Where's the Bling?

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4 July 2006, Created By: Chuck Ansbacher
Where's the Bling?
The first week of the 2006 WSOP has come to a close. I've spent seven days on the floor, rubbing shoulders with the most famous poker players in the world, and getting used to standing right next to a bunch of guys that I'd previously only seen on my television. The experience has been, and continues to be, pretty incredible. Nearly all of the pros are surprisingly friendly and as I guess you would expect, are just down to earth, normal dudes. But there is one thing that I've been finding a bit strange about all of these pros. A mysterious omission if you will.

Every day I've watched one very talented player win enough money to buy a house and seen about five or six others take home more than the average American makes in one year. The lowest prize pool so far (aside from the $500 buy-in Casino Employee event) has been $1.5 million. Basically, I watch a bunch of money get tossed around every day by people who make their living tossing a bunch of money around every day.

Yet with all of this cash trading hands and fortunes being made, there seems to be one weird thing missing - anything to show for it. It's very strange. I mean, I've seen T.J. Cloutier, while posting very impressive lifetime winnings, most likely have far less than you would imagine showing for it. Apparently, two reasons exist for this.

The first is that life on the tournament circuit is expensive. The large tournaments cost anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000 to enter and occur often and consistently throughout the entire year. If you make your living as a tournament player, you enter as many of these as is humanly possible. And when you are entering these tournaments, you have to fly to where they are being held, and you have to stay at hotels while you're there. This high-rolling life on the road lifestyle definitely gets pricey.

Then there's the fact that many of these guys are poker players second, and gamblers first. They love gambling, and gamble on everything they do, wherever they go. If they play golf, they bet on it. If they eat out, they bet to see who finishes first. If they lay in the sun, they bet on who will burn less. I'm not kidding. T.J. Cloutier, for example, is a notorious gambling junkie. It's a well known fact that one of the great names of poker has lost almost everything he's made winning at poker by losing at craps. Gambling is an addiction, and lots of these high rollers are straight up hooked.

Of course, being a successful poker pro is a lucrative profession. If it weren't, there wouldn't be so many up-and-comers trying to make a name for them, working the grind, hoping to get big. All I'm saying, is that it may not be as profitable as you, I, or they think.

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