The Conundrum of Being a ‘Poker Wife’

I love it when people ask me what I do – my dream job was to be a writer, and now I am one. When people find out my husband is a semi-professional poker player, they imagine we live an impossibly glamourous, wildly exciting life.

The truth, of course, is that one of us spends our days hunched over a laptop, and the other spends our nights doing the same. Mark plays poker because he enjoys the puzzle, and the fact that he can win money doing it makes it more appealing, but psychologically it’s challenging – a sustained losing streak (downswing) is hard to deal with, and he spends as much time studying as he does playing.

However, there are benefits to it – big cashes which pay for meals out, tournament packages which include travel and hotels. A couple of years ago it was Copenhagen, and when I drafted this blog, Malta. I debated whether I should publish this on my personal blog rather than my business one, but as the nature of my work is what enables me to go off somewhere at a moment’s notice, I thought I would put it here.

I should add that I’m very fortunate that my clients are all lovely, understanding and jetsetters themselves. Their work is always my priority so I make sure I take my laptop everywhere.

Poker Wife = Hanging Around…

Intercontinental Hotel MaltaIn Malta, Mark started playing at noon on Friday, so I stayed in the room and worked. Ideally, I would have gone to the hotel gym too, but I had a last-minute deadline to meet. By 9pm though, my work was finished and I was ready for a change of scene.

There was a drinks reception in the main casino I was able to attend, so I went along, got a drink and then stood beside the bar. And this is where it gets tricky. I don’t know anyone – the few people I do know are all playing cards! There are some people who are clearly plus-ones too, but they all seem to know each other, so I’m feeling extremely awkward.

I want Mark to do well with poker, so we have more opportunities to have trips away, but that means I’ll find myself in this situation more often. To spend more time with him in the evenings he’d have to be knocked out of the tournament, and I don’t want that to happen.

What should I do? Learn to play poker? I wouldn’t be able to join in the main event, but I could play some side events, particularly the ladies-only games which are a friendly place to go for a beginner. I’ve not really had an interest in playing poker, but a couple of the female players have encouraged me to try it. Of course, if I have deadlines I can’t really leave my work to play cards…

I could stay at home, but I’d miss out on the chance to travel to interesting places, which is the main aim of being self-employed and doing the kind of work I can do anywhere. I could stay in the hotel room, learn a new hobby and get some early nights.

Perhaps I should be more proactive with the other guests, but for someone so sociable, I don’t find it easy to strike up random conversations with people who obviously know each other. This is why I dislike most business networking events too.St Julians Malta

I could try to make friends with people who are in a similar situation, but I can’t guarantee they’ll be there next time, because you can’t be sure your other half will qualify. And of course, the majority of people work traditional jobs and can’t just take time off at the last minute.

I am aware that this is a ludicrous, first-world problem, and I know that I’m privileged to be able to do this. Plenty of people are in this position too – anyone whose partner is a professional sportsperson has the same challenge, and at least I don’t have to hang around a cold field while Mark is working! And for those who have loved ones in the armed forces, it must be considerably worse.

But, if our long-term plan is to work and travel whenever and wherever we like (and we’re pretty close to that now), then we need to have a strategy to balance things out. Apart from the evenings being tricky, doing well in a poker tournament sometimes means playing until 4am, making exploring the next morning impossible too.

I think this is something I’ll be revisiting soon, and I would be interested to know what other people do. Maybe it’s not the big deal I think it is (pun intended!)


  1. Amy Barnett on at

    So what did you do? I find myself in this situation!

    • Gudrun on at

      I make sure I take my own work with me, and take a book to the bar! I have no interest in learning to play and I don’t enjoy watching, but I do like the holiday opportunities! I suppose the more trips you go on, the better you get to know the regulars, and you can spend time with them. Except the regulars tend to be pros, and they don’t get knocked out in the early stages while you’re hanging around on your own…

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