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Unexpected Value: How Business & Charity Gain from Poker Proficiency
A lot of poker professionals do much more than just play poker.
In fact the majority of them likely have one or several other side projects on the go or in the works.
Some might have been already in business before their poker career started; others move from the green felt to the business world as they experience more (or less) success at the tables.
Eugene Katchalov and Liv Boeree are two players who have experienced immense success on the felt and are using the skill set that helped them succeed to branch out into business and charity endeavors.
Katchalov has money invested in several businesses simultaneously while Boeree is deeply involved in the charity organization Raising for Effective Giving (REG).
During the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure the two professional players spoke openly about how business or charity can profit from your poker proficiency.
Value Your Losses
“One of the most important lessons poker teaches you," says Katchalov, "is how to cope with losses. In poker everyone loses at some point - even if they haven’t done anything wrong.
“The same thing can happen in business. Even if you work day and night, you might still fail. Poker shows you that this doesn’t necessarily means it’s your fault.
"I think in poker it’s actually better if you start out as a loser because then you really value your winnings. Players who win in the beginning often fall apart when they start losing in poker.”
Boeree actually takes a very different approach to the issue of acting correctly vs failing.
"Just because something works doesn’t mean you did everything right. If a bluff works, that doesn’t necessarily mean you did the right thing.
"If someone else is successful it doesn’t mean if you do the same you’ll achieve the same.”
Playing Poker Not a Gap in Your CV
An example for a player who was already winning at poker while he was still at University is Jason Strasser, who’s also showcased that companies are looking for more than just grades in employees.
Strasser had won more than a million dollars online when he finally passed his exams with middling grades.
Even so, Morgan Stanley employed him, and Strasser managed hedge funds for two or three years before he started his own hedge fund.
Boeree remarked on this: “If you have a gap in your CV because you were playing poker full time for a while, don’t consider it a gap, as you learned a lot of skills.
"You’d be surprised how many people are highly interested in what you’ve achieved there. Nobody has no opinion on poker.
“There might be people who consider it gambling and look down on it, but there are others, too.”
Astrophysics graduate and former EPT San Remo winner Boeree also touched upon how value does not equal money and how math plays into any form of business.
“Poker or other games are not all about money. Some games might not be +EV in dollar or money, but fun EV, or learning EV.
"There’s always a way to find some form of quantification and this can still help you in any other trade or in your poker game.
“Even in charity, math is involved. There are people who’re calculating which disease causes which amount of damage, which is worth investing more and what size of investment will lead to desired results.
"They even calculate if it’s worth going to court, in case there are legal issues.
“What many people don’t understand is the difference between efficiency vs effectiveness. Imagine you have charity organization A that puts 80% of the money into its administration and 20% into saving lives and you have organization B that puts 20% into administration and 80% into saving lives.
“Let’s further say that organization A manages to save 100 lives with its money and organization B only saves 10 lives. What we’re seeing here is one organization that is more efficient, while the other one is more effective.
"And for someone who wants to give to charity, they need to know that if they give to organization A, they basically deny 90 people their lives. This is why I like Effective Giving so much as they know where the money should go.”
What Would You Be if it Weren't For Poker?
At the end of the discussion PokerListings asked both panelists whether they would answer the question ‘what would you be if it weren’t for poker’ differently today compared to five years ago.
Katchalov: “Five years ago I would have said I would want to go back into hedge funds, but today I’m thinking I’d rather invest in start-ups.
"There are lots of interesting companies with good ideas that deserve support.
"I do think that at some point in the future I’ll go back into business. I’ll always stay in poker, but probably not on the same level.”
Boeree: “Five years ago I’d surely have said I want to be a rock star. (smiles) Today, my career choice would certainly be science.
"In the future the thing outside poker that I want to do is working as a consultant, looking for inefficiencies in industries. I’ll continue to work for non-profit organizations and raise funds for charity.”