No gamble, no future

Life in the Streets

By Vincent Olmos

Poker is a heck of a game. It rescued me from a career of monotony and underappreciation. I have many thanks for all the opportunities I have been offered through poker. Traveling to tournaments and meeting all sorts of maniacs has been fantastic. Today I’m truly living better than I deserve through what many deem as recreation.

Like many gamblers, I have always loved games. When I was six I learned 5 Card Draw playing with my grandfather and brother. I was most certainly a terrible player, but it was a blast drawing to gutshots and stacking plastic chips. That led the way to all sorts of competition—board games, video games, and sports. The latter wasn’t exactly my forte, but I relished the competitive aspect. There wasn’t a game I would turn down. I’m positive my friends and family got sick of being pestered by me to play games.

When I was in high school I started a job at a quick-service restaurant. This became like a game to me, plus they paid me. I strived to produce the fastest acceptable product I could. Next, I would work on presentation. Finally came the service aspect. Once each position was mastered, I’d work on another one. It got to the point where I was a one-man assembly line, and I longed for another challenge.

When I turned 18 I decided to give management a go. As many operators would know, this involves a bevy of challenges. I was in hog heaven. I worked 50- to 60-hour work weeks and made a paltry income (shocker: restaurants don’t pay well). However, I was able to play poker and even scrape together a nice nest egg for a rainy day. I took some advice and went all-in, investing in a mutual fund. Later, on the work side, I was given my own store to run. Life seemed steady. I was nitting it up—working and saving money on the side.

Fortune would take a turn. The mutual fund I’d invested in went busto. They had declared bankruptcy. So sorry, Vicente. I was taken aback, as I had lost the price of a nice new vehicle. As a gambler, I was accustomed to wins and losses, but this seemed different. Low-risk investments are “supposed to be” a sure thing. In poker lingo, I was the nit that got it in pre-flop with pocket aces and then lost to A-2 off-suit for all the money. Little did I know, this was the best thing that could have happened.

This event precipitated a reevaluation of my self-outlook. Through some time in the tank, I determined that I had grown static and was settling for mediocrity. It was time for a change. Grinding out the restaurant wasn’t going to cut it. Like a sign from above, I came across an online “prop player” application for my hometown casino. I had always considered it but assumed (correctly) that it would be hard work. One would think I was crazy to turn to gambling after losing it all.

I considered my options. I knew poker was a game that can be beaten. People make mistakes … lots of them. I’d identified many edges available. I’d witnessed people dumping money. It seemed most players fancied themselves winners but were not (shout out to the Dunning Kruger Effect). In addition, a job getting paid to play a game seemed glorious. Add the surprising support of my then significant other and the deal was sealed. I would apply to be a prop.

Comparing poker for fun and poker for profit is like comparing alligators to sweatpants. They have very little in common. It took me a lot of time to adjust. I had to learn the who, what, why, when, where, and how. Many people may claim they know a lot about poker simply because “they’ve been playing for X-number of years.” This is like saying, “I know a lot about cars—I’ve driven one for almost 20 years.”

Thanks to some amazing coaching and a lot of time in the lab, I was able to book a consistent win rate. My knowledge increased on the five Ws plus How). This resulted in loads of confidence and encouraged me to learn even more. Now I was actually tracking my results and had a real-time indicator of my performance. There’s nothing more satisfying than a sexy graph after long periods of hard work.

Things started to click and many thousands of hands flew by me. While luck and variance are factors, long-term performance is the determining factor. A winning poker player will always shine as long as he or she stays sharp.

I do not identify as a professional poker player, as a fair amount of my income is derived from my hourly pay. Ultimately it would be a great goal, as there is almost no ceiling. The work never stops, but poker for profit can be grueling. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Long days, long nights, and many working weekends are required. Only the top five percent of players may see a profit, thanks to the rake. Losing for days, weeks, even months can be the norm. However, if someone thinks they are capable, I encourage them to challenge themselves. Not just in poker per se, but all ambitions. Remember to get it in good—no gamble, no future.

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