Two years as a poker professional was plenty
After somehow managing to avoid punishment for our attempted fraud, my friend and I returned to the poker table. We had already discovered our skills in the area, learned our lesson and managed to emerge scot-free. As the months passed, the hobby turned into something more serious and the stakes kept on rising. In under two years I’d progressed to high stakes and I knew the enormous opportunity ahead of me, ripe and ready for the picking. This was a game I was made for, the prosperous world of endless opportunities and economic freedom was right behind the corner. And then the idea that I’d been slowly fostering, one born from a clash of values, finally hatched and my life took a sudden u-turn.
Changing the game
My previous story here was followed by a break from poker. I took some time to think and consider what I wanted from my life. The search for my slot in life began with a huge disappointment, when I flunked the entrance exam to med school. I ended up studying natural sciences, namely chemistry, physics and molecular and cell biology. I believed that science was the way to interesting future career opportunities.
After figuring out a direction in life, I settled on a compromise when it came to poker, allowing for around half an hour of playtime each day over the following years. I remember sitting, bent over a book, all the while stealing nervous glances at my computer. I was trying to focus on molecular structure and the interactions between electrons, but I could feel the pull of the game. My palms were sweaty and my feet restless. I was craving the challenge. Generally, I was able to stick to my reading. It took me years before I learned to understand my own behaviour on a deeper level and to control myself.
During my years at university I took about three full years off playing to properly focus on my studies. At the game table I ended up specializing almost exclusively in Texas Hold ’em and I would play NL with blinds as high as 100/200€. I even tried my hand at Omaha Heads-up.
At higher stakes I was more selective about my game partners. I can’t say I was some High Stakes grinder; rather, I looked for the easy money where it was to be found, simply scooping it up in passing while bulling ahead with my studies. The winnings built up to a few hundred thousands.
Over the years the competition and the number of skilled players testing the same waters grew. Keeping up with the trend naturally made it difficult to stick to the self-assigned low quota of play hours. After eight hours of library, it was easy to spend the night wondering whether the things learned were worth the money lost. Comparatively considering, you could say that my education came at a rather high cost.
Learning the game
I picked organic chemistry as my major. Eventually, I got the credentials as a teacher. Teaching is one of the most important jobs I can think of; a teacher passes on their thoughts to thousands of adolescents and on and on to the following generations. I never mentioned my poker background to any of my colleagues at the university. Teachers are, by and large, role models. They’re in the same position at school, at home, on vacation and asleep – whenever there’s a connection to be made with the teacher’s identity and an action.
We all have an effect on the people around us. Of course, the extent of that effect depends on our status – our idea of “the value” that we believe others hold us to.
I went to great lengths trying to convince myself of the merit of a teacher as a role model to young people, when that same teacher was a successful poker professional.
I wanted to avoid giving any aspiring young men the idea of elastic-bound swads of cash, heavy gold watches, well-endowed, charitable ladies and the admiration and status worthy of a poker star. All of it was just polished comedy and dirty set ups, selling like hot cakes to all the young, pockmarked colts, full of testosterone and after the adventure of their lives, like a magic trick presented to a gullible audience.
After each science-filled day, I returned home and out of the closet; shedding the glasses and the teacher identity, pulling on my heroic cape like Clark Kent, sitting down at the poker table to face the next poker-hero of their own story.
The wealth I accumulated through playing poker provided me with plenty of free time. I travelled a lot, broadening my horizons. I was in the lucky position of having the opportunity to dive into new cultures both on the pages of books as well as in reality. In addition to my studies in natural sciences, I read hundreds of books and countless articles on politics, society, philosophy, psychology, economics, self improvement and business development.
Perhaps the best gifts the years have bestowed me with are an endless curiosity and the drive to learn and understand new things. These days I read about one book a week.
A single right thought can change your life – do you want to know a secret?
It’s befuddling to think of yourself ten years back and to see how amiss you were when it came to your own psychology and physiology – not to mention how badly you understood your relationship with the world around you. It’s interesting to observe others and to notice how few understand the basics of their own behaviour or their roles in society. You’re formally free in western society, but if you can’t understand the layers of your own being or the world – the deeper dimensions – you’ll always be a slave, even if you don’t realize it. By starting with the right questions, you can receive answers that will broaden your world in amazing ways.