Seemingly Impossible: Interview with a 23-Year Old Poker Player Extraordinaire

by James & Miel on February 12, 2010 · 6 comments

Is it possible to make millions playing poker, or is it just a pipe dream? If you think poker is just gambling and winning millions is a myth, you obviously haven’t met Chris Olson.

Chris Olson is only 23 years old, but he isn’t your average 23 year old. He is an online poker professional, playing the game as his sole source of income for over three years. His biggest cash was for a quarter of a million dollars.

I went to school with Chris and amazingly he is not the only professional coming out of my small private high school (average graduating class is around 100). Mickey Pickett graduated a couple years before Chris (who graduated in ’04) and has also had a tournament cash of a quarter million. What is it that Chris and Mickey understand about poker that makes them able to play it for not only an income, but an extremely high income?

The reason why they are set apart is that they realize that poker is not your typical form of gambling. It is a game where you play against other players instead of the house (like in slots and blackjack). If you are more skilled than the competition you will win over time. That does not mean these players will win every single game and every single tournament; anyone can get lucky. But playing for thousands of hours and consistently winning is an entirely different story.

Without further delay, here is an interview I had with Chris just a few days ago:

David

First off, can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got started with poker?

Chris

I started playing in 2002 just playing with guys in high school, I wasn’t very good but I really enjoyed playing. I usually lost $ when I played but then I decided to start researching strategy and reading some books on it.

David

When did you start getting serious about it?

Chris

My freshman year of college I had read a few books about holdem’ and had started reading some online strategy forums and I decided to deposit $500 and give it a try

I started playing and was able to win a little bit just playing very conservative, at the time no one really knew what they heck they were doing, so it was easy to win.

David

When did you start playing full time?

Chris

After my freshman year, I got fairly poor grades for my standards and decided to take a year off and just try out playing poker full time. I took the year off and rented an apartment in white bear lake and just played and played and played. Most weeks at least 60 hours a week.

In addition to time at the tables I spent a lot of time reading strategy on forums like twoplustwo which is the biggest poker strategy forum in the world.

David

How much money were you making? (I have to ask, you don’t have to tell)

Chris

that first year I made just over 100k

David

What stakes were you playing?

Chris

At the time I was playing mostly sit and gos which are one table tournaments in which the top 3 players get paid. I usually played between8-12 of them at a time. $109 and $215 buy ins.

David

Now some people will read all this and say “but isn’t it gambling? Won’t you just end up losing it all eventually?” How would you respond to people who say that poker is just gambling?

Chris

My parents felt the same way when I told them I was dropping out of school to play poker. There are a lot of pre-conceived notions about what people who play poker are like. I would say 99% of people are not cut out to play poker full time. It takes a special person who has the ability to separate results from their daily life, and has the ability to not be a degenerate. When I play poker I don’t play for the “rush” I play to make the best decisions I can with the information given and go from there. I also don’t play a stakes I don’t have plenty of money to play. The general rule of thumb for cash games is 20 buy ins I never play a game I don’t have at least 100 buy ins for.

So if a game is a $1000 buy in I would have at least 100k. My risk of ruin is extremely minute. Risk or ruin means the risk that I were to go bust playing a given game.

David

Would you advise people to look into playing poker for a side income?

Chris

It is much harder to get into then 5 years ago. Most people have a grasp of the basics of the game even at the low stakes games. I would only advise someone to start playing if they were willing to put a lot of time, effort, and some money into getting good.

David

Just from a “casual” player standpoint (whose goal is to make money) I would agree with that.

Now that poker has progressed, do you still play full time?
or have you pursued other things?

Chris

Its my only source of income, I have returned to school, but I still play poker probably 25 hours a week. I am going to law school next fall.

David

Do you see yourself still playing 5, 10 years down the road?

Chris

Probably, definitely, if it becomes regulated in the US and more poor players flow into the sites once again.

David

Do you play in any bigger tourneys, such as the World Series Of Poker?

Chris

Yes, I have played the WSOP main event twice.

My biggest tournament win is $250,000

Here are two links that recap that game.

Link 1

Link 2

David

Impressive.

Any last words of advice for people who hope to make that kind of cash playing poker?

Chris

Study hard and keep your emotions in check at all times. Anyone can have a grasp of how to play but those that execute it day in and day out are the ones who will succeed.

As you can see, poker is a game where you need to be dedicated, driven, and disciplined. It must be treated as an investment. It’s not impossible to win at the game, though it is definitely not easy.

Should you consider playing poker for a side income? Only you can make that decision.

-David @ DINKs Finance



{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 11:26 am

Poker players eventually go broke and die miserably.

2 20smoney February 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

I have a good friend who was ranked #1 in the world in high stakes heads up online poker for a few years. He was bringing in 300-400k a year playing. He recently decided to follow God and change his entire life around. He hasn't played a single hand since! But, dang he was good!

3 David February 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

20smoney I can't help but respond.

You make it sound as though poker is an immoral thing to partake in. I would be interested to hear why you think that.

I know many Christians who take part in poker (myself included) and I'm always surprised to hear ppl make statements like "turned their life around."

Perhaps there was other issues with your friend, but trust me there are many Christians in the poker world.

4 jpberthiaume February 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Nice article, Dave. He's got an interesting story to tell. I'm curious as to know what his wife's reaction was when she found out in the morning…

5 PK February 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

Wait, living in WBL? I guess I'm more closely related to this blog and Chis than I would have thought.

6 Anonymous February 18, 2010 at 4:47 am

nice post. thanks.

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