Book 23 of 52: Change Your Gambling; Change Your Life by Howard Shaffer


Over five-years ago I had a terrible gambling problem that had spun completely out of control. I was gambling on anything and everything. There were no triggers that resulted in an impulse to gamble because it was my life. I gambled when I woke up, I set my robots to gamble when I was at work and I gambled when I came home. When I woke up each morning the first thing I did was check my laptop to see how much money I had won or lost. Only then would I roll over and kiss my ex-wife on the cheek and wish her a happy morning.

When I decided to quit alcohol I also used it as an opportunity to also quit gambling. I told myself that poker, although a form of gambling was different because it is a game that is heavily weighted to the more skilful players over the long run. So I quit all forms of gambling except for poker. In five-years I have only gambled once and funnily enough it was when I was drunk. It was in Las Vegas and I emptied my wallet of $3,000 while playing roulette.

I know that over the past five years I have broken even playing poker. That understanding has a huge psychological impact on me. It tells me that I am not good enough and I don’t like that feeling. More recently my mood has been terrible when I sit down and play. I don’t have a bankroll that is separated from my personal funds. When I win I spend it and when I lose I take more money out of my personal account to play. This can be very difficult, emotionally, because I can work abroad for a week and lose all my income in one-night playing cards. I am now in a situation where I can no longer afford to play a game I once wanted to play professionally. But quitting is tough, because poker is not just about the game; it is a very social event as well. All of my friends play poker and I see them all when I play poker. In a way this situation reminds me of the time I quit alcohol. My entire group of friend’s drank alcohol and as soon as I quit they all stopped being my friend. You just have no reason to hang around in nightclubs and pubs if you don’t drink. I guess I am scared of the same thing happening again. The truth of the matter is if I quit I won’t see a lot of these people again.

So in an attempt to control my gambling I bought Change Your Gambling; Change Your Life by Howard Shaffer, but I have given up with only 40% read on my Kindle. The book is just not doing anything for me. I don’t seem to relate to it. It is as if it is written for someone else and I cannot see how it can help me. For example it has sections where they cover the urges and triggers for gambling and I don’t have any. I have had one urge to place a bet in the past five years. I never have an urge to play poker. I want to play poker because I enjoy it, but I don’t have an urge. When Tuesday night rolls along I know it is poker night and I want to play but…sorry…no urge. Example this Tuesday came and went and I had no urge to play, no cold sweats, no upset, nothing.

I have come to the conclusion that my decision to stop smoking, drink alcohol and quit my job and go through a divorce has made be a stronger man. Before I picked up this book I defined myself as a gambling addict, but I am not sure that is the case. In fact I know it isn’t. I am not a gambling addict because I don’t gamble. Yes I play poker and yes poker is gambling but there is a big difference between sitting down for a game of cards and betting on sports or playing roulette. What I am is very poor at bankroll management. My weakness in this area is what causes me the upset and distress. It is what causes me to chase.

I have decided that I am going to stop playing poker until I have a bankroll. This is going to take me at least twelve months and during this time I will get a taste of what life is like beyond poker. But I am confident that if I can manage my bankroll then I can manage poker and my moods. Yes poker makes me miserable, but it also makes me happy at times too. I am not ready to part ways with it just yet.

So do I recommend this book for people who have gambling problems? I think it may be able to help people who possess gambling problems, but the content wasn’t great in my opinion. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) during my research I didn’t find many alternatives so I have decided I will write one of my own. I will write the gambling book I was looking for when I found this. Watch this space.

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  1. Hi Lee

    Interesting you stopped after 40%, so really not like you at all. Though it does make sense.

    I personally see poker differently and like a ‘hobby’. With other hobbies I’ve had I’ve always wanted to be the best I can be whether it playing footy to the highest level possible for my ability, getting a decent handicap at golf or even when out running trying to do the same run quicker each time I do it. With poker, the keeping score is in the £££/$$$ and imo, it is this part where lies the problem. They also all incur costs (BI’s) to do. Pay to play, trainers, running gear etc

    I see it all the time at the table, particularly in cash games, whereby people are sitting there saying things like ‘Been here 5 hours and I’m up £20, I could make more in McDonalds!’, then going on (I’m guessing is entitlement tilt as not read Jared’s book yet, only 2 chapters in a year) to start playing awful and often ending up doing their BI.

    Slightly off my point there which is this. Everyone has a bankroll of some sort. Are you saying you feel you cannot play at ‘x’ level ? so you need the (gamblers) ‘buzz’ of the stakes and big money pots to make it worthwhile ? How much of a BR are you looking to save in a year to play ?

    Do you play online ? and have you considered staking/coaching ? (a possible way to get better, beat the games and low risk to you financially and also a good way to train you in BRM….which you obviously know being in the circles….lol). Playing lower and learning is a better way imo than being out of an ever changing game for a year just to have a bigger roll for higher stakes that you wont beat.

    I have been playing poker now for probably 10 years, but still low BI stuff as I just enjoy the game. I play online a lot for it’s ease but do love live poker. I’m a lifetime winner but ‘could of earnt more working at McDonalds’ but going back to my point…..It’s my hobby. I enjoy playing cards. I don’t play for stakes that hurt me and I withdraw a lot when winning to buy nice stuff….it makes it worthwhile. I feel satisfaction in my last 3 holidays have been paid for from poker, so my boys have got something from it too and also when I had a great last 2 Decembers, they and also my family got a better xmas than they may have.

    FWIW, I’m now going full bore with the poker, getting decent coaching as I want to push on and see where I can go and hopefully do it semi/professionally as it will give me more time to spend with my boys (other reasons too, to long for a comment). There is also something coming up coaching wise through a friend of mine (chopped SM 3 way 2 months back) that is rediculously cheap if your interested in going down this route.

    Hope this helps of may put a better spin on things if you having thought of it like this


    • Hi Coggy,

      Thanks for the long reply.

      It has taken me a long time to realise that poker is a hobby and not something that I am going to earn an income from. I too like to become exceptional at anything I do, and I believe to be exceptional at poker, you have to devote a lot of time to the game. Time is the most precious commodity on earth. Do I want to spend it playing poker? Is this in line with my life purpose? I know that it isn’t and therefore I am feeling uncomfortable playing when I know I could be spending my time working on things that are in line with my life purpose.

      I am having a rest from the game to concentrate on a few projects that are in line with helping people. That is what I love. I will return to the game when I have saved up some money and have something to show from the hard work I am now preparing to put in. Hopefully, you will read what I am trying to create through my blog.

      Take care buddy.


  2. Very interesting review. After reading 40% of this book, you seem to have cut back on your gambling and gained some insight about your relationship with gambling, and maybe your relationship with yourself. Something happened during your read. Sounds like a useful book to me.
    Good luck!

    • Hi Jeff,

      Good point! I think that over time I have strengthened my ability to control my demons. I have achieved this through the cessation of drugs, alcohol, smoking and various other bad habits. I think with gambling I just didn’t need the help I thought I did and was able to manage it myself. It has been weeks since I played a hand of poker, for money, and it has not been an issue for me.

      Thanks for replying


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