I've been out in Vegas since the beginning of the World Series of Poker. I haven't played in any events, nor did I want to; I was there to work, to mingle, to do some interviews. Basically, a working vacation.
Call me naive, call me gullible; I have been absolutely blown away by what I have seen in Vegas. Not only by what I have seen, but also by what I have heard.
I always assumed that if some hot-shot young gun of poker won a couple of millions dollars in a big poker tournament, that they would be set for life. I figured that these guys must have a grasp for mathematics, and must understand the power of compound interest. A couple of million dollars, invested properly, and you are pretty much set for a long, long time. Throw in some business investments here and there and you could be setting yourself up nicely for the future.
I guess that I figured wrong. Now don't get me wrong; there are poker players out there, both online and live poker pros, that are very good with money. However, they are in the minority; most of the poker players that I came into contact with seem to be complete degenerates, begging and borrowing money for stakes and prop bets and side games.
I would say that at least half of the big-name pros are entering tournaments staked; they simply can't afford to enter themselves. These are guys with millions of dollars in career tournament wins. Now, this isn't really that bad; I understand variance and one big tournament win can easily be whittled away if you enter a lot of big tournaments.
Where my jaw dropped? Online players, that I had always thought were sitting on high six figure poker bankrolls, begging for money. Some of the most notable names in the online poker world talking about how they have no money, and how they are now in debt. Online poker players with a line-up of people that they owe money to. Other prominent online players chasing down people that owe them money, just so they can buy into an event at the World Series of Poker. Can't collect any of the debt? Then they don't have the money to play.
It seems like a constant vicious circle. A player will have a big score, they'll play too far out of their league, bust, receive stakes from other players who think, he won a major event, my money will be put to good use, and before you know it, this player that had a million dollar+ win is now hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. With no real job prospects. No assets. Just debt.
I've really come to respect people like Taylor Caby who had the foresight to invest some of their poker winnings into successful and profitable businesses. He could be out every night, blowing all of his money at clubs, but he doesn't. He's more interested in building towards the future.
The whole experience in Vegas kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I seemed to have run into three different types of people when I was here: people who are broke, people who are broke and in debt, and people who have spun off their successes in the poker world into successful businesses. This entire trip was a real eye-opener.
To anyone thinking of trying life as a poker pro: try living in Vegas for next year's World Series of Poker, and really immerse yourself in the people and stories. When the event ends, tell me if you still want to become a pro.
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