19/03/2008

Has Poker Made Me a Better Person Part 2

Barry Carter

Last week I started my discussion about whether or not pursuing a career playing poker has enriched my life of greatly restricted it. I’ve just got back from the GUKPT in London and was tempted to add a pro of ‘I played against Teddy Sherringham’ which was a hell of a novelty for me but probably is a little too specific to me to be beneficial to anyone reading this. So here we go again with some more pros and cons of a life playing cards.

Pro – I travel more

Besides clubbling holidays to Ibiza and the like, I’ve always been a bit of a home bird. Poker has been good to me and sent me up and down the UK, many times to Ireland (which is now my spiritual home), Holland, Australia, Germany, America, London loads and best of all... Walsall. Playing poker has been a great excuse to visit these places and writing about poker has often meant that I don’t even have to put my hands in my poker for the travel expenses.

It’s unlikely the poker will send me somewhere like Jamaica or the North Pole, but it certainly will mean that I get a few more stamps on my passport and get a lot more familiar with this great nations motorways and b-roads. Ideally I can blag my way into Aruba or one of these poker cruises in years to come.

Con – I don’t see anything when I’m there

But for what it’s worth I may as well be at Napoleons’ Casino in Sheffield for the most part of it. I went to Dublin for the Irish Open and the extent of my travelling outside of the card room was a Lateshopper and Guinness gift shop. I travelled thousands of miles to Melbourne for the Pokernews cup and the only time I ventured outside of the crown casino in a week was to wire transfer a load of cash that I won to my bank account via a nearby bank.

It doesn’t help that regardless of wherever in the world you go, you invariably see the same 15 people. Last year, in a 6 week period, I went from the WSOPE (where I was covering the event for Pokernews) to the Pokernews Cup in Australia (where I was playing) to the Waterford Open (playing again) in Ireland. I obviously bumped into my Pokernews colleagues out in Australia, some of whom were wondering why I wasn’t working. But I also found myself bumping into WPT writer Nick Wright at all three events, despite them being a 20,000 mile round trip.

It doesn’t matter where you go in the world as a poker player, you are essentially going to the same place, so you may as well just stick to going to Dusk Till Dawn every week.

Pro – My mates think I’m cool

Smug is a word I would probably use whenever I hang round with the guys and hear them moaning about their jobs. Some of my friends hang on my every word when I tell them about what I’ve been getting up to this week (others are probably just humouring me when I tell them anyway). They don’t think for one minute that I am like James Bond, but they certainly think I have it made.

It’s always a good ice breaker at parties when I tell people what I do. I usually describe my job as ‘playing poker then writing about it’ but recently I found my girlfriend describing me to other girls as just a ‘professional poker player’ – obviously it’s a long way off from fireman, rock star or rugby player in the vocations women fantasise about, but needless to say it seems to go down well with her girl friends.

Con – My mates think I’m a nerd

But for everyone that admires you, there is another that has popped round one afternoon and has seen you sat at a PC, with pokertracker running in the background banging away at a calculator trying to work out if you are priced in or not. Every image of me pulling a six shooter on a cowboy or nailing a bond girl is quickly scuppered when we play our £5 home game and I pipe up with a nerdy comment like “actually I’m a 60% favourite to win the hand”.

All I can say is that I’m glad I’ve got a girlfriend, because it would probably take a WSOP win to get me another one if I didn’t. Anyone who has played against me will know I’m a bit of a jack the lad at the table and once upon a time I even used to be not too shabby with the ladies, but there is no denying that I am a bonafide poker nerd these days and unfortunately my mates are getting wind of it.

Pro – My time is my own

In a way it is a shame that I am a morning person and can rarely lie-in past about 8.00am on a weekend, because if I wanted to I could sleep all day and stay up all night watching the ten minute freeviews on the adult channels. If I can’t be bothered one day, there is not much to stop me having a day off. If I have a lot on, I can easily squeeze extra poker sessions or writing sessions in during the evening or while I am watching Soccer AM on a Saturday morning.

I can (but don’t) go to the gym for as long as I want and if I fancy having an extended dinner break I will do. A big win could mean that I could take the rest of the month off if I want (It actually usually results in me putting in enough hours to turn it into a small win) and during those glorious periods where I can’t help but flop a set every other hand I can put those extra hours in to maximise my rush.

Con – I have become the family errand boy

My girlfriend and family always have a little giggle when I refer to what I do as work and when I claim to be too busy to do something I get read the riot act. Because I don’t have to set my alarm, leave the house or dress smart to start my daily activities, my family assume I sit around on my arse watching TV all day.

Nothing could actually be further from the truth and I have a very professional approach to the day, but there is no telling them that. If someone needs a lift, Barry can do it, if someone has to stay in to let a plumber in, Barry is expected to leave his own home and house sit all day. Last year I was mobbed into lending my sister my car for two weeks when hers broke down, based on a logic of “as if you have anywhere to go”.

I reckon this feature has got a bit more mileage in it, especially having just received a big tax rebate from my last full year in normal employment, which has reminded me that I don’t have to pay tax on my winnings. So join me again next time for some more self obsessed ramblings of a poker player.