Rounding for Rent

The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.
–Orison Swett Marden
Ugh. 3 hours of restless sleep and a 4 AM wakeup to meet the masses at LAX on Monday morning. Luckily for me, the 200 people in line were too scared to use the automated check in machine, so I was checked in 2 minutes after arriving. I was looking forward to the trip as a chance to escape work and LA for a bit, but waking up at 4 kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm. At least I made my flight, which is more than some people I know can say.
I’m now halfway through day 2 of the conference in San Francisco. As I sit and listen to the IT sales guys BS their way through Powerpoint presentations, my mind drifts off to wondering why I didn’t value bet my top pair on the river on Sunday. There is no sales bs to listen to when you’re sitting at the table and extracting big bets from the fish across the table. Poker is pure in this sense– the money you make is dependent on your ability to make the most out of the cards you’re dealt, not on the whim of some clueless manager.
And thus we come to the appeal of poker as a career. I’ve been along for the ride as a couple fellow bloggers (Lord G, Jason at Poker Odyssey) have taken the plunge and decided to pursue poker as their only source of income. And the weekly updates in the 2+2 forum from DavidRoss give an inside look at the trials and tribulations of playing online poker for a living. The few occasions I’ve sat at the same table with DavidRoss have been fun– trying to beat this guy who’s sitting in a room in Canada somewhere, intensely focused on 4 tables in an attempt to earn his bread.
Although I have no real desire to play poker for a living, I do have a desire to play poker, and a desire to escape the 9 to 5 routine that my life is centered around. So in an attempt to quiet the little devil on my shoulder that occasionally shouts, “You could make a good living from this!”, I thought I’d break down the positives and negatives of playing poker for a living.
The Good

  • You are your own boss. You don’t have to deal with ridiculous requests from a manager, office politics, and all the nonsense that comes along with not being at the top of some organizational hierarchy.
  • You can pretty much define your own hours. Although you really have to play when the most fish are online, your schedule is pretty flexible. You can take a day off whenever you like (although you won’t get paid for it), and you’re not tied to the 26 vacation days that a company allocates to you.
  • Your results are directly dependent on your performance. Unlike my current job, where a superhuman effort is rewarded by only a pat on the back, you’re compensated for good performance on the poker tables (if the poker gods cooperate).
  • You can live anywhere you want. Of course you really have to minimize your rent, and you’d like to be near a B&M, but you can shack up wherever you want. In my case I’d probably move to Northern Sweden (the wife’s birthplace), where the cost of living is almost nothing and poker winnings go untaxed. Of course, I’d probably end up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, chopping away at my monitor after losing PartyPoker style on a runner-runner flush.
  • Unlimited earning potential. In theory, you can move up in limits whenever you are ready, although the grinder has to be careful with variance and risk. Note that DavidRoss has stuck with the $5-10 shorthanded games for almost a year now, despite having the bankroll to move up.
  • The illusion of more time. Although playing 8 hours a day would leave you the same amount of “spare time” as would working 8 hours a day at a regular job, it frees you in many ways. I currently spend a couple hours playing poker a day, so those hours would be freed up to pursue other interests. I’ve also pretty much stopped working out, which I’ve always been committed to for my entire life up to this point. I am making the choice not to work out, but my main reason for stopping is the physical fatigue I feel at the end of the day and my lack of sleep. Since poker would give me a more flexible schedule, I’d be able to re-committ to working out, and probably feel a lot better mentally and physically as a result.

The Bad

  • The risk factor. You never know if you’re going to have a bad run and not be able to pay the rent. Smart play and careful bankroll management can help prevent this, but you deal with the daily stress of winning your bread.
  • A waste of resources? Part of the pleasure I get from doing my job well is that the programs I produce end up making someone’s life slightly better. If we ever got funding for the big project I’m working on, my research might actually improve patient care. But until the funding goes through, the code I write will only assist people in their administrative tasks, and could probably be written by someone else. For me, satisfaction in a job comes from the ability to use my unique talents to produce something that could not easily be produced by someone else. Since I’m not really doing that right now, I’m not satisfied. While collecting bets from other players is intellectualy stimulating and satsfying, I don’t know if I could handle the idea that there is no hope for me to “make the world a better place.” Snicker all you want, deep down I really do want to help people, even if the political obstacles in the way are tough to overcome.
  • Detachment from “normal” society. This might actually be an item for the “good” section, I’m nost sure. In general I feel like normal society is pretty boring and stifling, I wonder if sitting in a casino or in front of a computer all day would ruin me for a future endeavors. But in “the real world,” there are a lot of serendepitous opportunities that result from the people you meet and interact with at a “square” job. I’ve heard that better opportunities exist in some of the high limit games (you can develop some pretty good business relationships), but you certainly aren’t going to find many opportunities while gridning away at online poker.
  • Ruining something that I really like. Once you start playing poker for a living, it’s highly likely that the appeal of the game wears away. It would be a shame to lose something that I get a lot of pleasure from.

So that’s my short list. I may end up trying to grind out a living from poker someday, but now is not the time. I am going to give my computer skills a shot and try to do something with my talent and education before diving into the world of pure poker. What I probably should figure out is a better way to balance my non-work hours to find some sort of equilibrium where I’m not wondering what I “should” be doing. I want to write, read, work out, play music, play poker, and spend time with the wife, but I have yet to figure out a way to fit all of these things in the 9 to 5 schedule.
If I was single, I would probably try some sort of test run– grind it out for 30 hours a week for a couple months and see how it feels. Lucky for me, I have other commitments that I enjoy taking care of– otherwise I’d probably end up falling asleep at the tables after a string long post-work poker sessions.
I’ve received some great comments about my last few posts, as well as several shout-outs from some of the great poker blogs out there. Thanks to everybody for the feedback, I really enjoy hearing from all the smart poker players out there and I get a big kick out of thinking that my writing is actually provoking some critical thinking about poker. I try to hit all the poker blogs daily, and each blogger’s take on the game usually forces me to think about my own perspective.
(Begin Shill– skip this paragraph if you already have an Empire account)
I got a couple emails from people wanting to take advantage of the Empire bonus and shoot a couple bucks my way. If you’re interested in opening up an Empire account and getting $100 bonus dollars, shoot me an email (replace the underscore in the address) and I’ll get you set up.
(End Shill)
Poker Blog Patrol
I finally made it over to Poker Perspectives and was amazed and overjoyed to find Maudie’s discussion of movies on Spice (“Sexterminators”) and The Hammer in the same post. Yes, you know where this is going. Poker and Porn, two of the most lucrative industries on the web, combine for the first time in… “Hammer Time,” starring Fill Hermouth. The climactic scene (pun indented) features Fill going “all-in” with the hammer.
I think we just reached a new low here at Cardsspeak.
Word from Grubby is that The Quiet Lion is dominating in the PartyPoker Million cruise after day one. Go get em Richard!
The Grubster also tightened the screws and crushed the ring games, and in typical Grub fashion, plans to throw it away buying into the Party Million Dollar Guaranteed tourney (600+40) buy in. If he won this thing, I have a feeling he’d see if he could blow the entire prize money by entering every WPT event on the tour. Good luck Grubs, I’m always pullin for ya!
Whoops, I just looked at the clock and I’m supposed to meet my boss and co-worker for some schmoozing and BS. Nothing like blogging on the company dime in some posh hotel. Now if only I could get my wireless card to work and hit PartyPoker in the conference rooms…

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