I had built a list of reasons that I'm winding down playing of poker. I mostly wrote them out for myself, and had planned to make proper entries and post them here. As you might guess, because my decision was that I'd wind down my poker efforts, I have been slow to roll out the posts that explore the reasons that I made said decision.
My first reason dealt with the changing nature of game selection, and the second dealt with the concept that I didn't actually start playing (nor is it worth continuing to play) poker for the money. In this installment, I talk about a somewhat controversial issue, which I have long called the “asshole factor”.
In my many years of playing poker, I've discovered that once you reach “real stakes” — somewhere around $10/$20 in limit and $2/$5 in NL/PL — the makeup of people who play settles to a well-defined group. At the lower limits, you find all sorts of vacationing people, friendly folks, and various people who are just recreational players who don't spend a lot of time in the poker world. It's even fun to meet these new people; I know that I met some interesting characters at River Street, for example.
But, rarely do these recreational-focused players venture up to the middle and high limits. Once you get there, there are basically two types of people: (a) semi-pro or pro players who are moving up in stakes, and (b) assholes. The semi-pros/pros might be great people, but if your goal is to be a pro yourself, you don't want your game filled with these people. So, you're left with everyone else — the assholes. It's a simple fact: in my experience, in these games, with rare exceptions, everyone besides the pros are just plain jerks. I have some theories about this.
First, it's a certain class of people who are drawn to higher stakes gambling (BTW, if you aren't over the idea that poker isn't gambling, you should get over it — you are a gambler even if you only gamble (as I do) when you have the best of it). Usually, these non-pros are going have some set of psychological problems. They might be problem gamblers, or at least have an unhealthy relationship with gambling. And, even if this isn't their primary defining psychological illness, but it's likely that the series of illnesses they have are going to make them not nice people to be around.
Such people are often rude, nasty or otherwise generally unbearable. I've found it worse in east coast games than on the west coast, but it's often generally true everywhere. (This might, BTW, be due to the fact that the recreational player on the west coast gambles a bit higher, and therefore you have to go to higher stakes for the game-makeup to settle.)
Even if I believed (although I don't) that the point of life is to do whatever you want, I'm not sure that what I'd want to do is spend my time around these gamblers. Even the ones who aren't unbearable and are instead actually somewhat funny, aren't worth being around either. They are funny in that sad, pathetic way that makes one sick to one's stomach to laugh with (at?) them.
So, when you see me vacationing for a weekend here or there at a casino, you're definitely going to find me at the low-limit tables. If I'm going to spend my time playing poker, I want to meet some friendly people who aren't complete degenerates or pros gunning for cash.
And, if I don't want to play higher, making myself a full-time pro would be silly, because I can't earn enough at those jovial, friendly games to make a real living.