Happy Poker Partnership

4 Steps to a Happy Poker Partnership

Paul and I both love poker. We feel very lucky to be with someone who not only shares our values and goals, but also our love of poker. Poker rooms are replete with men calling their wives saying they are “at the mall” and others sheepishly reporting that they promised to be home several hours ago, while clearly having no intention of leaving any time soon. Even among couples who both play poker, one is often clearly miserable, while the other can’t get enough. Paul and I came into this relationship both loving poker. There were definitely some bumps in the road early on reconciling our love for the game with our love for each other. However, over the years, Paul and I have found that there are four steps to a happy poker partnership.

1) Do You Both Want to Play Poker?

In order to create a happy poker partnership, first ensure that both you and your significant other truly want to play poker. If one of you is jonesing for the felt every Saturday while the other would rather be tending the garden, and you both separately pursue those passions, that’s one thing.  If the gardener, however, is playing poker just to get time with his partner, that’s a relationship headed for trouble. No one should ever play poker just because their partner is a fan. That’s an expensive, and ultimately, self-defeating proposition.

2) Set Boundaries for a Happy Poker Partnership

Forging a functional poker partnership requires setting down some rules. Paul and I, for example, have found that things go best if we’re not seated at the same table. As we shared recently, his game often makes me cringe. For that reason, we always ask the floor to seat us at different tables.

Happy Poker Partnership


When we are at the same table we’ve agreed not to play soft against the other. Yes, to do so is collusion, but you see friends playing soft against each other all the time.  Of course, Paul has taken “don’t play soft against me” to an extreme. Once in a 120 player tournament he took me out on the absolute money bubble. You can only imagine the car ride home. The upside of that sad day is that we now recount the incident whenever someone jokingly hints about marital collusion. Of course, once they play 10 minutes at a table with us, any suspicions of collusion go away.

Follow these four steps to create a happy poker partnership and you'll reap the rewards for years into the future.Click To Tweet

Finally, we’ve learned over the years not to discuss any hands the same day that they’ve been played. Win or lose, up or down, we find that we’re too raw at the end of a session to graciously accept criticism. Once we get away from the emotions of the day, we have excellent discussions about tricky hands, decisions that we made, leaks we may have noticed, etc. But day of, we’ve found pointing out weakness in the other’s game is an invitation to disaster.


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3) Know How to Kill Time

If you and your partner only play cash, killing time may not be an issue. However, Paul and I mainly play tournaments, so one of us is almost always out of the tournament first. (Although there was that beautiful day last summer where we both chopped top 3 in a tournament at Turning Stone!) Depending on the format, one of us may only face a one or two hour wait. When we play longer structures, like our favorite tournament in Hampton Falls New Hampshire, the one who goes out first may have a 6+ hour wait. Preparing for those waits is one key to the success of our poker partnership. We’ve talked in the past about bringing extra food and water to get us cheaply through a tournament day. It’s equally important to plan for that potential wait time. Some of our top wait time activities include:

  • Take a long walk. This is a great way to get in some exercise after hours at the poker table. It can work wherever there is a nice walking path or a large indoor space. My favorite “knock out walks” are by the river in Exeter, New Hampshire and the mile round trip from one end of the Foxwoods Casino to the other.
  • Get some work done. When the weather allows, we bring our laptops so the first out can settle down to get some work in. Some days this might be billable work (Bonus! as it helps to defray the tournament buy-in). Other days we may use the time to get ahead on our blog or our work for APT.
  • Poker training. What better way to spend your time after knocking out of a tournament than to improve your game? Our poker go bag always has our iPad which we use to fire up Advanced Poker Training and get some practice in. Alternately, I can dive back into Daniel Negreanu’s Masterclass and touch up on the skills I am working on through his tutorial.
  • Watch a show. I’ll fire up the iPad to catch a show on Netflix that I know Paul doesn’t want to see. Knock out time absolutely flew by the month I spent watching Marie Kondo while Paul played on.
  • Read something. If I feel like reading rather than watching, I might read up on my poker strategy. Or just sink into the latest book that I am reading for fun.
  • Run errands. Ok, admittedly this is the least fun knock-out activity, but it can be efficient. Whoever goes out first is responsible for filling the tank or stocking up on non-perishables. Note, however, you want to make a list on your phone, because no one wants to walk over to their partner’s table to say “can I have the grocery list?”




4) Create Some Friendly Competition

If you play poker, then like us, you are probably competitive. If you are looking to improve, you would do well to keep track of your outcomes. Combine these two things, and you’ve got the opportunity for some poker partnership competition! We take it a year at a time, and see who has the best outcomes through December. Winner gets the fancy dinner of their choice.

We’re in year five of our poker competition, and for the first four years we’ve had a split decision. Paul won years 1 and 3 and I was victorious in years 2 and 4. Even more surprisingly, if you take the four years as a whole, we’re running neck and neck. So far Paul is ahead in 2019, but it’s early yet!

Follow these four steps to create a happy poker partnership and you’ll reap the rewards for years into the future.


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