When you tell people you are a poker pro, you’re often met with an incredulous stare. Other professions receive different reactions and expectations. If you talk to a doctor, for example, there’s an implicit level of trust and respect. It’s an honourable profession, and a protected title. Not just anyone can become a doctor—with the exception of Dre, of course—unlike the popular titles of “coach” and “expert,” which are handed out all too easily in the poker industry.
Poker players have far less credibility than doctors amongst the general population. We have faced everything from mild scepticism to full-out criticism. “Can you make a living from poker? What will you do when your luck runs out?” The average citizen has a tenuous understanding of our game and industry. I’ve been asked if I know Gus Hansen, though I’d never assume an American actor knows Brad Pitt, or an English musician has played with The Beatles.
I recently discussed the topic of poker pro credibility with a Dutch friend in Copenhagen. When I tell people in Denmark that I play poker, many question if it’s even possible to play profitably, while some are not shy about accusing me of lying. I am constantly being cross examined; in their eyes, I am likely a recipient of welfare, wasting the state’s money gambling online.
On the other hand, when travelling in Australia or living in Malta, most people took my profession more seriously—and, critically, my presence abroad proved this point. You can’t travel and live in a foreign country without making money. As a result, when abroad people are more likely to accept and respect your profession, even if it’s as obscure and unconventional as poker.
Normally life’s a little tough in a foreign country, especially at first, but poker players may actually have an edge here. My Dutch friend had an easy time assimilating in Denmark. His positive attitude, good manners, and nice apartment speak for itself. Being able to make thousands of dollars from any computer with an internet connection didn’t hurt either. While he was living in his native Netherlands, however, many dismissed his status as a poker pro.
No doubt the Danes and Dutch—like most—raise an eyebrow (or two) at the thought of playing poker professionally. However, living abroad definitely gives you more credibility. As a result, I recommend all pros go abroad, even if only for a period of your life. Moving to a foreign country may seem like a daunting proposition at first, but it’s easier than you think. There are hundreds of agencies and services to help people set up.
You have the opportunity to experience new terrain, new culture. With all the hours we spend behind our computer screens, it’s time to pack up and play. Trust me: it’s well worth it, and you may even find the transition a little easier than you expect.
Fluent in three languages, Denmark’s Erik Smith was a history major until he moved to Malta, where he spent six years managing multi-million dollar online gambling companies.
Before moving to Malta in 2004, he was poker site manager for the largest Danish casino and poker community. Within this company, Erik created the first white-label skin on the Merge Gaming Network.
He’s been the chief executive of the following sites: Casino.dk (Oct 2004- May 2009), PokerNordica (Jan 2007- May 2009), Pokerisivut.com, PowerPoker, Coinflip.com & Kollikopelit (June 2009- Jan 2011).
Erik, who owns PokerHistory.eu, brings his experience and knowledge of the online poker industry as a featured writer for PokerUpdate.com.