Los Angeles, CA
An email arrives about once a week from someone I never met before seeking advice on one of two things: moving to Las Vegas to become a poker pro, or someone wanting an entry level position in the poker media.
I try to dissuade the person on the other end from engaging in either enterprise. The odds are stacked against you if you wanna turn pro because only a handful of players actually make ridiculous sums of money. Yeah, only a small percentage are actual winning players, meanwhile the majority of pros are barely breaking even or deep into debt.
I have no idea why anyone would want to be in the poker media. It pays absolutely shit wages. The hours are poor. Your employers remind you how expendable you are. Pros shit on you. And hack writers steal all of your good material.
Despite those stark warnings, whenever someone emails me seeking advice, at the end of every response, I always suggest they follow their heart. After all, life is short that sometimes you gotta take a shot.
Now, these days when I receive one of those "please give me advice" emails, I tell the sender that they should also do two things: read Lost Vegas and watch the director's cut of Almost Famous.
Sure, let's me frank here, I'm trying to sell a book, moreso, my book. But I'm also doing everyone a service by letting them know that Lost Vegas is a valuable tool because it sheds insight into what it's like to be a member of the poker media, along with stories about the life on the circuit. Whether you're moving to Vegas to be a pro or want a job in the media, regardless, Lost Vegas is a must read because there is little to no other material on the subject.
Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical journey as an up and coming Rolling Stone reporter, something he achieved while he was still in high school. Almost Famous resonates for anyone in poker -- whether you're media, a player, or a fan -- with striking similarities.
One scene in particular stands out. Early in the first act, William Miller meets one of his idols (and soon to be mentor) music critic Lester Bangs. The scene in the diner is so powerful that I often watch it over and over. Check it out...
In the spring of 2005, before I even moved to Las Vegas, I felt like the wide-eyed eager beaver kid in the chair jotting down notes. Today? I feel more like the Lester Bangs' character. I must have given the same "death rattle" speech a dozen times at this year's WSOP. Just substitute "poker" for "music" and the above scene could have been an actual conversation that took place at the Hooker Bar between myself and one of the younger poker reporters.
After taking a peek behind the curtain and seeing the all powerful Wizard of Oz over the last six years, I've accepted the poker industry for what it is. I resisted that fact for many years, hence the jaded glaze that hovered over me. But it's not just me, everyone that has been in poker for a decent stint. The tipping point occurs 25-36 months after you join the circus. That's when the metamorphosis takes place and all the coolness wears thin and you final see reality for what it is.
Poker is not a shortcut through life like you think it is. In fact, you probably have to work harder at it than your current job whatever that might be. Fame and fortune come at a price. If you have the balls, brains, and determination to do it -- then so be it.
If you're considering a career change and thinking about the poker industry, or if you're having doubts or need more information, then I suggest you soak up the stories and themes in Lost Vegas and watch the director's cut of Almost Famous. Even if you don't find enlightenment or any answers, at the least, you'll be entertained.
FYI... you can buy Lost Vegas here.