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If you can handle the truth, pro gambling is worth it

May 13, 2008 7:00 PM

The Undeniable Truth by Rob Singer | Iíve been asked many, many times about what itís like being a professional video poker player and if itís really worth it.

And itís only natural.

People who gamble are of course infatuated with the seemingly free-spirit lifestyle of what they perceive is the best gig on earth. Only problem is, they rarely get a truthful look inside the life of a real live professional video poker player.

Until today.

To start off, a professional player is not born of blood. Theyíre self-groomed through hard work and sacrifice. In order to have any real chance at being continuously successful at such a challenging task, the player has to go through the very tedious process of becoming unequivocally prepared.

No stones can be left unturned, no loose ends can remain, and no questions can ever be left unanswered. The most common form of professional gamblers are those we catch on the fly. They were never pros, but met luck somewhere along the way.

Without notice, what appears to be endless cash and constant winners become the guiding light of their lives. Until, that is, the trip through fantasy land ends and reality begins. Then the emerging pro quickly becomes a fading memory.

There are also those who like to claim theyíre professional gamblers, simply because they fell into the trap of believing advantage players have a superior understanding of the same math casinos use for their edge in order to build and maintain the most beautiful resort hotels in the world.

The problem is, almost everyone who says they "play with an edge" sooner or later ends up opening up shops or working in the gaming business. They take on multiple part-time jobs to both make ends meet as well as put gambling money into their pockets. And, they just could simply disappear.

And the math types who do all the talking? Well, itís a free country.

One of the more confusing types of video poker "pros" are those who either form teams to chase progressives and other "positive EV" machines Ė and the ones who play on such teams. When you win, itís little. When you lose, donít admit it. This makes little to no sense to me, and I have no idea what it means to those who engage in it other than to be able to say theyíre involved in such silliness.

Others who play video poker always seem to be into the very lucrative commercial end of the business. They charge for a multitude of products and services and their time is expensive. All well and good, only these are more business people than anything else, and are not what I consider to be true professional players.

Hey, some write about playing but rarely even play!

Still others play two or more casino games besides video poker. While these folks seem to have the best handle on what it takes to be a real pro, trying to pin them down for a straight answer is usually a futile exercise. By and large however, my impression has been that they know what theyíre doing Ė at least in the present.

When I decided to become a professional player I did so only after several years of planning. I did so with the approval of my family. I believe one must have almost perfect individual circumstances to make such a drastic move and be successful with it.

Thatís exactly what I had.

My wife had and still has our very important health insurance through her job. I accomplished much more than I ever expected by travelling the world many times over while employed by Corporate America, and our future was firmly set.

But most of all, by coming home for good and becoming involved in professional play (I am gone nearly one week out of every month) Iím home far more than ever now looking back at my career. That alone made the choice an easy one.

Has this been the right overall decision for a family man who has always had a good job? Well, letís look at the facts and see where I stand. Since 1999 my lifeís had very little stress, my familyís grown in size and I was here to see it.

Iíve been able to take on the projects around the house that I never thought Iíd get to. Iíve won enough money every year to make it easy to forget about how I used to earn my living.

Iíve had the time to write two books as well as this weekly column. Plus, I have a very enjoyable time helping the many e-mailers who come to me for video poker advice. In fact, just today, a couple from the Phoenix area visited me at my home for a meaningful chat about video poker and many other things.

Ten years ago Iíd have never been home to do that.

So are there any negatives associated with being a professional gambler? Of course there are, but theyíre really not that bad. Letís start off with no sick pay. Some people might balk at the fact that I choose to drive to Nevada for my work. Believe me, after virtually living on airplanes throughout my working career and with the way things are now at our airports, thatís really a blessing.

And, then thereís the inevitable audits that come with filing as a professional gambler. An inconvenience at most, but Iíll take that in trade any day for constant international travel. That might sound odd to some, but it wouldnít if youíve been there.

At the end of the day, itís obviously nice to be able to set your own hours, and not have to drive through rush hour traffic fending off the many good people who for some reason turn into angry animals when they drive.

But professional gambling is not for everyone or even for the majority. Those who go into it must fully prepare for every aspect if they want any hope of doing it successfully.