Don’t Pawn Your Poker Dream for a 9to5

By Ryan McCormick
December 12, 2017

When it comes to the how and why people choose what they do for a living, it seems as though most determine their career paths by subscribing to one of two beliefs:

  • Live to work
  • Work to live

First off, there is a vast difference between the two approaches, one being more conservative than the other. Neither approach is right or wrong, but rather it’s all a matter of what best suits you. Nothing in life is a one-size-fits-all, but if you are reading this article I am going to assume you are already a poker player, so you must be comfortable with risk on some level. That’s why we are going to focus on the latter of the two beliefs, and why you shouldn’t Pawn Your Poker Dream for a 9to5!


To help you decide which direction you want to take in life, and what you value most, you must ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is time, money?
  • Or is money, time?
  • Do you want to work to be able to afford doing the things you love?
  • Or do you want to do what you love and hopefully make money from it?

You have probably heard the old saying “Do what you love and the money will follow!?” OK, well this sentiment isn’t always a guarantee. It requires a giant leap of faith and a dedication and commitment to your craft. Whether that be poker or an entrepreneurial pursuit, you need to be willing to strap in for a roller coaster ride and not panic and hit the eject button at the first sign of turbulence. You need to be in this for the long haul, for better or worse, to increase your chances of success. I think my story is a great example of this, and that’s why I wanted to share it: for those of you who may still be on the fence about pursuing your dream.

My Poker Story

To give some backstory, I was 18 when the poker boom kicked off in 2003. I was immediately captivated by what I was seeing on ESPN. The bright lights of Vegas, the sound of chips shuffling, and the appeal of the Holla Balla Lifestyle. Poker was my ticket out of college/joining the work force, and into a life of glitz, glamour, and financial freedom. Little did I know it wasn’t going to be so easy, and I had a lot to learn.

Admittedly I was a recreational player during these years, playing only on occasion, without a proper bankroll. I am still tilted to this day that I didn’t dedicate myself and fully capitalize on the boom, but you can’t cry over spilled milk right? Other than watching poker on TV, I put in absolutely no work off the felt. The strength of my game was patience and discipline. I was the epitome of an ABC player. I never kept stats of my sessions, had no idea what an “hourly rate” even was, and no idea how to apply concepts such as putting my opponents on a range of hands. I WAS A FISH. Despite not keeping proper stats, I would guesstimate that I was close to a break even player over the course of these years (ages 18-24). Over time, my dreams of being a professional poker player diminished and I was resigned to the fact it would just be a hobby of mine for the remainder of my life.

Fast forward to the age of 27. After spending years bouncing from one miserable job to another, I decided something had to change. I went back to school for Nursing, and after a year and a half was only one pre-requisite class away from applying to Nursing school. Two more years of school and I would be set for life with a respectable career, a cushy stable income, and more or less guaranteed to never be out of work. The conservative approach.

During this time I started dabbling in poker again, with occasional trips out to Vegas. I often caught myself daydreaming about poker and Vegas in class during lectures. I stumbled across a thread on the 2+2 poker forums about a guy named TheTrooper97 who had recently dropped everything, and had driven cross country to Las Vegas to pursue his poker dream. And then it all started…

READ MORE: Interview with Tim “TheTrooper97” Watts

As I began to follow TheTrooper97’s journey, I was intrigued by the rawness of what the everyday grind looked like. It wasn’t always pretty for TheTrooper97, especially in the beginning, as he endured many hurdles along the way. I often questioned if this was really something I would want to put myself through. But I was enamored with the excitement surrounding the lifestyle, and I felt up to the challenge.

I had a good career waiting for me, but I kept wanting to scratch that nagging itch: to try and pursue the poker dream one last time. I told myself that if I could accumulate and track a sample size of 1,000 hours and show a decent profit/hourly, I was going to make a go at it. I didn’t care if I went broke trying. The alternative of looking back on my youth as an old man regretting not pursuing my poker dream would be much more painful than going broke. I didn’t want to live a life of regret. If I failed, I would at least have a helluva story to share with my grandkids someday.

I am now 31 and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Sure there have been hardships and expensive lessons along the way, but you have to embrace the journey and not be so focused on the destination. Surviving these bumps along the road is crucial to your long-term success in this game. Sure they can be anxiety-inducing in the moment, a nasty downswing being a great example, but it is these trials and tribulations that harden and prepare you for future success. It is an apprenticeship of sorts.

My hard work paid off and I am now a 10bb+ winner across the board at $1/2, $2/3, and $2/5 No Limit Hold’em. I have just recently done some shot taking at $5/10, and if all goes as planned I will be firing a bunch of tourney’s during the 2018 World Series of Poker. I am a constant work in progress and my game continues to evolve almost daily. I believe that if you don’t always look back and think you were a fish 6 months ago, you are doing something wrong!

How Did I Make It?

You may be asking, “Ryan, what did you do differently this time around that you didn’t do when you were 18 in order to succeed?” Well I can tell you that back then there wasn’t nearly the amount of free training content that is at our disposal today. Between poker training sites, poker books, poker podcasts, and poker vlogs, the options are endless. If you are currently a losing player, you have no excuse not to be a winning player. You simply aren’t working hard enough. Consume as much of this content as you can.

If you are considering taking the plunge yourself, I highly advise checking out some poker vlogs first. The fundamentals can be learned on any poker training site, but poker vlogs will show you what no other platform does, namely the reality of what it is like, day in and day out, to play poker for a living. It is definitely not a career for the faint of heart as you will see.

The poker vlog boom has spread like wildfire, and there are currently a few platforms you can watch them on. YouTube is the main one. I give a lot of credit to poker vlogs for my newfound success in poker as I have found them to be just as educational as they are entertaining.

I recommend starting off with Andrew Neeme if you have yet to pop your poker vlog cherry, but there are many other guys putting out great content as well. Some honorable mentions also worth checking out include: Brad Owen, TheTrooper97, Matt Vaughan, Jeff Boski, Bikeking19, PokerPriest, Ryan Frechette, Jaman Burton, JohnnieVibes, Pokerkraut, Solve For Why, and The Haslet House to name a few. Enjoy!

READ MORE: Interview with Andrew Neeme



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Ryan McCormick poker author
Written By.

Ryan McCormick

Ryan is the founder of and a poker vlog expert. Watching vlogs inspired him to get back into playing poker professionally after a long hiatus. He believes that watching poker vlogs is not only entertaining, but also educational, teaching lessons that can be applied both on and off the felt.



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