This is the transcript, chapter 3 of 5, for the PaceMakesTheRace Podcast: Interview With The Gambler – Part 2, which originally published in 2015!
In November, 2012, I interviewed a full-time, self-supporting professional gambler. 2.5 years later we have gotten together for another interview. I think you will find his story continues to be interesting.
Gambler: I know there are going to be swings. There are times when I am paying myself a lot more than I need. That covers me for those times when I cannot pay myself anything or the times when I have to put money back into it.
Dave: Does that happen often?
Gambler: Yes, probably a quarter of the time.
Dave: Meaning, of course, that it happens one week out of four?
Gambler: I pay myself weekly, but I evaluate results on a monthly basis. I keep monthly stats on myself.
About one of out every four months is a losing month. Which can sometimes be not that bad because the loss leaves me just under break-even. However, there are times when it can be God-awful.
Then the challenge is to figure out why I lost for the month. I am of the firm belief that there are going to be a lot of variants. Sometimes you are just going to run bad.
But I need to know if I am putting myself in the position to win by making the right decisions.
What I have found is, quite often I am not putting myself in a position to win after going through an extended period of bad luck. That is when I start making bad decisions because of the cumulative effect of the bad luck.
The key then is to slow down, take a look at everything, and evaluate what I am doing. I actually put in less volume at that point with more focus on everything I am doing.
Dave: If I am hearing you right, you are saying that when you go badly, you tend to retract a little, and maybe play a little bit more conservatively. Perhaps not actually changing your individual game but to, kind of, make sure you win. Am I right?
Gambler: No, I never do that. I never try to book a win.
What I mean by that is when I am playing online I will typically be playing twelve or more tables. When I am hitting a bad streak I will go down to four tables. I will record my session while I am doing it. I will also talk out loud about every decision that I make.
It helps me at that time, letting me make sure that I am not on auto-pilot and not making scared decisions because things have not been going my way. Instead, it lets me make sure I am doing the right thing.
I will record it while I am doing it and then I will watch and review it the next day so that my head is in the right place while I am doing it.
Sometimes it comes down to how my head is screwed up and why I am not making the right decisions. I am going to take two or three days off because I need to step away.
Dave: I think that is excellent. Tell me this. The last time we did an interview, and truth is I do not remember a lot of it, and I think you are the same way.
You used to talk about this monthly cycle where you go to Las Vegas and you also played in local games. But now you are doing more online poker. Is that right?
Gambler: Yeah, I have had a lot of opportunities and places to play. I open up and just leave it there.
For me, it comes down to what makes me happy. Sitting in an airport, being away from home for a week does not necessarily make me happy.
What makes me happy is seeing my kids at the end of the day when they get home from school and they are excited because they did something fun. Going to my kids sporting events or eating dinner with the family, those are things that I value.
For the most part, I have pretty much stopped travelling. I’m on the road maybe twice a year now. But I found that the happiness in my life helps me make better decisions if I am not worried about other things.
Dave: If I understand you correctly, you shifted your business model more to one in which it is now more of an online business than it is an in-person business. The primary reason you did this was not financially-motivated. Instead, it was more of a lifestyle decision?
Gambler: Yeah, it absolutely is a lifestyle decision. I can put in a lot more volume.
And like I said, what is important to me, the reason why am I doing this, is to take care of my family. Part of taking care of my family, in my opinion, is being there as much as possible.
I have a teenage son now and that leads to all kinds of new situations that come up. Plus, there are things that mom cannot really talk to him about. Kids need a dad around. I value being able to be home as much as I want.
Dave: I think that is great because what I am hearing you say is that you see the lifestyle changes from doing this professionally as very positive. You have made and created a positive environment from these changes.
From your experience, do you know other guys doing this who have either been fortunate like you are, or maybe not so fortunate, in the way they manage their personal life?
Gambler: I know a lot of people doing this who are really successful; far more successful and far better at it than I am, people who are doing the things they want to do. I have no doubt there are people for whom it has not worked out very well.
It is like that in any kind of endeavor. In virtually any kind of business, eight out of ten people end up failing. It is just a different way of earning money.
Dave: I want to move back a little bit because we were talking about streaks, up and down and all of that.
One good question that someone posted on Pace Advantage was: What type of savings cushion did you have when you first started and what do you have now? Did you start with a three month cushion, six month, a year or nothing?
Gambler: Like I said, I was basically at the point where I had the luxury of taking a few months to decide what I wanted to do. It was probably about three months until I would really have to make some critical decisions. So I could just be lazy and figure things out.
I have a cushion right now where I am comfortable with down swings. However, I cannot be on a never ending down swing. I do not think anyone can, but I try to build and add to it.
As I have said I have those periods where, for a couple of months, I am paying myself much more than I normally do because I have learned really well.
One of the things I have learned is I do not need a lot, I do not want a lot. In terms of things I have, its TVs and computers. I do not need a 3D TV and other expensive stuff so I do not buy it.
It seems ridiculous to say, but I lived fairly simply when I grew up in a house where my parents could not even afford a microwave oven. Now I live in a really nice house. I never had cable TV until after I moved out of my parent’s house.
I probably spent too much money on that stuff. Now I do not feel the need to go out and buy anything.
My car, for example, is four years old. Does that mean it is time to go buy a new car? Or should I ask, what is wrong with the car we have? Nothing, so let’s keep that car, it is doing what it is supposed to do.
Dave: So you are not a flashy guy?
Gambler: No and I think that helps in that I am not interested in spending a lot of money. I have no need to spend a lot of money.
Dave: Would you call yourself frugal?
Gambler: No, I guess it depends on how you define it.
I just have different priorities when it comes to certain things which aren’t a priority for me. But then I have no problem when my wife and I go out to dinner at a very nice restaurant and I spend a few hundred dollars.
That is something I do spend money on, but I do not spend money on a lot of things so I do not necessarily have an extravagant lifestyle.
Dave: One last thing on that question: what type of cushion do you have?
Instead of answering the question, what would you say to someone who wanted to know whether it was horse racing or betting football that interests you most? Of course, football is a different story because you have to make your living in just sixteen, eighteen weeks.
My question is, if a guy is going to go play poker, or horses, or whatever, how many months of cushion do you think he should have? When I say months, I mean relative to his expenses. Do you have an opinion?
Gambler: No, not really. The reason I say that is I do not know the right answer.
I think it matters a lot to everyone’s comfort level, meaning that some people would not be comfortable doing it unless they had a year or more. They would have to know they have absolute security to be able to even try doing it.
When it comes to some people, ‘the cushion’ doesn’t concern or worry them. They can pay all the bills for a month. So they think, hey I am going to take a month and try and do this. But a month is not a long enough time to find out anything.
Money, as a matter of pressure, affects people differently. So how much someone needs really depends on the individual.
Dave: And their family may also be a factor. As you said earlier, it depends on what their responsibilities are, right?
Gambler: Yeah. I will say this and I think there are very few people who disagree with this. Almost anyone who does any type of gambling as their primary source of income probably got very lucky when they first started.
Very few people start gambling with a run of bad luck and say God, I love this. I want to stick with it.€ There are some people who see it is a challenge and decide to figure out how to beat the odds and win.
The first horse I ever bet in my life was when I went to the track on a day when it was raining. I did not know it was a harness track, did not know what the hell I was doing.
I saw horses listed at 80-1 on the board. I put $2 on a horse and the freaking thing won. I was immediately hooked on gambling because it seemed so easy.
I bet $2 and got $160. Pretty much everyone who sticks with it gets serious about it. I got lucky when I first started. As I said, there are probably some people who did not win.
If you do not get lucky you are not going to be able to pad your bankroll, get the money for your expenses, you are not going to have the desire to do it. It is a lot less fun when you are losing.
You have to have a real desire to get punished if you start out losing and you just stick with it.
Dave: I think you just answered this question I put up here. You have done a great job with this without us even crossing it, which is dealing with the luck factor. I think you kind of just did that.
Gambler: I will add to dealing with the luck factor.
The more you do it, the more experience you have with it, the easier it gets to understand, to realize this is going to happen and it is going to happen a lot more often than I want. It is just a part of it.
What are the steps I need to do to make sure that I am still making the right decisions even after I find out that one stretch of bad bets over an extend period of time does not affect me?
After a couple of weeks, when I am running badly, the cumulative effect, the built up emotion of it does start to have an impact on me. While it has gotten much easier on a daily basis, normal stuff happens and it does not bother me at all, I know it is part of it.
It gets frustrating after it goes on for an extended period of time and that is when I have found I need to step back and make sure I am still making the right decisions.
Chapter 4 coming soon..
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