Poker is compelling; this we know. It's especially compelling when you're new to the game and your learning curve is steep. The brave new world of position raises and isolation bluffs can leave you dizzy with contemplation, and eager to find a game right now where you can put your new chops to the test. Left unchecked, poker, like gas, will expand to fill the available space in your life. I'm sure you're not opposed to that-you'd hardly be reading these words right now if you were averse to the advice, "Play more poker!"
However, you're not the only one in your life. Your passion for poker has to come at the expense of something, perhaps your former passion for the Restoration comedies of William Congreve, and it must necessarily impact those around you: your spouse, family, friends, dog, or fellow Congreveheads. At best they'll feel jealous of the attention they've lost. At worst, they'll worry that you're falling into a sinkhole of obsession and start leaving Gamblers Anonymous brochures lying around the house. To allay their fears, not forgetting that their fears may be at least a little legitimate, there are three things you can do.
First, strike a balance. It's okay to make poker an important part of our life-even a vital part of our life-just not all our life. Especially if we think we have skills in this area, we run the real risk of going completely overboard. Every time we don't play, we tell ourselves, we're leaving money lying on the table, and how can that be good? Remember, money's only important to people with nothing important in their lives. Put your poker in the context of a well-rounded, ebullient life experience and your enthusiasm for the game will reward you with endless pleasure for as long as you live.
Second, demonstrate your balance. Keep doing the other things you love in your life, with the other people you love in your life. Make those around you aware that, while you have every intention of being the most kick-ass poker player you can be, this won't come at the expense of your relationships, your health, your sanity or your spiritual well-being. And yes, it's possible to be a spiritual poker player, above and beyond, "Oh, God, I really need an ace right now." Third, open your books. Keep records, and be willing to show those records to people who have a legitimate interest. If you're running net-plus, this will relieve them of their concern that you're heading for a new home in a refrigerator box. If you're not running net-plus, but your losses are manageable, well, this is a subject that can be addressed openly and honestly. And if your losses aren't manageable, then you may, in fact, need to curb your enthusiasm for poker, either by limiting the time you spend on it or the money you invest in it.
Bottom line: It's fine to love poker; just don't love it at the expense of your healthy and balanced life, or, ever, at the expense of the truth.