I still do not understand poker players. There are quite a number of young guys around me who are intelligent enough, but they refuse to use their brain to its full potential when striving for the ultimate dream in front of them: making money at home in front of their PC monitor without a boss looking over their shoulder.
I often hear from poker players that poker means freedom – however, having spoken to them about it, what they think freedom is “I have no boss”, “I can wake up any time I want”, “I have the right not to play when I don't feel like it”.
So, according to them, freedom means the freedom to do nothing. In reality, what they do is play eleven hours a day, six days a week, often never leaving their home for months, doing nothing interesting in their life and living a life full of stress. So, in reality, they are not free at all – they are slaves. The only freedom they have is to do nothing if they choose to, and not to have to report to anyone what they are doing or what they are going to do.
When I had a team, I was chewing out people every day on the most mundane of issues. For example, when I needed them to have their USA and EU visas sorted, I would tell the happy-go-lucky ones who said they would do it “right before the trip” to go jump in the lake. I was calling them frequently, asking how their visa issues were going, etc.
These people did not have the freedom to do without a visa. As part of the team, they were obliged to take care of it. Did they actually need this freedom? Was it really so important?
The line-up of the team has changed hugely since last year. The players who have stayed as part of the team have been to many places, and played in many places as well. The ones we left in Moscow with their cherished freedom each lost out on at least three occasions where they could have played, but couldn't travel because they didn't have a visa.
Freedom is money. Only money gives you the freedom from the things that people dislike so much – control, the necessity of reporting to someone and obedience to someone. Only money – nothing else.
But poker players often want to taste freedom faster, so they start buying it to the cost of their own future.
If this sounds way too pretentious, then let me explain:
There is a person who has a talent of winning 2k a month with a 4k bankroll. Let's say he is in the team, or I don't know for sure what's happening to him, in some system. But he wants freedom. Instead of planning how to make 100k and developing the skills to make him 5k a month, preferably in passive income (for example, so that someone else is doing the playing), the player is impatient, running after his freedom right now.
He takes his 4k bankroll and starts grinding with it. He wins 2k and spends it. He catches an up-streak, wins 5k, spends 3k and adds 2k to his bankroll.
Then he catches a down-streak, and takes the money out of his bankroll, and he lives this way, remaining free. He really can do what he wants to do, and how he wants to do it. But he is teetering on the edge of a very complicated poker art, which he carries on with alone, with the rivalry for his place being immense.
Really, a lot of people would like to live this way, but about only one in ten is able to – and even at that, the lucky one-in-ten is only able to live like this for six months before he loses his niche when he gets on the down-streak induced by his poor play.
So, this freedom turns into a nightmare. He either needs to play more or borrow more money, or find a way to find some backers, which seldom ends well. Sooner or later any player is condemned to exist in this manner. No one in the world can maintain a balanced mind-set with all the toughest aspect of poker activity that enables them to stay at the top for such a long time. When I say “no one” I do not mean zero people. Do not write to me and say “X is successful there!” and spike the whole article. Maybe one in one hundred thousand can, but still I wouldn't be sure.
The balance is too complex to maintain it for such a long time without being driven insane. Freedom is like the will-o'-the-wisp – you will never achieve it. Maybe you will achieve a couple of years of a decent, peaceful life, but then the down-swing afterwards will be too disastrous.
Imagine this: You play and move up the limits. You began at 23, and now you are 27. Your bankroll has increased, but not up to the millions, perhaps up to 100k. Let's say, you got yourself a family and 6k in monthly expenses, and you win 8k a month.
Then you begin to find that there are less fish in your favorite games, or it has become harder for you to play as your brain doesn't work as fast as some players, and other players have more knowledge than you, or the Chinese have finally taken to the poker market in full and the competition for your position is now too competitive. Your income starts to melt: Now you are winning only 4k a month, You cannot reduce your expenses, so you have to remove money from your bankroll. Then you catch a down-streak, and you take all 6k of expenses from your bankroll, and your confidence evaporates. Six months have passed: You have a 20k bankroll now instead of 100k, which is not enough for working limits. You are horror-stricken. Three more months have passed – you play 16 hours a day and have 13k left from 20k. Your realize now that the time has come for you to eject from the aircraft as the engine has burned out, the plane has gone into a spin and is nose-diving to the ground.
But – then you find you have no parachute. In reality, you cannot do anything and you are at absolute zero. You have spent all your middle age looking for places with a lot of fish, and adapting your brain to win money from your opponents. However, you cannot apply these skills anywhere else in life, and you are unlikely to employed again with a salary that you are used to. You cannot make contact via the poker room as nobody knows you – you have not done any work to tell the world about your existence. You have grown old and have a great many financial obligations or, God forbid, you have lurched into debt. You cannot move back to your parent's place and go back to university. Plus, your brain is not as good as it once was at absorbing information – at least not in the way it used to be at the age of 19. And that's that. Although, of course, you have your precious freedom and the right not to have to listen to anybody.
Poker is a game of chance. If you have been lucky enough to catch the right period or game, or have been able to adjust your brain for the purposes of making a lot of poker money, use this chance to obtain genuine freedom, and just don't become a grinding slave. Make yourself money for real. Use the time you have when you're not obliged to go to work and they money you obtained from playing wisely – not for a new car, not for killing time playing Defense of the Ancients, and of course, not handing it all to Durrrr. Use this chance for self-development, learning how to do new things, building networks that will make you easier money than from your own playing. Make your public image one to give lessons, share shares, VODs or anything else if you enjoy publicity – improve your skills in spheres other than poker, and develop yourself as a person.
Do not let the opportunity of making a certain sum of money to drive you insane, even if it seems like a pretty nice sum to you.