I am off for vacation. On the airplane from Philadelphia to Stockholm there is a young, dark longhaired guy sitting next to me. Quite thin, with wild grown beard, black t-shirt – looks like a hard rocker. Seems very quiet, calm and focused. Then he reaches for a book and put in his lap – I could not avoid capturing the title: “KILL EVERYONE”. WHO IS THIS GUY!?
Have you made up your story already?
This was a Swedish professional poker player from a tiny town in Småland on the way back from the World Championship of Poker in Vegas. He couldn’t wait to get back home, to cook some proper food – home made meatballs with boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce. A door to a new world was opened to me, and the questions were poring…
Apparently there were 6494 competing poker players in Vegas. The cost to enter the competition was $10,000, and the winner this year would bring home the pot of $8.5M. A little less than normal, not as many players this year. Among the players were many low and high profile poker players, also professional athletes and other celebrities like Shannon Elizabeth from American Pie (who would think?!). The oldest participant was a local Vegas man at the age of 96. He made it through the 2nd day just like my neighbor Daniel, and that means 2 days of 12 executive hours focused poker play. Daniel had qualified through a tournament, and was given a package with a suite on the 52nd floor and helicopter tour over the main avenue. The lady at the check-in thought he had a fake ID and that he didn’t even had the age to stay there. I didn’t quite agree with that.
How did it all start? Daniel was working as an electrical engineer and heard about these people making a lot of money on poker, a game he had played for a long time and enjoyed. He got curious and wanted to find out how it all worked, and started to study it – everything he could find about it, as if it was any other high school education. He invested a year of salary playing and loosing, before he became a winning player. About 80% of all the players loose. Last year was the second year of playing and he made his first million – during the best couple of weeks he won as much as I earn in a year, post tax. Although – in the “tax paradise” Sweden, earning money on poker is treated as if you win on lottery – so it is not taxed. Apparently, one of the individuals who have won the most (about $10M) on Internet poker is a 21-year-old guy from Stockholm.
So how does the “work/life” balance look like? Work days Monday – Friday he plays poker from home on internet from 9am to 4/5pm where he tries to keep 12 hands going at the same time, and then he participates in some big tournaments Sunday nights. On the free time hang out with friends that are more into hard rock. There is always someone who wants to join for the travels to competitions all around the world, where he goes maybe once a month or every other month. Not bad I must say…
And what is the lesson here for me? Maybe I should test my talent in poker – it sounds like it could provide the type of flexibility of location that I am looking for. :O Or maybe not. No, I think the lesson is more connected with curiosity. Curiosity and courage to find out about the path that you want to take in your world. Curiosity to get to know the people you meet. It is so easy to make judgments, assume things and stay on your side, but we have all so vastly different life experience and so much to learn from each other, so the gift from being curious may totally bring you out of your box and get a new reference of life.
By the way, before I forget to mention it – “Kill Everyone” is of course a very advanced poker strategy book. Nothing else.