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Q & A #1 – Questions from Tim & Benjamin

Tim and Benjamin asked the following questions on twitter.

@t_i_m_1_3 What’s your academic background? Have you worked in the betting industry before turning pro gambler? Are you only living from your gambling winnings or any side jobs etc?

@PinnacleBen I understand you played poker for a living before moving into sports betting. How different is the lifestyle of a professional poker player vs. professional sports bettor?

I chose these questions to tackle first as they serve as a good entry point and a little bit of an introduction to myself. Also I enjoy talking about poker back in the days which was an absolutely weird and almost self-destructive experience…

So, yes I have an academic background. Studied maths, physics & statistics, however didn’t graduate in any of those subjects. 4 years into university I was introduced to poker and I sensed I could be successful using my statistics/maths background. I didn’t see the benefit of a degree anyway so I abandoned university to pursue playing poker full-time. It was a bit of a gamble as I didn’t know what to expect. But I was young and free and had nothing to lose. And I was never afraid of gambling anyway if the odds were in my favour… 🙂

In hindsight I still think it was the right decision. I picked up the basics in all three subjects (especially statistics) and I don’t think I would have acquired a lot more useful information during my studies that would have helped significantly in my daily betting.

That being said almost all of the research I do and articles I post are NOT based on knowledge I acquired during university. Except maybe for basic descriptive statistics that is really useful as a whole. Probably > 90% of the knowledge that is crucial for my betting success is completely self-taught (e.g. coding) however. Coupled with relentless research on the internet and following smart guys (mostly on twitter nowadays).

I can remember a quote that goes something like this ‘You Are The Sum Of The 5 People Closest To You’. That is, if you surround yourself with the best and smartest people then you will inevitably benefit from that. You will understand how they tick. How they successfully think about problems. You will probably not receive a ready-made recipe for success, but they regularly come up with thought-provoking material that is worth much more than any potential quick-money strategy.

Joseph Buchdahl @12Xpert and Matthew Trenhaile @_Inside_Betting are amongst my favourites. I admire them for their knowledge and attitude towards betting. They have transformed me into a sceptic. Almost a complete pessimist. That sounds bad, but is actually good. Almost a must-have virtue in gambling. If it wasn’t for those guys, I would probably still chase every half-decent looking tipster or strategy (and lose money!). Nowadays I say NO to almost every opportunity that arises if it doesn’t tick all the boxes. Sometimes it’s not about the money you win, but the money you don’t lose…

Ok, so back to my days in university. Or rather after university. As mentioned I had a friend who was playing poker successfully and he was kind enough to introduce me to this beautiful game. As it turned out it wasn’t so beautiful at all 10 years and 5 million hands later.

Anyway I sensed I could use my statistical background to exploit mistakes from weaker players and it didn’t too long and I was all over poker. I was eating, drinking, sleeping poker.

As part of my daily routine I was waiting for the US fishes who came home from work and would sit down at a table. That was usually at around 4pm US time, 10pm CET. After that the big feast began. The US players were known to be the real soft spots on the tables, quite in contrast to the Scandinavian players who were known as sharks.

I and the other regulars were then playing until deep into the next morning. Multi-tasking up to 10 tables at a time. I played until the fishes were out of money, which was usually around 7am. I then went to bed with a buzzing head for a few hours sleep. Same procedure was repeated next day. 7 days a week. 365 days a year. Didn’t wash myself. Didn’t work out. Didn’t interact socially. Just like a complete degenerate.

Fast forward 10 years, 5 million hands the situation dried up significantly and it wasn’t as ‘easy’ money as it used to be. All of a sudden I found myself with 5 other regulars sitting on a 6-max LHE table. Beating 5 regulars (+ rake) is the equivalent of trying to beat @PinnacleSports long-term. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s damn hard.

I sensed it was time to say good-bye to poker.

I quit poker for good. Quite surprisingly I did that from one day to the next and it still puzzles me that it was almost a painless process to let go. I never looked back. I never played a single hand since I quit.

In hindsight it fascinates me what people are capable of doing just for the sake of money. I feel ashamed that money got the better of me. I gave up 10 years of my life. Losing lots friends along the way because I never had time for them. Tragic, really.

Eventually my life spirit kicked in again and I decided to pursue sportsbetting – a lifelong passion of mine. I had several side jobs for a major betting brand so it wasn’t completely new territory for me and I quickly got the basics right to break even.

I realized though that I needed to work harder to get anywhere near to the success I had in poker. Much harder. But betting provided me with a deeply fulfilling intellectual challenge. I couldn’t say that of poker which was a rather mundane and tedious task.

So to answer Benjamin’s question in a nutshell: Betting is very different to poker, especially the lifestyle and daily routines. Betting allows for a more structured life and is preferrable to poker for me. I’m now able to plan my day. It’s completely in my own hands what work I do and when I do it. In poker you NEED to sit down at the table when the fish is there. Otherwise the opportunity is gone. It makes a big difference in your life whether you are the master or the slave.

Betting nowadays is nowhere near as profitable as poker back then, but currently I’m able to live from the winnings. Not so sure though if I can say the same thing 5 years from now 🙂

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