How Online Poker Can Improve Your Career
It started out as a way to amp up his skills. Jeff Snell, the founder and principal broker of Raleigh, N.C.–based Enlign Business Brokers, had heard that online poker would “be beneficial to my career as a professional negotiator. Being able to read and respond and make communication changes in real time is important and, of course, that’s what poker is all about.”
Now, just two months later, Snell has become a dedicated online poker player. “When I started, I literally had the little card that said which hand beats which hand, because I knew nothing,” he says. But these days, he has even started claiming victory at online tournaments. “They have dozens of tournaments a night, so it’s not like you’re the World Series of Poker champion—but [in my first win], there were still 899 other people who didn’t get there.”
Snell isn’t alone in his devotion to the game. Online poker is on the rise around the world, says John Caldwell, editor-in-chief of PokerNews.com. Though recent U.S. legislation making it illegal for banks to process certain types of transactions has made things a bit more difficult for American players, there’s still plenty of action available online. “It’s not illegal to play,” says Caldwell. “The challenge is funding your account, but there are a lot of ways to do that, so most people shouldn’t have problems.” (E-wallet companies, such as ePassporte or MyWebATM, are simple solutions for U.S.based players.)
So who’s playing? “It’s really a cross-section of a poker room in Las Vegas,” says Caldwell. But unlike Vegas, online games have a lower barrier to entry. It’s the rare game in Vegas that’ll let you buy in for less than $3 a hand, but there are 5- and 10-cent games online. There are also free money games, where players use pretend cash, but, adds Caldwell, “I don’t think they represent real and accurate play, because there are no consequences. I encourage people to deposit what you can and play at a level such that while you’re going through your learning curve, you can afford to lose.”
After leaving the learning curve behind, the only limits on where you can go with online poker are your skill and your tolerance for risk. Pros from the brick-and-mortar poker world are all playing online these days, so serious money is at stake—we’re talking upwards of $10,000 a hand.
Chris Birchby, who built his company, L.A.–based Coola Suncare, with money he won playing online poker, spent last summer in Vegas playing in the World Series of Poker. Online poker “went from being looked at like triple-A baseball, where the live games were [only shown in] the major leagues—to all of a sudden, the pros are playing online, and the online players are playing live and proving they are to be taken seriously,” says Birchby.
JENNA SCHNUER is a freelance writer in New York.