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5 Ways to Beat Poker Withdrawal

This month, in one fell swoop, we lost our two favorite activities: live poker and travel. Fortunately for us, we had just finished our latest poker journey. COVID-19 restrictions came mere days after we returned from a trip to Florida in which we visited five new poker rooms (Room reviews to come. So far we have shared our thoughts on Silks). In fact, we were sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for our flight home when we learned of the first coronavirus victim in the state of Florida. We also may have ignored our better selves and played one last tournament in New Hampshire before that state closed its poker rooms. Happily, we’re now two weeks out from that tournament with no ill-effects. Unless you count poker withdrawal.

It didn’t take long for the withdrawal set in. We watched with a mixture of horror and relief as first Connecticut, then Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and finally Las Vegas shut down all live poker rooms. Horror, of course, because – NO POKER! And relief, because we would have struggled to make the right decision, was poker still an option. Hopefully, we would have done the smart thing and stayed home. I’m glad that we didn’t have to find out. As Paul says, can you imagine an activity more conducive to spreading disease than live poker? I kind of never want to touch a chip again.

Not only have we lost our primary hobby, but we have also lost any ability to plan for our next trip. Who knows when we will be able to leave our house again, let alone our state? It is almost certain that the WSOP will be canceled this year, along with its attendant tournaments (bye, bye Tag Team Switch). And we likely won’t be taking a summer trip to Philadelphia to see the sights and visit poker rooms. What is a Poker Pilgrim to do?

Here are some ways we are keeping busy and sane while we weather poker withdrawal. We share these options to help others out there going through the same. We would love to hear any remedies you might have for us.

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I’m a big reader, and particularly love books about poker. If you’re looking for some good poker reading, we have previously shared both our favorite books on poker strategy and our favorite poker stories. I also love reading books set in exotic destinations. A Trip to the Beach inspired my first visit to the amazing island of Anguilla. Likewise, Tales from Margaritaville put me hot on Jimmy Buffet’s trail to destinations from Key West to St. Barts. I’m also a sucker for any book set in either Ireland or Paris. One of these days I will put together a list of my favorite location inspired books, but these two are nice light reads if you’re looking for travel inspiration.

My favorite fun poker read

Poker Training

In this time while we can’t play poker, we might as well get better at our games. We live in a state that has not yet sanctioned online poker, so poker training is the closest we can get. If you haven’t already signed up for Masterclass and learned from Daniel Negreanu’s thoughts on poker. We highly recommend it.

We have also spent countless hours training with Advanced Poker Training (disclosure: we do some work for APT, but we really do think they provide the best poker training out there). Most poker training sites consist largely of video-based content. APT is based on the premise that you learn best by doing. They offer cash and tournament simulators, structured training exercises, and Beat the Pro challenges that measure your decision-making against professional players. Kenna James’  Combat Trainer lessons seriously upped my tournament play.  I have broken a tournament bubble more than once largely due to skills I learned from Kenna.

To combat our poker withdrawal, we’ve also started learning to play Pot Limit Omaha using Omaha Poker Training. OPT is a brand new site created by the same people who created APT. OPT offers a great opportunity to learn PLO or brush up on your skills. Cardplayer Magazine published a great interview about the development of OPT in its current issue that no one will ever see. Sadly, it came out the week after all the casinos shut down. If you’re interested, you can read it here.


Related Articles:

Movies to Get You Through Poker Withdrawal

We love our poker movies. Rounders never gets old. We have previously shared our list of favorite poker movies. I’m thinking this may be a good time to watch some of them again. A couple of months ago @PokerLogia also shared with us their list of favorite poker movies (although some of them are more broadly gambling movies, rather than specific to poker).

Finally, a brand new poker movie just released on Amazon Prime. Poker Queens is a non-fiction film about the place of women in poker. We haven’t yet watched it, but you can be sure that we will within the week!


Poker Withdrawal

Poker on TV

If you’ve exhausted your poker book list and watched all of the decent poker movies out there (not hard to do), there’s poker on TV. We’re always looking for the next World Poker Tour broadcast. We particularly enjoy the first episode of a series, when they set up the tournament and you get to see all of the famous pros that entered. Every year the WPT goes deeper and deeper into the cable menu. Currently, I think they are being shown on Fox Sports 2 on our local Verizon FIOS. Of course, your location may vary.

We are also big fans of PokerGo. In addition to televising the WSOP each year (*sob*), they host a wide variety of programming. You’ll find some of the biggest live games on the planet both live and on-demand on PokerGo. They also have a number of fun scripted series and interview shows with some of the biggest names in poker. Beyond the Rail, Insiders, and Stories from the Felt are some of my favorites. I have also heard good things about the game show The Big Blind. That’s currently on my watch-list along with Poker Queens.

We have lost our primary hobby along with any ability to travel. Here are ways we are keeping busy and sane while we weather poker withdrawal.Click To Tweet

Online Poker

Although I live in a post-Black Friday online poker dungeon, there are still ways to legally play poker online no matter what state you live in; especially if you’re willing to give up the monetary aspect of the game. Sites like PokerStars are legal for play money games. and America’s Cardroom have structured workarounds that allow for modified online gaming. Advanced Poker Training and Omaha Poker Training both offer free tournaments and live “cash” poker for those who are looking for a little competition and social interaction.

Some poker Facebook groups have also come together to play virtual tournaments using real money online. Not 100% sure of the legality of these arrangements, so buyer beware, check your local laws, etc. While I have not yet engaged in any of these tournaments, the quarantine is young, and poker withdrawal is a strong motivator.


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