Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thoughts about going pro (Part 1)

I've been thinking about this post for a while... and debating whether I should post this or not. Now first off, this is NOT a "I'm going pro" post. So, for all you degenerates, curb your excitement. And to my parents, you can breathe a sigh of relief. But I'm not gonna lie. I definitely think/fantasize about that. When I was a teenager, I had a dream. No, it wasn't to be a professional poker player. I didn't even know poker back then. But I always wanted to be that guy who was not afraid to chase his dream. I didn't want to "settle" and grind out an unhappy living. Now that I have found something I can be truly passionate about, there is a part of me that wonders what could be...

I guess if you play poker seriously, then a lot of us have had this thought. Can I quit my job, play poker full time and grind out a living? Well, that is certainly a thought that I have. I've had that thought since last year. But I knew that my skills weren't where it needed to be in order for me to take such a risk. I'm not saying that my skills are there now. But I know I've come a long ways and I feel that it is certainly a possibility. But like anything else, I like to research and think things through and there are lots of factors that would go into determining whether going pro is a good option or not. Here are some of the questions that I would have to ask myself in order to consider going pro.

1) Do I love poker enough to make that my full time gig?

2) Do I have enough of a bankroll to sustain my current lifestyle even if things aren't going well?

3) How much would I have to make in order to sustain my current lifestyle?

4) What can I give up in order to give myself a financial cushion?

Generally speaking, I have been blessed financially. No, I'm not a financial tycoon or anything but aside from the mortgage, I am debt free (no credit card balances, no car loans, etc ie no exceptions). I have a good job that pays me very nicely and I've amassed a fair amount of short term savings (long term savings such as ROTH IRA and 401k doesn't apply here). And recently, I've really tried to curb my spending because I want to build a bank roll (not just poker bankroll but short term savings to cover my short term expenses). The recent drop in the stock market is not helping but I'm not too heavily invested with my short term stuff so it doesn't hurt quite as much (being fairly well diversified also helps).

But for simplicity of calculation, let's say that I make $60,000 (the amount is fictional). That breaks down to $5,000 per month (I told you, it was for simplicity sake). Does that mean that if I make $5,000 per month playing poker, that would be good enough? It appears that way but there are other factors. Usually, your gross pay doesn't include any 401k contribution that your company might give you. Nor does it include the insurance premium portion that your company pays for you. So, take that into account and you are probably looking at maybe another $500-$1000 more per month. Quite frankly, at the level I'm playing now, I think I can sustain that kind of income level if I played enough. But I don't KNOW that. Maybe I can, maybe I can't. I just don't have the track record to prove it. Close. But not officially there.

Also, if I were to try this, how much of a cushion would I need? Do I need to have enough money to go a whole year without getting paid? Does that mean I need to have set aside $60k in order to go into this endeavor? I don't think I need quite that much. But I would think that maybe you should have enough in savings to go 6 months without getting paid. So would $30k be reasonable? Remember, you still have to pay bills, mortgage, etc and I don't want my poker sessions to be affected by those thoughts. In other words, if you have enough of a cushion, you're not dipping into your poker roll for your life expenses. Ideally, you want to build your short term roll with poker winnings but not be dependent on it.

Do I love poker enough to make this a full time gig? I sure love poker. I mean I have to right? I freakin blog about it, I play every night, I think about it all the time, etc. But I've mentioned this to some of you before. Poker could become such a grind. And because of the mentality I play, there are times I feel like it's my second job. I might not feel like playing but I play because I feel guilty about not playing. I grind it out day in and day out. So do I have what it takes in terms of determination and discipline? That, I think I do. I will treat it as my job and I will put certain numbers of hours in. The question is, do I really want to do that?

Another question that I touched on is insurance. Health insurance to be more specific. When you're part of a corporation, you're covered under their plan. However, if you're on your own, you'd have to find your own plan because the worst thing that can happen is that you quit your job, and assuming you were savvy enough to at least maintain COBRA payments, 18 months later, you're still covered. But let's say after that, you let your insurance coverage lapse. You get sick and you are uninsured. That's bad in itself but even worse is try getting insurance after that. And let's say your "sick" was actually a fairly serious condition. It becomes very unlikely that an insurance company will pick you up. So, it would be very important to have a plan to be covered under some health insurance plan from ahead of time.

You also have to consider the "missed opportunities" of not having any sort of retirement plan. You miss out on 401k which as we all know will potentially be a big, big loss (not having one, that is).

Now I just posted bunch of cons about going pro. But I don't mean to be so negative about it. I think these are all very reasonable points that you really need to think about if you are considering going pro. And that's just one part of the equation. I mean in the end, "going pro" is easy. Maintaining that lifestyle is the hard part. The quote "hard way to make an easy living" really seems to make sense. And I'm just on the outside looking in.

So after I posted all these negative thoughts, you might wonder why would I even consider it because I'm clearly anti-going-pro. However, I'm not. That's the practical side of me talking. I would love to have more time to study my plays. I want to watch so many more videos on PXF and join CR to watch those videos, etc. But life gets in the way. I have to go to work. I also like to work out. Those things take up most of the weekday. I want to spend more time at the tables but I can't because of other priorities. I'd love to be my own boss, set my own schedule, and make a living doing what I love. So, admittedly, I am curious to watch how Subzero, who recently decided to go pro, does. No offense, my man, but based on the blog posts I've read of yours, I didn't think you were ready. But you did it. At the very least, you obviously have more balls than I do. And now, you'd have more time to analyze your play, watch videos, post on forums, and basically do all the things that could make you a better player. For that, I am definitely jealous.

I am at a point where I think I'm a fairly decent player. But I am decent enough to know my weaknesses and I have some tremendous weaknesses that I think I need to plug. I don't know if it's something I can plug to be honest. At some point, I think I have to really tear down my game and build it back up. Unlike some people, I don't have the natural aggression or the "gamble" in me. And I think I need to inject that into my game a little more. I just don't know how and when I try it now, it seems that I do it at the worst times. In other words, I don't know that I have that "sixth sense" in poker. We shall see.

As for now, this is clearly a dream I'm not gonna give up on so easily. I'll just have to continue analyzing my game.


SirFWALGMan said...

Insurance is not a huge deal. I think I paid 1k for a family plan each month. The plan covered 10x what most employers cover and 12k a year is not that bad.

lj said...

12k a year isn't bad? that sounds like a lot to me!

is insurance any cheaper in japan?

cmitch said...

I'm sure most of us have thought about doing it at one time or another.

I think the cushion that you need is huge if you have a family. I don't think that you have any kids, right? It may be something that you need to think about though, if you see a family in your future plans.

All that said, I think that you need:

1. A minimum of 6 months of expenses in short term (cash ready) savings completely separate from your poker bankroll (I would probably go with more, but I'm a nit when it comes to my family's security)

2. 100 buy-in bankroll for the limits that you are playing.

3. Feel fairly confident that you will make at least 25-50% more than your current salary.

4. Strict guidelines for moving up/down in limits.

5. Set days off where you don't allow yourself to play.

6. Constantly evaluate my situation on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual basis to make sure that I am meeting or exceeding the low end of a my goal range.

This is just off the top of my head. As you can probably tell I've never really put much thought into this. :)

If you are single with no kids there is no better time than now to go pro. It will be so much harder in the future when there are other's depending on you.

Good luck if you decide to go pro in the near or distance future.

pokerpeaker said...

I'm not sure why you'd give up your joy of the game (I'm pretty sure once poker became a job all the fun would drain out of it - What would you do for fun then?) and all that extra income you're earning by playing poker. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Can you work for another company on a contract basis that would/could essentially make you a semi-pro poker player? What about part-time? That's a road you might consider. It would essentially be like me freelancing instead of working for a newspaper like I do.

$mokkee said...

it sounds like you're really thinking this through.

my 2 cents: if you've found a game you can consistently beat, have at least 6 month's salary saved up and 40 buy-in's (100 is a bit over the top IMO), you should be "comfortable" enough to go for it. as fuel said if you have a family or plans to start one, you need to take that into serious consideration as well.

once you quit, it's very hard to go back to working a regular day job.

$mokkee said...

my bad that was cmith's comment not fuel's. i never realized cmitch had considered it before.

bayne_s said...

man up take the plunge.


I had similar thoughts about leaving large established corporations and taking the plunge into startups.

Obviously biggest difference is job skills stay current.

1st time you go home and tell your wife that tomorrow might be last paycheck is a little stressful. By the 3rd time she started to be able to roll with it.

You are at right stage of life to choose whatever direction is best for you

Matt said...

If you need someone to be your backer, you know where I'm at.

Whatever you decide to do I'm sure you'll succeed. You've got an entire year of blog posts demonstrating the proper mindset & dedication needed to even have a chance to succeed.

Just remember the little people like me along the way, k?

AnguilA said...

Ironic that I missed this post because I had to work so much these past few days....

The thought about going pro is something I just cannot take off my mind, but I have the problem that, at the moment, I think I have an edge in tournaments, but not cash games (yet, hopefully).

It's pretty obvious that to have a steady income you need to be a cash game player that beats the game, as MTTs have way too much variance.

Going back to your case, I can tell you that from my perspective (I'm 28 and single at the moment), if I had proven to myself already that I can earn $5K/month in cash games playing part time, like you have, I would definitely give it a go.
Playing more hours, in a better rest state and with a lot more time to analyze your play, your winrate should actually increase.

The biggest drawback though, as you for sure already know, is that for the kind of societies that we live in, the years you took to play professionally would be taken as years lost workwise.

Hell, this is too long already...I'll probably have to post something myself in the near future.