Poker is a game which has given me so much so I thought I would like to share my thoughts on what makes this game so great. Hopefully this can inspire more people to embark on the path less travelled and free themselves from the bondage of the corporate world and the rat race.
1. One of the best paying part-time jobs for students
Attending college without financial support from parents? Poker is a pretty safe bet for students who are intelligent and self-disciplined.
In the first year of my career (2009), I was serving in the Singapore Armed Forces and was still able to play around 100 hours a month. At the end of the first year, I made approximately $10 000 which gave me an average of $10/h.
For the sake of comparison, let’s have a look at some of the other part-time jobs that students typically go for to supplement their income.
- College Tuition: A very popular option in East Asian societies like Singapore. This is probably the best option for academically-inclined students who perform well in school, with the average part-time tutor being able to charge around $20-30/h. There are quite a few drawbacks though, such as having to prepare for each lesson beforehand if the subject taught is at a higher difficulty level. Demand is also limited: You cannot work more if you want to, because your working hours are pre-determined by the student.
- Waiter: $6/h with tips
- Supermarket cashier: $5/h
- Retail Sales: $7/h basic salary, with some commission
What’s also interesting to note is that skill set learned from poker allowed me to earn significantly more in the following year ($30000). No other part-time job allows for such huge leaps in earnings.
2. Develop Analytical and Logical Reasoning skills
The complex game of Poker helps one to develop analytical and logical reasoning skills. Poker players are often able to simplify and rationalise decisions made in their daily lives.
One of the most important lessons I have learnt from poker is about how I should value my own time and opportunity cost.
Example: Picking the optimal mode of transportation
Let’s say I earn $30/h on average by playing online poker. It takes 15 min for me to reach home by a taxi, and 40 min by bus. The bus costs $1 and the taxi costs $10.
Which is the better mode of transportation here?
Assume that time spent on transportation + poker is equal
EV (bus) = -1
EV (cab) = 25/60 X 30 – 10 = +2.5
This means that the decision of taking a cab and then playing poker for 25 min
is $3.50 better than that of taking the bus. Not to mention the fact that it’s probably better to arrive home earlier and enjoy a short nap in the cab as opposed to smelling the armpits of others in a public bus.
3. Develops risk tolerence and strengthens mental fortitude
Throughout my 5-year career, I have been through 3 devastating downswings, each of which wiped out approximately a third of my bankroll. And after each of these downswings, I emerged as a stronger person.
These days, whenever something bad happens to me, I am able to accept it more easily. When I was on a holiday in Athens, my laptop was stolen. Once I put things in perspective and compared it to my largest loss in a single day (-$15000), I was able to accept the loss
more easily and prevent it from spoiling my mood and ruining my vacation.
My risk appetite has also increased and I am currently invested in a few ventures with some friends.
4. Flexibility and Freedom
Very few other jobs allow you to determine your own daily schedule as well as the country you reside in. Want to live in party capitals around the world such as Ibiza, Rio de Janeiro or Bangkok? Many professional poker players are residing in those countries and having
a blast every weekend.
My earnings have also allowed me to spend more than 3 months overseas in 2013 alone, having gone on 6 seperate overseas trips and having visited more than 15 countries. What’s also notable is that I was actually able to pay off my expenses during those trips, only spending 2 hours a day on my freelancing job as a hand evaluator at Pokerstrategy, giving advice to beginners on how to play better poker.
5. Gain full control of your own life
Poker is great, because it rewards hard work and gives instantaneous feedback to the player, in a way that no other job can. Making bad plays? That will probably show up in your results pretty quickly. Want to start earning 5-digit figures every month? Put in the hours on grinding and studying the game and you could potentially get there in a year. You are largely in control of your career progression and the amount of money you are making.
In comparison, a typical startup needs around 3-5 years to actually turn profitable. Employees are typically promoted every 3-5 years. One will not know where one is going wrong until an extended period of time. This hampers the rate at which one can improve oneself.
Some people often complain about variance in poker and how they are often running bad and getting sucked out on. From my perspective, this variance is far smaller than that of other occupations.
As an employee of a firm owned by another person, the stability of one’s job and career progression are often out of one’s control. The firm needs to be doing well in a stable industry, and the employee needs to be well-liked by the boss.
In the financial world, markets often behave irrationally and unpredictably, especially with constant intervention from central banks. Earning potential is also limited by time and starting capital. Most people who have made a substantial amount from the stock market have either done so over an extended period of time (10 years or more) or have the luxury of financial backing from their parents.
On the other hand, in the world of poker, there are many success stories of people turning nothing into a pretty sizable fortune. The potential returns could easily exceed a thousand-fold. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of traders or investors being able to achieve similar results.
6. Live in the moment
Most people spend their lives grinding it out at a job they hate for the vague promise of retirement. To me, this makes no sense at all. Why spend the prime years of your life building your career in the hope of being able to reap the rewards later on? Who knows, you may not even live long enough to do so. Certainly, in order to achieve some degree of success in life, one must learn how to delay one’s gratification to some extent. But spending more than 30 years just to do so makes little sense to me. After I did my internship during my second year of college, I knew that I could not stand working for others at a mundane office job.
Tim Ferris, author of the 4-hour Work Week, suggests having multiple “mini-retirements”, often involving moving to a new country and learning something new. This is definitely not going to be possible with regular jobs, where people lack the flexibility to take time off work whenever they want. Guess what? Poker isn’t a regular job. Poker can empower you to do many things in life. You don’t even need to be the best. It’s not difficult to earn a few thousand USD a month, and you can easily pack up and head off to the nearest low-cost country and live like a king. There are many large poker communities in countries such as Thailand.
7. It’s a really fun game
I have visited various casinos with different friends on a number of occasions. I usually convince them to try their luck at Poker as opposed to the usual trio of Blackjack, Roulette and Baccarat. They never fail to get hooked and intrigued by the wonderful game of Poker. The adrenaline rush and the heart-pumping moments while they pull off a huge bluff. The social element of talking to a bunch of strangers from different backgrounds. It’s unlike the other casino games.
There are times when I hate poker when the going gets tough and I’m on a huge downswing. But on the whole, this game has taught me much more about life than 20 years of formal education. Earning good money while doing what you love is merely an added bonus.