Every “professional” poker player has some sort of a story as to how they found themselves with that job title. A lot of kids on the scene nowadays spent the majority of their free time in college grinding online and getting really good… so good that they didn’t see much point in getting a job working for somebody else, and naturally continued to grind after they left school. You hear about other people who had jobs they lost, and then turned to poker, a field that is always accepting new applicants without any need to update your resume or buy a tie for interviews. And there are those who had jobs, some good, but always unfulfilling compared to the allure of being your own boss and the thrill of using your wits to earn a cash payment every day on your own terms.
Life as a professional poker player has been a massive learning experience, of which the strategy and theory is only a small part of the process. You have to learn how to LIVE as a poker player …
My story was a cross between the last two situations. I lived in Los Angeles for about 4.5 years, trying to make it in the music industry. I play the drums but I wasn’t looking to perform; I worked in promotion, representation, marketing, and other behind-the-scenes type of endeavors. I spent a very brief time working at the William Morris Agency. For those of you who are Entourage fans, it was very much like Ari Gold’s agency… except nobody was filming it and it wasn’t funny. Really super intense environment. My last actual job was with a very cool, very small marketing agency. The main problem at that place of employment was that some projects that were supposed to come through for me to be working on, didn’t. Thus I was left with a light work load at a company where a sizable portion of my income was commission-based.
For most people, this would be really bad. I was loving it, however, because not only had I discovered online poker, but after a couple years of being a fish, I started to take the game (and my game) more seriously. I was reading hand discussions on poker forums and my results were showing. I had lots of time to read and think about what it takes to be a successful poker player, and after swearing to a strict bankroll management system, I started to move up the stakes ladder. When my boss wanted to have a meeting to discuss a more freelance type of business relationship, I was all for it. I had started at the micro stakes of online poker, and climbed my way to the $5/$10NL rung, being very comfortably bankrolled along the way.
So what the hell am I doing grinding live $1/$3NL games now, you may ask? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and as I’m sure just about everybody knows, life as a professional poker player is a massive learning experience, of which the strategy and theory is only a small part of the process. You have to learn how to LIVE as a poker player, and that is something that I feel I’m getting a better grasp of these days. I feel like I’ve found myself in a groove, having booked a win in 11 of my past 14 cash sessions as a result of some nice rungood mixed with what I hope is some good, patient play. Tournaments continue to confound me but what can you do. So long as I’m paying for the buy-ins via cash game wins (and not taking tournament tilt to the cash table!) then eventually the tournament gods will be forced to smile upon me. (Right?)
My uptrend could be summed up nicely by some hands from my Halloween day session. Having been sick all weekend with some lame virus and a 101+ degree fever, I had no time to shop for a costume. Thus it only made sense to throw on the cowboy hat that was part of a costume I wore a couple years ago, added some shades, and made my way to the Caesars poker room. Somehow nobody realized I was in costume and I’m not sure what to make of that, but whatever. First hand I’m dealt in my $1/$3NL game: 55. A middle position raiser makes it $15, I call, and we’re heads up.
This is an above average flop for my hand, in my opinion. My opponent checks and I bet $15, an amount that I almost never bet and that I hope looks weak. It seemed to have worked as my opponent promptly raises to $40. I see no point in raising, and call quickly.
This is a decent turn card for my hand, in my opinion. My opponent decides to check and I assume he’s probably given up. I quickly say “check’s good!”
My opponent apparently has not decided to give up and quickly bets a handful of chips, which turns out to be $55. I pause for a bit, saying a silent prayer to the poker gods hoping that they blessed my opponent with 77, which would trigger the mini bad beat jackpot that Caesars runs, and make it $155. But my opponent quickly mucks his Nothing. I show the quads so that I can get paid the extra $100 in bonus high-hand money. This is an above average first hand to start my session, in my opinion.
Time went on as I played underneath my cowboy hat as the only player in costume in the entire poker room. Soon I picked up 99 and opened for $12, which only the Canadian in the big blind calls.
For some reason my Canadian opponent announces to me that he has no spades, and then checks. I bet $20, and he calls.
My Canadian friend now leads out for $50, and I’m not sure what to make of him, really. I could see several made hands taking this line, at first worried about additional spades coming off on subsequent streets and now betting for protection. I decide to just call.
My opponent bets $50 again. It looks pretty weak and blockerish/valueish, but I’m not sure what a raise would accomplish at this point. I really don’t see him calling with a straight; I guess he could call with a flush but it seems unlikely as well. I just decide to flat the river and my opponent announces he has nothing.
I win some hands and lose some hands over the next couple of hours and nothing really noteworthy happens aside from more people sounding surprised when I tell them I’m in a costume and in no way am I really a cowboy. I go to a new table when mine breaks and work on my folding technique for a while. The final interesting hand develops when I raise 5h6h to $14 from under the gun. A decent young player on the button calls as does the big blind.
I couldn’t ask for too much better of a flop and after the big blind checks, I bet $25. The button makes it $80 to go, and the big blind folds. We’re relatively deep at this point; he started the hand with approximately $550 and I cover him. I have the best hand here a large percentage of the time. The times I don’t are when he flops a set or two pair (less likely with me holding a 5), has a slowplayed big pair… and not much else. To me a flush draw just seems like his most likely holding. Being deeper stacked I don’t really like reraising and decide on a call.
I check and my opponent checks. His check basically confirms my initial read and now he’s taking the free card.
It’s a great card for my hand but I can’t just fire into what I perceive as a missed flush draw, so I check to induce a bet. My opponent kindly obliges with a $120 river bet and I snap call. He announces Q high and I scoop the $440 pot.
I played a couple more rounds before calling it an end to my session and booked a $1050 win; a really nice $1/$3NL Halloween session. Seeing as how none of my fellow poker players at Caesars decided to dress in costume that afternoon, and I at least needed to get a fix of some Halloween madness that evening, I walked across the street and perched myself on the Margaritaville balcony: the quintessential people-watching spot for such an evening. If you’re a Halloween fan, I highly suggest coming to Las Vegas at least one year in your life, solely for the people watching. It’s pretty epic. The venue wasn’t even playing Jimmy Buffet tracks on the outdoor speakers, so my rungood must’ve spilled outside the poker room.
When a person decides to leave a job for the life of a poker player, the scariest thing is not having a guaranteed paycheck. That stress remains at the top of the list throughout a career, and it’ll remain there for me. It’s funny, you jump head first into this profession looking forward to the excitement of doing what you want, whenever you want, for the chance to ride the rollercoaster and do something different with your life. As time goes on, all you crave is some consistency. But you can’t have it both ways and I’m just happy to be on the sunny side of that hill for now. Hopefully I’ll stay there for a little while and if so I’ll be jumping back into the $2/$5NL waters sooner than later.