Don’t forget to reap the rewards

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Being a low-stakes pro is not going to make you rich. It probably won’t even make you upper middle class, but a career as a cash-game pro does have some serious advantages of which you should be sure to take advantage. Freedom is the ultimate reward.

TRAVEL: The biggest perk of your freedom as a pro is the ability to travel whenever you want, for as long as you want, and not even be missing out on work if you choose destinations that have poker games.

As I’m writing this, I just finished a 14-day sailing across the ocean on an Ante Up Poker Cruise from Tampa to Barcelona, and I’m writing it in the bar of a hostel in Berlin that’s costing me $20 a night for lodging. It’s important to travel within your means, and never use bankroll funds, but traveling can be an insanely rewarding experience.

SOCIAL LIFE: The ability to be as social as you want to be with your friends and family is another great perk.

Maybe you have some service-industry friends partying on a “work night” like a Tuesday one week, and you have some 9-to-5 friends taking the boat out on a Saturday. These groups of friends would be likely impossible to be social with if you were part of either of those worlds, but you make your schedule. Your friends probably won’t understand when you’re obligated to play poker and when you aren’t, so you can just as easily be anti-social with a great excuse. Just make sure to not let it go too far and cut into your hours at the table.

STRESS-FREE LIFESTYLE: To be fair, this is a little bit of a back-handed perk. As long as you play within your means, know your hourly rate (you’re keeping good records and have tons of hours to sample from right?), and stick to a schedule, the rest of your life can be as stress-free as you want it to be.

You don’t have any deadlines, you don’t have a boss, you don’t have to worry about your next promotion, or the office politics you need to play to get that promotion.

You have 100 percent job security, as long as gambling remains legal. This won’t apply in your early stages, especially when you take some big losses and think about throwing in the towel.

When I have conversations with people about what they do, I always find myself more interested in why they do what they do, rather than the job.

When I consider why I would want to be a professional player, it’s always freedom. You won’t get rich, but you’ll enjoy making the little money you can.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.