alright, Nick, one minute into the call. What are you picking up on so far?

Nick: Super common spot that anybody who’s semiprofessional finds himself in. The two things I’m noticing are that he’s framing it as a black and white decision whether or not he wants to sort of go all in on Poker. That’s a typical blind spot. I think that’s caused by fear, emotion, whatever you want to call it. Matt on tonight, I did a lot of work on this idea. Amongst professional poker players, we call it binary thinking, someone’s framing something in black and white when the solution usually is more in the gray. The second thing I’m picking up on that’s going to affect how I find an entry point is that he’s saying he doesn’t do well when he’s on a downswing. So, I’m sort of the positing that into my, my mental piggy bank and

Brad: What does that mean to you?

Nick: Yeah, that he should probably take a lower volatility approach, if he wants to, if he wants to have an approach that’s sustainable, it needs to be lower volatility, or as a guy that had a higher risk tolerance I could give different advice to.

Brad: I agree. Alright, let’s jump back, back into the conversation.

Ricardo: So, I think my biggest problem if I, if I had one, like I said that the apprehension piece is a big, is a problem. And I think the second one is just you know, with the width, with the way the game seems to be headed and all the GTO mindset and all the solver type stuff, if I just, I don’t know if I don’t physically grab it, if I don’t grasp it correctly, or what? Or I just don’t, I don’t, I’m not studying, I don’t know the right study method because it’s just not sticking with me. And I’m so used to playing in the, in the old mindset, the, I guess the exploit rotative mindset, or they’ve worked out of style.

Nick: And what’s your job? Family situation? You have a family or they’re like, obligations to wife and children or whatever.

Ricardo: Yeah, exactly. I have a family. I have kids, which are a little bit older, actually. I have kids in college. So, they’re a little bit, you know, they’re not exactly kids anymore. But yeah, I do have a wife and I have two, two kids who are, we’re actually in college and I have a stable job. I’m actually, I work in the IT feels. So, I’m kind of a, I would say, I’m a little bit of a nerd slash analytical type of guy to begin with. So, I think that helps my game. For the most part also.

Nick: For sure. Any experience with online?

Ricardo: I played online. I played way back in the day when, you know, PokerStars and Full Tilt were, were around. I still play a little bit online, not as much because of the, you know, the unregulated sites, and I did have some money get tied up that I actually lost out on through absolute and ultimate bet, and whatnot. So, I do play online, still, but I don’t keep very much money on there. Because I don’t keep very much money on there. I don’t play very high/ I stay even lower than what I played live on there, to be honest with you.

Nick: Got it. Okay, just from listening to that, I would say that your best path, if you wanted to start transitioning into playing more professionally, would be to keep your job. Because I could, I could go into a whole conversation about how people generally overestimate the job security that they have in a corporate realm and under estimate how secure poker is if you’re actually winning player. But rather than do that, I think the easier way to, to potentially just guide you into playing more is to honor the fact that you do have apprehension about making a hard transition. And the logistically you should. Because the main reason I asked if you have a wife and kids is that like that is an immediate indicator that you need to be a little bit more careful with job security. If it was a 25-year-old kid that was just like, yeah, I work IT but I have no, I don’t have a family and nothing to really report to. I could, I could like reasonably tell him to be more aggressive with transitioning and quitting his job. But I mean, I’ve seen your situation or versions of your situation quite often. And I’ve, I’ve made the mistake in the past of contracting a guy who was like, I have a wife and kids, I’m ready to go all in on Poker, I’ll quit my job tomorrow. If, if you want to train me, stake me. That’s not worked out well, mainly because it puts way too much strain on him that he wasn’t expecting. Especially if he doesn’t have like a significant chunk of money set aside to navigate the potential variance for the first six months or so. So, what I’ve settled on is basically just in situations like yours, I would say, honor the apprehension that you have, because it’s actually, it’s actually a healthy stress that you’re feeling around going into poker full time. Like, this happens sometimes when guys say, I feel like I should be playing the higher game, but it’s so stressful. And they ask if that’s a success barrier. And it really depends what your bankroll is. Like, sometimes the reason that your body feels stressed out is because it’s the smart part of your mind telling you this is too much risk to assume right now. And that’s actually like a healthy stress. It’s not always like you’re just being afraid, and you should, you should go play that game anyway. So, I would say that if you want to start playing more, it would be the type of thing that you make room for after your job or on the side of your job. I wouldn’t change your job at all. At most, maybe I would cut back a few hours, if possible. But I feel like it’s a very good thing for you to hold on to with your situation with the family and the kids. And if you did drop it, it would make more time for you, but I think would put an amount of stress on you that, on average would be disruptive. So then the only question left really is how do you make the most use of your time when playing poker if you are interested in playing more semi pro. So, like, that’s what I would give you the label as a guy in your shoes, who’s going to keep his full time job could become a semi pro, I wouldn’t really claim that anybody has gone professional until they’re only doing it solely. And really, that just comes in, it comes down to the amount of hours you can commit to it per week. I would say like professional level is like 40 hours a week plus that they’re committing to playing or studying. And then semiprofessional is probably something like in the 15, 15 hour per week range. And then recreationally is just like, whenever you get a chance to go to the casino on the weekend. So

Ricardo: On a site, no, not to, not to interrupt, but I would say that I play, on average, I play about between three and four times a week. Man, the majority of my hours, obviously come on weekends, because, you know, I don’t have any commitment for no Saturdays or Sundays. So, I can play all night, Friday night, I can play all night, Saturday night. Sunday, of course, is a little bit limited. Because, you know, my obligation for Monday morning, but even through the week, you know, Monday through Thursday, I guess I’d probably play, you know, maybe two of those days. And I’ll average about a four, between a four- and six-hour session, for the most part on those days. So, I would probably, I would say average anywhere between 15 and 25 hours a week. I try to get, my goal typically is to get in 100 hours a month.

Nick: That’s pretty good. That’s actually what my online guys play who are contracted. But they’re playing online. So, it’s they’re playing much more volume.

Ricardo: Oh yeah.

Nick: Yeah. That’s actually like on the high end of what I would say semi pro for a live grinder. So how have your results been, would be my next question? Just like over the course of your live career, specifically the last couple of years?

Ricardo: I would say for the year I probably I make about maybe 30, 30,000 a year playing.

Nick: I mean, that’s a pretty good part time job.

Ricardo: It is. It definitely is. It definitely supplements. It definitely supplements what I do.

Nick: What’s your level of flexibility with the IT job? Are you pinned to certain hours a week? Or is it more flexible?

Ricardo: I would say it’s semi flexible. You know, I just have to commit certain hours to it, not specifically from like nine to five, but I just have to put in, you know, an average of so many hours, if that makes sense.

Nick: What would be your ideal situation, if you could just, if you could map it? It doesn’t even have to be realistic, but like, and don’t go so far as to be like, you know, I want to be number one poker player in the world. But like, within the realm of reason of stretching your current limits, what would be like a result that you would be really happy with like a year from now, if you made a significant change in the amount of time you spent with poker?

Brad: What were you hoping to gain by asking Ricardo this question?

Nick: Something that I just sort of spontaneously started developing while I was doing these consults, I guess you’d call it a technique. But what I started to realize is most of you guys already know what they want. They’re just having trouble stretching their imagination far enough to see that that’s a potential reality. And that’s a two-step process of getting them to see that and then helping them reel it in, the way you reel it in is to just reverse engineer it through logic and reason. But that’s why I’m sort of trying to take the pressure off and saying, you know, within the realm of possibility, it can be anything you want. Don’t overthink it, just tell me what would be a really good result for you here. So, depending on what he says, depending on how he answers that question will determine how we sort of reverse engineer the goal.

Brad: Alright, let’s see how he answers the question.

Ricardo: I mean, to be honest with you, the biggest thing for me, it’s just, you know, like, I’m sure with most is just the flexibility in general, to be able to, I guess, in a sense, live off it, and play when you want to play as opposed to, you know, not necessarily having to play necessarily every day. But that would be, you know, that’s, I know, at least I look at it like, it’s not, I don’t, I don’t want to say that’s not attainable, but I also look at it, like, I know that it takes time to get there. So, I’m not sure if that’s like a one-year goal or more of a five-year goal type of a thing. But that would be, that’s my, my big goal. Because I, I had, I did take us a short period of time, where I was playing just, they was extremely short, I’m talking about like three months, basically, where I was just playing. I wasn’t working, because I was kind of in between jobs. So, and it was, you know, those three months were great. I loved it, you know, I, you know, was able to spend time at home with kids, do whatever I wanted during the day. And then in the evening, for the most part, I would go, you know, put in my few of, my hours and my session time. And it was, I traveled, everything it was it was a dream, basically, to put it, you know, nicely. And something like that, just like I said, just having that brief taste of it in those, in that three-month period was great. Explain that.

Nick: Explain that three-month periods meet again. What was different about it?

Ricardo: Well, I was like I said, I was, I was between I was between jobs. So, but I also had, I had I guess what you call a, an aesthetic. I had money saved, and everything. So, I wasn’t, you know, I wasn’t in a hurry to get the next job. Although I was kind of looking. I was like, well, let me try this poker thing out for a little bit. And like I said, I did it. And like I said, it was fantastic. Completely fantastic. I mean, I loved it. I loved everything about it. But I just you know, being with the amount of money I was making and I guess at the level I was playing the stake I was playing, it just wasn’t, it didn’t seem like it was going to be you know, attainable as a long-term type of thing. Because I mean, granted, don’t get me wrong. $3,000 a month is not, like you said it’s a part time job. But for to support a family $30,000 a month to support a family. That really, but like I said, as far as far as the time and everything, but it was so it was I mean, it was the best time I’ve had in my life. To be honest with you. Like I said, I had no, no other than, you know, the financial part. I didn’t have a worry in the world. I like I said, I you know, that I didn’t have to worry about getting up to go to work. I didn’t have to, you know, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I was at home when I wanted, I went out when I wanted to eat when I wanted I did everything when I want to had so much freedom. And that’s to me, that’s the that’s the, I guess the draw.

Brad: Bingo. We get to what Ricardo genuinely wants. And, Nick, I got to tell you, this is one of the reasons why I love the audio format. You can actually hear the excitement in his voice when he says the word freedom

Nick: And the relief too.

Brad: Yep, the relief and the excitement.

Nick: For me, this was that moment where it’s like, okay, we’ve gotten to his North Star. Now we got to reverse engineer it. And I think what it does show is that you get a guy who speaks in that way you see his, he could see his insides light up when he gets to that North Star moment. You can see this guy actually does really have a passion for playing. But that passion depends on him not being pressured to play.

Brad: Which is not good for somebody who is a professional poker player.

Nick: Not good. And it is repairable as long as he’s put in an environment that doesn’t pressure him to do the thing that he’s not ready to do at a high frequency. Like two types of players, the guy that has ultimate drive, and ultimate discipline, and then the guy who has a lot of passion, but doesn’t feel like he’s being supported in that passion. That’s the trick. That’s the guy who will be like I want to play when I want to play and has a little bit of laziness to him. I think that guy can still get to a place where he can play a lot of hours in a fun way. But that motivational system is in need of repairment because he hasn’t had a support system there in the past that tells him it’s okay to play when you want to play and if you just keep doing that more, you’ll enjoy the game more, which will result in you playing more.

Brad: Yeah, there’s no quicker way to burn out as a poker player, then to put yourself in a position to continue playing. When you don’t feel the drive, and the game no longer feels fun, you just burn out. And what ultimately would happen, if Ricardo’s not nurtured in the right way, is the freedom he’s searching for, will actually turn into a cage, once again, when it comes to poker. Because he’ll find himself not wanting to play and still playing and realizing, oh, this wasn’t actually the thing that I was searching for, ultimately,

Nick: It’ll turn into the same feeling that he has towards his normal job that he’s trying to get out of.

Brad: Right, exactly.

Nick: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like that thing, for sure. So, like, if we were going to reverse engineer this, I would do it around that, how do we create a plan to have you with more freedom, six months from now. And like, honestly, man, I think that the simplest way to start would be like, if you could just work one day last at your job, and have one more day playing poker, that would probably have like a substantially positive impact on your life, based on what you just, based on what you just described. The optimal situation for you would be to work as few hours at your IT job as possible. So, you could have as max freedom to do anything else you wanted, without having to worry about losing your IT job.

Ricardo: Yep, that makes, it makes a lot of sense.

Nick: Because like, it’s really important. It’s really important that if you get stressed out enough from a downswing or whatever, that you can always go back and pick up more hours at your stable job, that is going to make, because that will give you that security, that you’re not doing anything irresponsible, which is really important. Because if you feel like you’re doing something irresponsible by playing poker too much, and sort of like, you know, quitting your job, then that’ll actually affect your play, and your relationships at home, too. Everything will get stressful. So, what is the, what’s the possibility that you could potentially scale down the hours at work, and sort of like that would be your shot, I would say. That would be the equivalent of you taking a shot. Like if you’re like, okay, for the next three months, with this amount of money that I feel like I’m okay with taking a shot with, I’m going to drop my work by X percent, and I’m going to spend that time in the casino. And I don’t have to worry about anything, because the worst thing that can happen is my shop fails, and I just go back to work and build up more of a bankroll securely.

Ricardo: I don’t think it’d be, I don’t think it would be that difficult. I mean, I guess it just depended on the amount, like you said, the percentage wise, if we’re talking about cut it at 50%. And yeah, that would be extremely, that’d be extremely difficult. But I mean, if we’re talking about, like you said, maybe one day, eight hours? That’s not, that wouldn’t be. That’s out other possibilities.

Nick: Are you self-employed by the way, or are you working for a company?

Ricardo: I work for a company, but it’s like I said, it’s extremely flexible.

Nick: Well, I would start there, bro. I would trim it by a number that feels still responsible, like, my gut is telling me like 15 to 20%, cut your hours by. That gives you one more day a week at the casino. Or more just doing whatever you want to do that, that symbolizes freedom. And you might see like a dramatic increase in your weekly fulfillment just by doing that. And then if you if you’re like, wow, this is great. And like, I really want to try to push this one day further, then maybe it goes from 15, 20% to 40% less hours that you work IT and more that you play poker. The issue with a guy like you pushing towards pro is that you could do it at 2-5, you could do it at 1-2, 2-5, but you’d have to play so many hours. Then the only other option is that you move up to 5-10 and play the same amount of part time hours that you are now but then at that point, your game is going to have to get better and you’ll have to be focused more on improving. So, it’s not really practical. Like I would never advise a part time guy to go play 5-10 unless it was like literally the best games in the world. You know what I mean? Or unless he just had a lot of money. So, I feel like you have to approach this in a bit more of an incremental way. You’ve identified what it is about the logistics of poker that really give you fulfillment, which is just the freedom of it. And you’re in a, you’re actually like a better place than a lot of people with corporate jobs because you have flexibility. So, I would, I would start by sensing into what is a reasonable number that I could cut back on work hours, and devote that time to playing poker so that you feel responsible, like you still are basically working. But you’re not working so much in poker, that it would be sacrificing the job security. And I would just make a small adjustment like that to start, like, over the next few months or so and see how it feels. And then if it feels really good, and you end up, like, being on somewhat of the heater, you might look down at 10, 10k extra in your pocket that you could say, okay, well, I’m going to take another shot with this and trim my hours by another 10 15% on the IT job. You can just play with that. You can actually play with that, as it feels, like as it resonates with you without ever having to feel like you’re doing something irresponsible, which is really important because like, whatever conversation you have to have with, with your wife or your job, it’s not like a dramatic conversation. It’s just like, hey, like, I’ve been making money over here in poker. And it’s something I really liked doing for some time now. And all I’m saying is I’m going to do that 10 to 15%, more calm, more often. That’s not a huge convo, you know what I mean?

Ricardo: Right.

Nick: And I think a lot of what takes pressure off of making a choice like this is like, it doesn’t have to be a black and white decision. And it can be just like a little nudge in the direction of poker, because that’s what you want. That’s what you like more. And then the more results, you get that say that that’s actually a reasonable option, the more you just lean in that direction. And you won’t even get resistance leaning in that direction if you do it slowly. Because your wife will see, well, he’s actually making money at this, how the fuck am I going to say that you shouldn’t do it? And then your job? Well, they’re just responding to whatever you want anyway. It’s, with the conversation with them is just ultimately going to be how few hours can I work for you and still remain employed. And as long as you get that number, you can, you can make sure that you just don’t push past it. Unless you actually do want to go pro and in which case, we have another call and another conversation.

Ricardo: Right. Yeah, the to be, to be 100% honest, the conversation is, has been had with my wife, multiple times. She’s, you’ve seen my results that she’s, she tells me consistently, with the amount of money you make, in the such limited time that you make it, you know, that you play, like 25 hours a week, why not just do this full time, instead. But like I said, there’s, I have that apprehension inside of me, because I don’t know if that’s, again, sustainable number one long term, or that’s just a really small sample size, you know, or number two, and number two, like I said, I’ve never done it full time. So, I’ve never had to rely on having a good month or a good session in order to pay, to pay the bills. So, I don’t really know how much extra stress that’s going to incorporate into, into sitting down every, you know, when I do, when I do sit down.

Nick: I would go out on a limb and say that you definitely have edge in these games, and that your results are not variants. I mean, I know the average caliber of a 200 NL live rag, speaking with you for 30 minutes. I mean, I think you’re above the competence level substantially of the player at that table. So, let’s, let’s say that you definitely do have an edge. But we don’t want to put so much stress on you at the table, that that edge gets crushed by just bad decision making under pressure, basically. So, I think this solution is a really good one to start. It’s just like, free up one more day. I’ve done this before too, like this is a big, this is a big impact that this will have like you’re literally, it’s not just one more day of poker, it’s one less day of work, too. So, it’s like this weird double event. Yeah, I mean, I wish I had more for you. But I feel like there’s nothing, there’s nothing really else. This is a simple one to me. The beauty of doing it this way is that it’s not really a dramatic thing. Like oftentimes the mistake that that gets made is to go black and white, from zero to 90 with something and then you put too much pressure on yourself, but I think you have the you have probably the perfect situation for being able to do this in an incremental way. Your wife is accepting of poker, you have a more flexible job than most guys do. And you’ve identified that what you really love about poker is the freedom. So, adding even one more day of that will already give you a pretty substantial life EV boost.

Ricardo: Yeah, definitely want to give it a shot. Like I said at a minimum, like you said, test it out for a few months, three months or whatever. Like I said, like I said, those few months that I, that I did have that freedom were just amazing, so

Nick: I mean, just listen, listening to me talk about that period of time. That’s like, the thing I’m 100% confident in is you have to find a way to cultivate more of that into your life. Because like, it’s, it’s clear that that’s when you’ve been the most happy.

Ricardo: Yeah, for sure. For sure I can, I can. No doubt about that, in my mind.

Brad: Closing thoughts? Why did you choose this one, to add as an episode?

Nick: I think it’s super common. Like I said, at the beginning for people to take this approach to going professional and think that has to be an all or nothing thing. What you’re seeing through the suggestions specifically toward, like, the last quarter of this is that the real fear is that he might be doing something irresponsible. That’s what he doesn’t want to feel, irresponsible. So, if we can just develop a more gradient method for him to make this transition, where every step along the way it feels responsible, because he’s showing some results in the direction that he wants to transition to completely. And every time he shows results, he can surrender sometime in the real-world job that he doesn’t want to actually be at. But that does provide him with some financial security. So, if we just sort of chunk it like that, it can start to make a lot more sense to the person why this actually is a realistic path, and that it doesn’t need to be an irresponsible journey. It just needs to be sort of compartmentalized. I think that’s like the real skill set that someone lacks when they’re looking at something in a binary way. And it just takes a little bit of creativity, to be able to say, well, let’s actually break this thing down into parts so that we can look at it realistically. So, I hope this helps anybody who is in that semiprofessional stage, where they find themselves thinking about going pro, but then they find, there’s like this ping pong effect, where it’s like black and white, black and white, I’m either all in or all out. And I can’t find a way to actually get any leverage going on this, on this dream that I have. This is the way you do it. And I hope that by seeing it occur in someone else, it gives you a little bit more leverage to be able to apply it to your own situation so you can start to map this thing out.

Brad: What’s really awesome to me is like you said, it doesn’t have to be binary. It can be just putting one foot in the pool, and dealing with that uncomfortability versus just jumping into the deep end. And it just being too much for you to where you realize after you quit your job, leave your stable income, that poker is not the thing that’s going to ultimately lead you to freedom. And then you’re kind of screwed, right? If you’re taking the more tentative approach, and just taking one step at a time, you can, you can get to the point where you’re like, okay, this is too uncomfortable. So, I’m just going to get out of the pool and go about your life and try to find that freedom in some other way. So, I think that yeah, it’s a, it’s a great, great advice, great wisdom for folks who have a career transitioning into the world of poker.

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