Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money's relative in poker and journalism

I occasionally have interesting discussions with co-workers about my previous life.

Most people who have spent their entire lives in the cubicle farm can't fathom the lifestyle of poker players, which from the outside appears much more lavish than reality.

For example, I was joking the other day about not having a $5 in my wallet to pay my entry in a NCAA tournament bracket pool.

"I used to walk around with a wallet full of C-notes," I said.

"Then why did you stop doing what you were doing and come here?" was the reply of one person.

I haven't really tried to explain the whole sordid issue to him. (Got a few hours?) But put simply, my exit from poker playing/writing and re-entry into newspaper journalism was out of my control -- and largely in control of Congress and the DOJ.

The editor probably thought I was indicating a certain richness by my comment. What he doesn't understand is that money is just a tool of the trade. If you DON'T walk around with a wallet full of C-notes, you can't get in the game, or at least I haven't found a poker game that takes checks or credit cards.

If you're a poker player with $1,000 in your billfold, that cash isn't for walking into Best Buy to get a big screen, it's your stake for the $2-$5 game.

The volatility of poker also confounds outsiders. I've been asked what's the most I've won and lost in a single day. For cash games, the answer to both questions is about $2,000. For tournaments, it's probably $4,500 in a single day. (Of course, I cashed in the WSOP main, but that was three days of play with several days of breaking in between).

You share those numbers with a guy who makes about $600 to $700 a week and it seems astounding, but what I try to explain is that you might win $600 one day and lose $300 the next. Over two days you've made $150 per day. Poker playing is a roller coaster that -- if you're good -- you'll come out similarly to what you would have made if you sat in that cubicle farm all day.

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