Kane Kalas grew up with legendary sports broadcaster Harry Kalas as a father but now he's making his own way as a successful high-stakes poker pro.
At just 24 years old Kalas has made a living playing poker since 2008, and it's a profession that's taken him all over the world.
From moving to Costa Rica after Black Friday to stops in exotic locales like Monte Carlo, Australia and Malta, Kalas told PokerListings at the World Series of Poker yesterday (where he finished 31st in the $1,500 Millionaire Maker for $32,882) that even though he's got baseball and broadcasting in his blood, he's sticking with poker for now.
Kalas: My Father Gambled for Fun
PokerListings.com: You've been playing poker professionally for a few years now. How did you get into the game and figure out you could do this to make a living?
Kane Kalas: It all started when a high school friend of mine started playing poker in home games together. He really wasn't very good but he decided to drop out of high school to play poker for a living.
I thought he was crazy but it turned out that after a couple months he started to break even and then after about a year he was a profitable player.
So I was like, “Hey man you have to teach me how to do this.” Because for someone in high school this was pretty good money.
PL: Listening to you talk, and given who your dad is, it seems like you would have been destined for a career in broadcasting. Did this poker thing sort of come out of left field for your friends and family?
I studied communications in college and I'm still very passionate about broadcasting.
My father broadcasted for the Phillies for 38 years and my brother broadcasts for the Tampa Rays so it's definitely in my blood. I'm definitely passionate about it but I'm going to stick with poker for the time being.
In the future I could definitely see myself going in that direction, though.
PL: Did it surprise the people in your life at the time that you could actually make a really good living from playing poker?
Most of the people in my family still don't understand it. If you asked my mother she'd probably say I should go and do something else because she's convinced I'm going to lose all my money one day.
So not everyone understands it. There's a stigma around gambling for some people and unfortunately a lot of people include poker in gambling.
In general people are really surprised though. My teachers from school, family, people in the Phillies community are all very surprised by my career choice.
Not everyone really understands how it's possible but most of them acknowledge that since I've been doing it since 2008 I know what I'm doing and it's working for me.
PL: What did your father think about you going into poker before he passed?
My father was a recreational gambler himself. He just gambled for fun.
He didn't really understand how poker could be profitable in the long term but he knew I was a numbers and math guy and even if he didn't understand it himself, he trusted me and my decision to play professionally.
But I was still in college when he passed away. I doubt he would've supported my decision to go on “inactive status” from school after Black Friday.
PL: Can you give people an idea what kind of living you're earning playing poker, as opposed to going into sports broadcasting for example?
It would really depend on what I chose to do in broadcasting. If you're doing something like my father did – he was the lead play-by-play guy for the Phillies – then you're talking a very good salary, a salary higher than what I've made on average in my poker career.
But it's tough to make it to that level. You have to have the connections, the voice, the talent and the baseball knowledge. Most importantly you have to have a real passion for the game.
The difference with poker is that at the end of the year, however much money I made in that year is a direct result of my actions.
You can only complain about running bad for so long but in the long run if you're using good bankroll management you're going to make money if you're making the right decisions and you're going to lose money if you're making the wrong decisions.
In broadcasting you could be amazingly talented and you might never get discovered and never get to that next level.
In poker it's not really about who you know. It's about what you know.
PL: You mentioned some of the things that made your father successful in broadcasting. Do you feel like he passed some of those things on to you and they're allowing you to succeed in poker?
Certainly. He had a passion for broadcasting and a passion for sports. When he wasn't broadcasting he was at home watching the game.
And I'm passionate about poker because when I'm not playing I'm talking hands and trying to develop my game.
He was also a very social and friendly person and that's something I've always tried to be. If someone's here buying into an event like this I can probably learn something from them.
PL: You said you have broadcasting in your blood. Do you feel like you have baseball in your blood?
Definitely. I love baseball. One thing about traveling so much for poker is that it's really tough to keep up with the season.
I bought an online subscription so I can watch baseball games anywhere but it never comes through properly so that's always tilting.
Coming back to the US is great because I can play live tournaments and watch all the games.
PL: Do you feel like Philadelphia and especially the baseball community has a special place in its heart for you because of your dad?
Yeah, all the support from the fans and community after my father's passing really showed me how much of a connection he had with the city, and how much a connection the city had with him.
I have people coming up to me telling me stories about growing up listening to my father's voice on the radio, and the experiences they had with their dads around baseball. It's very touching.
PL: Have you ever been invited to any juicy poker games in Philly because you're Harry Kalas' son?
(Laughs) No, I wish. If anybody's out there reading this in Philly and has a big game, Kane Kalas will come to town and it will be fun.
PL: Baseball has a real sense of community and camaraderie around it. Do you feel like there's anything similar happening in the poker world?
There's a lot of community and camaraderie in poker. I would never have been able to become as good as I am today without talking over hands with friends and learning from them.
I feel like I've gotten help from people and I've been able to help people too so I definitely feel like there's camaraderie in poker.
The difference is, when you're at the table it's everyone for themselves. But away from the table it's a game where a lot of people are there to help you out.
And it's a game where you make a lot of amazing contacts. People who are able to play poker well enough to make a living are generally very intelligent and they're great people to know and talk with about all sorts of stuff, especially non-poker stuff.
PL: Since Black Friday you've spent some time in Costa Rica playing online. Did Black Friday actually open up some opportunities for you?
Well, I'd say I lost more opportunities than I gained from Black Friday unfortunately.
Black Friday hit me particularly hard because I had quite a bit of money on UltimateBet. I was playing a guy named XBLINK at high-stakes at the time and unfortunately I was losing to him so I had more money on there than I normally would have.
And it seems like I'm not going to get that back and I had quite a lot on Full Tilt which I'm still waiting to see if I'll get back.
And maybe more importantly I had some really nice staking deals going with people who had no interest in moving out of the country to play online after Black Friday.
After Black Friday it took me a while to move but after about six months I was in Costa Rica playing online and had some success there.
I lived in Costa Rica after that and then traveled the live circuit a bit. I played the Aussie Millions, EPT Monte Carlo and I was in Malta for about three months playing online.
But the games online have gotten much harder since Black Friday. When I started playing professionally in 2008 I suggested to some friends that they should try playing poker professionally.
Today it would take a very special person for me to make that suggestion.