It’s Friday once again and all of this week we’ve been catching up with Ben Wilinofsky in our 5 Part Special – Here’s part 5:

So poker can be a benefit for you?

I have my moments when I am in the zone. Nothing ever disappears perfectly, but I can forget about my problems for a while. Sometimes it is the most peaceful time I have…when I can forget about everything for a while.

Do you think you should be focussing on healing instead of playing?

I have thought about it a few times, but poker is my comfort zone. It is very easy to get sucked into and to just do it continuously. I thought about taking a break from poker but I feel like I would be lost without it. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, and I feel that would be tougher on me. It isn’t necessarily going to be the wrong thing for me to do. I have thought about going to a cabin in the woods and not really dealing with the real world for a while; trying to reveal my inner self. But I have a girlfriend and have family, friends and a dog. I also have physical therapy I am going through for some of my issues with my hips and back, and I just started seeing a psychiatrist to pursue some expert opinions on some of the mental issues that I have. All of these are things that keep me grounded in the real world…whatever that means?

But can you be a poker machine when suffering with mental illness?

You may be right? It is something that I have thought about, but one of the problems that I have from within is Vancouver is it is an incredibly expensive city to live in, and I think it will be very stressful for me to go a few months and eat into the money I have put away. I can certainly see myself winning something very big, maybe going through the process of buying a place and having a space of my own, and then from that point taking some time to be away. I don’t think I would be very comfortable with the way my capital would erode if I took a break, even though it might be the best for me.

Is it the thought of financial stress or do you just love the game?

I don’t think I need poker to pay the bills necessarily. I could take a year or two off and would certainly have enough money to live on. But I think I would be very uncomfortable taking time off. I don’t love the game. There aren’t really many things in my life that make me happy and poker certainly doesn’t make me happy. But it removes a lot of obstacles that impede my happiness. I think I did love the game at one point. Before it was everything I did. And nowadays there are times when I want to play poker and am really excited when I play poker. Generally, for me, it is much more comfort than it is excitement. I find it relaxing at times, I find it easy and empowering, but I don’t love the game anymore.

How do you feel your mental illness will be perceived in the poker community?

I don’t know. I have had some great support from people who have experienced something similar, or someone close to them has experienced something similar. My friends have been very open and opening up and talking about this sort of thing. So there has been a lot of positives. Anyone who thinks less of me for being this way means they do not understand it very well, and there is a good chance that I would never hear about it anyway. For example, if someone said, “What the hell does he have to be depressed about?” to their friends. I would be really interested, and very surprised, if there was no one out there that would try and use it to his or her advantage. I haven’t had that experience yet, but it has gone through my head that there might be someone who is trying to use this to get at me, or tilt me, on a live setting. I don’t know how? But it has crossed my mind that they will. I would hope that nobody would stoop that low to get an edge over me at the poker table.

I think you can become a role model for other poker players suffering from mental illness.

If people don’t know other people are going through the same thing, they don’t know that other people have gone through the same thing and gotten better. I can’t wait until I can honestly say that I’m better…that I am at peace with myself. If people are struggling, and people see how long it takes – say two years of loss and struggle – but getting a little bit better and working on it, and can see the process laid there from beginning to end, and see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel themselves…then this is good. The serious times for me are when I feel that it is always going to be this way…that it’s never going to end. But everyone I talk to says those are mysterious times for him or her as well, when it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. So if more people told their story it would help everyone who was going through it not feel so low. Not feel so hopeless. Anyway with all the quickies my girlfriend and I have after a tough day of grinding it’s alright…

About the Author

Lee Davy is a writer from Ogmore Vale in South Wales. You can follow his views and opinions through his blog at or on Twitter

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