The allure of playing poker for a living can be strong for many. An opportunity to have a lie-in every day and still be able to make more money than from a regular nine-to-five. Travelling to exotic destinations to play the biggest tournaments and never having to worry about bosses making constant demands. It sounds like the perfect life.
The reality, however, can be different. As games get tougher, some will come to realise that grinding out a living may not be possible anymore. Others are to look for new options after actions in the U.S.A forcing players out of their profession. It could be the search for a new challenge, with the rollercoaster ride of variance and the countless hours grinding too much for some.
Starting again can be difficult for many poker-players who worry about the negative views that might be received. The need to go back to school after chasing the dream. The possibility that potential employers will view poker-players as careless gamblers in interviews. It could prevent players from choosing a different path in life.
Jared Solomon – Student, Poker-Player, Businessman
One might be able to take inspiration from Jared Solomon. Living in rural Pennsylvania, Solomon caught the gambling bug from an early age.
“I was always into sports, sports-betting and anything to do with cards. The other kids were playing video games; I was fascinated by anything that had to do with gambling.”
Solomon would study at Columbia Law School after graduating from Hamilton College with a degree in Philosophy. Along with becoming captain of the rugby team and leading the varsity tennis squad, poker became a serious financial pursuit.
“I used poker and staking to pay for school. I played mostly limit. 20/40, 40/80 and plenty of No-Limit at Turning Stone (in New York). My biggest accomplishment is starting a staking company (FluxStables) that backs over 200 people.”
Solomon would turn poker-staking into a business during his studies at Columbia Law. Starting a business while still studying would have its challenges, but also its rewards.
“I would be talking to a potential player in Estonia at 4am while having class at 9am the same day. We staked WCGRider (a popular mid-stakes grinder on the TwoPlusTwo forums) and bought action in plenty of big names, such as Mike McDonald (EPT Germany winner, also known as “Timex” online). I would say we focused more on low and mid-stakes grinders, rather than big-time high-rollers.”
Solomon would start the business with a close friend, Nicolas Thuell, a recreational poker-player who would later become a Trainee Underwriter. Thuell took some time out of his work schedule to discuss the creation of FluxStables and life after the game.
“I think my biggest accomplishment in poker would be the development of FluxStables with Jared, turning what was at first just $5,000 out in stake amongst 6 or 7 players, into a 100-player stable with over a quarter-million out in stake.”
“Jared called me one day and said ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s start a project with a poker-staking business model’. I was in Grad school at the time, for my Masters in Applied Econometrics, and knew I would look for a full-time job that was not likely to be in poker. Jared was in law school and did not have time to play poker either, so FluxStables was a way to be involved in the poker world but on the other side of the fence. Unfortunately, as of April 15th staking operations came to a grinding halt. About 65% of our stable were US players, but proportionally accounted for much more of the revenue”.
Now, FluxStables is dabbling in the real-estate market, facilitating houses in Vegas for poker players. Currently there are two houses with about twelve bedrooms combined. The bigger horses and full-time live players find the arrangement very convenient. We’re not sure what the future holds for FluxStables, but Jared and I are always bouncing ideas off each other, finding ways to be one step ahead of everyone else.”
Despite the amount of money at risk on a regular basis, Solomon embraced his parents in understanding his world. The business decisions later on with poker would happen from the support of his parents.
“I think that poker-players make the mistake of isolating their parents from what is going on. If I am on a big final-table, my parents will be there railing.”
“As far as staking, my parents were both influential in helping me get started. I probably would not have taken the risk if I did not have their blessing. We now own two houses in Las Vegas that we rent out to poker-players and friends of the staking company. My parents flew out to help pick out the house, so that gives you an idea of how much they care.”
Seeing their child choose a poker career can be frightening for some parents. Solomon explains that poker can benefit those who look for a job in the future.
“As I tell parents of players we stake or want to live in Vegas all the time, poker is a great way to “grow up”. You learn about money management, hard work and the real world. Plus, I cannot stress this enough, you make connections and friends that you will have for the rest of your life.”
“Of course if you go to Vegas, gamble all your money away, live like a slob and never talk to anyone, the poker lifestyle is not going to help your future.”
Life After Poker
It was because of poker that Solomon was able to start a career out of the game.
“I trade options. I got the job through another poker player. It is so similar to poker. I sit in front of six 30-inch monitors and look to make decisions, based on different factors. Also like poker, we have our own “trading” jokes. It has a very similar personality type.”
“We wear jeans and sneakers to work. It is different to many of the misconceptions you might have with Wall Street. Like poker, you are trading against other people. You are trying to read what they are doing, factor different information into decision making and make trades based on EV. It has an identical skill-set to poker.”
A positive outlook to the previous poker lifestyle is essential for chasing a new career, according to Solomon and Thuell.
JS: “Do not be afraid to place poker on your resume. I read all the time that employers are going to be turned off by poker. Sure some are, but the jobs that you want have the same skill set as poker. We (Toro Trading LLC) look to hire poker-players and consider it a positive. We are not in the 1960’s anymore, where poker was a thug’s game. Employers respect poker and see the value in someone with our skills.”
“The main difference I see is that you need a real-life business attitude. I think poker-players believe that a “real job” is horrible and that someone owns you. It is so far from the truth. I feel I’m working with a team and building something together. There is plenty of autonomy and pride in that”.
NT: “If you have taken poker seriously, you will have a grounding in math, probability and problem solving, applicable skills that a lot of companies look for. I think you need to be tactful when presenting your past in poker to employers. The average person will be quite ignorant to the world of competitive poker, and making sure you convey the right messages about your involvement in the game is important. Breaking the degenerate mould is key and something you need to do when interviewing.”
“Networking is another big thing. Many people love poker and you can meet so many different types of people in the poker world. Stay in touch and you never know what may happen. Jared got his job through poker and industry wide it is jokingly said that poker players make good underwriters. I think there is some truth in that”.
Starting again will be difficult for anybody today, it will be the same for those in poker. That is not saying a former poker-player cannot be a valuable asset to a business. Those with an education can transfer skills from poker to compensate for the lack of experience. While some bosses will view poker-players in a negative light, there are many who will understand the level of intelligence and discipline required to handle the high-pressure environment involved.
For those having to go back to study, skills from poker can still help. The number of hours that students require to complete projects will be the same as a poker-players work schedule. The heightened levels of a poker-player’s concentration and emotional control can also help to work effectively throughout the year. The maturity that a poker-player can have over a naive student in general will look appealing for any college or university.
The possibilities of careers for a poker-player can be endless with the right qualifications. Options trading is a clear example of a job much like poker, but there are others. A player that coaches other players can look at teaching as a future career. A player who writes well and has plenty of stories to tell can write for magazines and websites for a living. Any professional poker-player has a story that will be unique to the rest of those looking to join the same course or company.
Life after poker is not impossible. In fact, with the right approach, the experience of a poker-player can help to gain an edge over the rest of the field in the real world.