A Poker Lifestyle

A Poker Lifestyle

Monday, 6 October 2014

Don't treat poker like a job.

We became poker players to be free from the rat race, so why does everyone keep treating it like a regular job, asks Jamie Sykes.

Sometimes when I find myself getting bored at the poker table, I lean back in my chair and leaf through a magazine to pass the time. I know I should be paying attention to the game, trying to pick up information that could come in handy later on, but sometimes my brain simply demands a distraction. Unfortunately, when I decide to take this slightly unprofessional approach, I am not met with any comfort as I turn the pages. Article after article featuring pros telling me how they have never played with more than 1% of their bankroll, have never been out drinking the day before a schedule of tournaments, and that poker is just like any other job.

As I’m reading this, I’m having flashbacks to my days living in a penthouse flat with “Lil' Dave”. This is a time that can only be described as an amalgamation of the films Fear and Loathing and Leaving Las Vegas, except set in rainy Leeds. We did not play with 1% of our bankrolls, and we certainly didn‘t wake up every morning to go for a jog and drink a smoothie before the grind. For us, poker was something that we (literally) stumbled into in our teenage years that allowed us to explore our cravings for carnage outside of the traditional boundaries of work. The fact that it wasn’t a real job and that we didn’t have anybody to answer to was the entire appeal, so it always seemed strange to me that professional poker players would try and force something as peculiar and unique as poker into the mould of traditional jobs. You don’t have to wake up at 7am, and you don’t have to take orders from someone less capable than you. Poker affords one the luxury of steering their own ship, and I think that it is a shame that the very characteristics of the poker lifestyle that I cherished for being so rare are often ignored when people speak about the game.

Of course however, nothing is ever that simple. In the last few years, I have come to realise that spending every day pushing the freedom given to me by poker to the very limits of my body and mind doesn’t often result in the acquisition of wealth. Sure, poker allows you to fly to Barcelona, get a tattoo of a dolphin on your chest, get so drunk that you forget where your hotel is, get a room in another hotel only to break onto the roof and subsequently fall asleep, only to be woken by the morning sun steadily frying your skin – but that doesn’t get you a five bedroom detached house in God’s own country.

So then, it comes down to how you define happiness. If you are the kind of person who finds happiness in accruing wealth, owning your own home and other such things, then the advice from these kind of pros will help you to achieve that. Poker can be very lucrative if approached as a business, but that does require a lot of hard work and a certain degree of sacrifice. The sacrifice to which I’m referring is the almost limitless freedom to explore your desires that poker affords you by not having strict boundaries in which you have to operate. If you choose this path then you will have less money and probably won’t be able to buy your own house for significantly longer, but you can literally go wherever your will takes you at any given moment. For me, being educated in poker by Jake Cody and Matt Perrins, the decision was clear. Poker was not what defined us, but something that merely served as a way for us to fund our good times.

As one grows however, so does one’s parameters for happiness. I am no longer fulfilled by drinking until I can no longer see and sneaking off to score a Big Mac at four o' clock in the morning three nights a week. I am now starting to learn something that I’m sure most of you reading this already know; that there must be a balance. The ability to be completely autonomous in your professional life is rare and should be coveted, however there are lessons of discipline and hard work that should be learned from the more traditional job sectors too.

Poker is a beautiful and unique beast that allows a person to create any kind of world that they want, whether that be a world of wealth or a world of memories. Hopefully you can do a better job of straddling these worlds than I have thus far.

Tags: Jamie Sykes