Fitting poker around my life... not my life around poker
Having worked a regular nine-to-five job, I feel very privileged to have a level of freedom now that I previously could not have imagined. As a professional online poker player, I have the ability to work wherever, whenever and for as little or as often as I want. All I need is a laptop and an internet connection to have the ability to make money, no matter where in the world I am or what time of day or night it is.
I didn't always make the most of this level of freedom though. When I first started playing poker full time I was guilty of letting the game consume me. It was previously my hobby, and then it was my full time job and still my hobby. I loved playing and I was winning consistently, so it was all that I wanted to do.
A few years after turning pro I had made a lot of money but maybe I hadn't spent enough time having fun. I was still living in the same apartment in Scotland that I got to be close to my old job and I didn't travel much. Most of my friends were now other online poker pros that I only spoke to online. I'd gone from being in shape and fit to an overweight guy who would get out of breath climbing a single flight of stairs.
Time for a change
Basically, I was doing it wrong. My lifestyle, which can be pretty standard for online poker professionals, was absolutely awful. Since realising that I've done my best to turn it around. I feel as if I'm now making the most of the freedom that a career as an online poker pro offers by fitting poker around my life rather than fitting my life around poker.
I moved out of my apartment in Scotland and now spend a lot of time travelling around the world. Sometimes for poker events, but mostly just because I like seeing new and interesting places. I feel that the experience of being around different cultures, meeting interesting people and being subject to different situations helps me become a wiser and better person. Since I can play online poker from anywhere, and I'm a young, free and single guy, it would be pretty stupid of me not take advantage of that situation to travel while I have it.
Whenever I travel for a poker festival I try to keep at least one day free to go explore or do something non poker-related, even if that means passing up on a side event or two. It would be a shame to visit some of the exciting locations that PokerStars hosts events at only to spend the whole trip inside a casino or hotel room. Among my most recent poker trips were UKIPT Galway, where I visited the stunning Cliffs of Moher after a deep run to Day 3 of the main event, EUREKA Bulgaria, where I went hiking in the mountains, and EUREKA Croatia, where I visited some Game of Thrones filming locations in Dubrovnik then took a day trip to the beautiful country of Montenegro.
All of those non-poker related things I had to do on my own. I had plenty of poker friends at each of those events but they would often rather stay in the hotel and play Open Face Chinese poker rather than actually go out and do something interesting when they they're not playing in the tournaments. Other poker players don't always make the best of friends. Even when you do get them to go out for dinner or something they are so one-dimensional that all they want to talk about is poker. So I try my best to socialise more with people outside of poker these days.
Instead of playing poker all day, every day, as I used to, I now figure out what I want to do each day and then fit my poker grind around that. The newer games on PokerStars such as Zoom cash games and Hyper Turbo SNGs make this incredibly easy. I can start and stop meaningful sessions of poker whenever I want and get a good amount of volume in even with very short sessions. That's something I couldn't do if I was playing regular tournaments that would keep me tied to my computer for endless hours at a time, or regular cash games where I'd spend so much time looking for good tables and sitting on waiting lists that trying to play short sessions would be pointless.
Yesterday was a fairly typical day in Thailand, where I am right now. I played football with friends, went swimming on the roof of my condo, out for a healthy lunch and took a girl to the cinema. In between those activities I played multiple small sessions of poker on PokerStars ranging from as short as five minutes to as long as 90 minutes. At the end of the day, I didn't even feel like I'd put in a full day of work. Short sessions actually feel more like fun and less like a grind, but they all added up to some solid volume and a nice profit to go with it.
I don't play as high volume or as high stakes as I used to and as a result I'm not making quite as much money from poker as I did in the past, but I'm fine with that. I'm not trying to impress anyone or trying to become the best poker player in the world as if it's some kind of sport. For me, poker is a fun and stress free way to make money that supports me to live life the way that I want to live it.
Right now, I'm enjoying poker as much as I was when it was a hobby and I'm enjoying life more than I ever have since turning pro. I finally feel like I'm doing it right.
Dale Philip is a member of Team PokerStars Online.