Monday, August 02, 2010

Want a Job in Poker? Read Lost Vegas and Watch Almost Famous

By Pauly
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.


  1. DrHogie12:49 PM

    Is there any ETA on when the Kindle/e-Book copies of the book will be available?  If it's going to be awhile, I'll break down and get the paperback version.  But I've gotten kinda spoiled on reading on my Kindle.

  2. Pauly1:59 PM

    I will make less money with an e-book. You should buy a paperback. $22 is a small price to pay for the years of free content I produced here on Tao of Poker.

  3. pungissunob2:07 PM

    <span>Great clip. Thanks

  4. Brian G.2:36 PM

    I am up to page 167 of Lost Vegas.  I could not agree more that anyone thinking of poker media wshould read it.

    And, yes, spend the $22 to support Paulie like I did.

  5. DJ Woods3:46 PM

    Thanks for the reality check.  Love your book.

  6. ZomBParadox4:58 PM

    TheWookieWay here ..
    Are you sure you wouldn't sell more copies in EBook form, and thus make more money even if it sold for less?  At least thinking about it later when sales drop off some, might be a good idea.  The world changes.
    Myself, I'll probably buy the paperback and not wait, but I'd love to own all the books important to me in digital media so I can take my library with me wherever I go in my gypsy life.

  7. ZomBParadox4:59 PM

    1000 character limit from a journalist blog? that's sacreligious!
    re: paths in life..
    It is better to try and fail, and then choose a new road, or to keep on the same road, than to regret never trying.  I have known many musicians, bands, reporters, journalists, models, actresses, etc.. in my lifetime, and it's the same all over in all careers.. nothing worth doing is easy.  Those who work the hardest doing what they LOVE to do will get the farthest.  But in the end, everyone must choose their own path.
    That being said, even with my extreme intelligence, Poker is one of the hardest jobs I've ever chosen for myself.

  8. Jennifer Shahade5:25 PM

    I bought your book after reading this post. Like most people, I have to read or hear about something 5-10 times before I bother to purchase it, so keep the creative promotions, associations, etc. coming! 

    It's interesting to me what you write about the "death rattle"and I'm really curious about your exploration of these issues in lost Vegas. Also was compelled by the years of free writing argument, even though I'm new to your blog.

    In the the Almost famous clip, Lester Bang talks about musicians paling in comparison to rock n roll's heyday. In poker isn't it the opposite, players are much better than they were six years ago? What makes poker media so much tougher now? Is there less passion in the air, are all the positions firmly entrenched by writers of varying quality or is there just less $$ in the industry? 

  9. Paul Ellis6:06 PM

    This WSOP was my first in covering as media & I have to saw that it was as grueling as it was rewarding. I'm a huge poker fan, and I love to write about poker.  This seemed like a natural fit to cover the WSOP.  Paul is right, there really isn't any money for poker media.  Maybe $30-$60 per article depending on what you get and the content.  It's pretty gross. My venture was more of a labor of love.  It actually cost me to do this. I picked up my copy of Lost Vegas on day 3 of the Main and had a long chat with Paul about the struggles of making a living at this.  I finished the book a few weeks ago and it's a spectacular view into the the real story of covering the Poker World.  There are incredible stories in there, and there are very real depictions of the reality that is the zoo of the Mecca of poker. But if I had the money stowed away for a 2 week vacation in Vegas, I'd do it again.  It was the trip of a lifetime.

  10. Ruaction6:51 PM

    Good post Paulie, I will certainly buy your book and a sincere thanks for all of the free entertainment and updates over the years. I'll post a link to this on BlackBeltPoker too to hopefully send extra traffic your way.


  11. Phluxer7:36 PM

    <p>But I'm broke, lazy, and an asshole. Oh ...
    </p><p>Luckily I'm not those things; however.
    </p><p>Where is my book, since I ordered them direct from you! I should have done, bastard :P

  12. An e-book version will be released in a few months. I've stated this many times already. It's also in the FAQs.

  13. Read the book.

  14. clearspine7:51 AM

    The "Wizard behind the curtain" exists in every profession that anyone has idealistic feelings about, because many of the people who have gotten to the top in any field have done so by stepping over many dead bodies.  Poker, entertainment, Wall Street, education, industry, what's the difference?  If you are busting your ass doing something that you love, the financial rewards are secondary to a life well lived.  

  15. Phluxer7:53 AM

    I must say I'm now an owner of two paperback copies of _Lost Vegas_, one for myself. The Dr. takes care of his fans, being a signed copy and all.

  16. Drizztdj9:59 AM

    After three years (really?!?!) since I got an IM from Otis while eating some Cocoa Puffs at the kitchen table, I still enjoy it despite the sometimes crap hours, having a regular "9 to 5" type job, father of two, and going to school full-time.

    While I don't get to see the actual players, covering the action online is still exciting but it isn't for everyone and mostly likely is nowhere near as stressful as sitting in media row in the Amazon Room.

    Read the book as it brought me personally back to one of the best weekends of my life.  Hint:  Irish Kevin's, prop bets on the boxing machine, stripper bull riding, and turtle races.

    Thank you Doc.

  17. Great post as always Pauly.  I hit the breaking point right about 36 48 months I just wanted the hell out.... I admire those of you who have stuck with it but I can sleep just fine knowing I went to the Bodog WSOP party and raged with ninja midgets.....hard act to follow

  18. Michele Lewis5:18 PM

    I have to ask you ... would you erase the people and memories of the past 5 summers for 5 million?  

    Either way, your advice was good and honest.  Can't say I could add anything other than the passion of writing has to outweigh the passion of poker.  

  19. Phluxer12:29 AM

    There was a boom.

  20. mr. beefy4:15 PM

    Awesome book and I luved it!  favorite part was about the people pissing on the slot machine chairs.  I keep telling my s/o to sit first now on the chairs.  :).