Poker Sharks: Avoid The "Balla" Lifestyle

The internet ushered in a new era in poker, as old-school hustlers and grizzled road gamblers were replaced by a slew of teenage and 20-something wizards, or as they used to be known… geeks.


Like the poker pros from bygone eras these online wizards are most certainly nonconformists who have chosen to lead an unconventional life, but they are nonconformists of a different kind.

Old school poker pros weren't going to get rich, they were just trying to support themselves and their families with their winnings.

The good news for the new generation is that you can get rich from poker. As long as you have an affinity for poker and a good grasp of math these players can now become rich and "poker famous" at a very young age, giving these wallflowers a heaping helping of confidence. Indeed a number of online poker rooms such as Full Tilt and 888 (more on this site here) make some of the top poker players brand ambassadors, with sponsorship doubling their regular poker winnings as well increasing their celebrity exposure.

The current crop of poker players don't quite have the same concerns as the old school gamblers, like being robbed, beaten, or even killed. Instead they have a whole new set of problems to deal with when they have a little success at the poker tables, and many of these problems are of their own making and stem from leading a somewhat sheltered and solitary life.  

As I'm about to explain, these poker geeks are a lot like lottery winners. They are unable to handle the situation they have been thrust into, and are easy pickings for the gold-diggers and hangers-on of the world.

From the outside the life of a poker pro is seemingly one of the best jobs in the world, but it's not all champagne and caviar dreams as Robin Leach would say.


The life of a poker pro is filled with highs and lows, and the ones that survive are the ones that can avoid being swept up in their greatness. Early success in poker can actually be detrimental for some people, since they haven't experienced the hard-times, they quite often don't even register that rough times are possible.

For these people success in poker means stacks of $100 bills in your pocket at age 22 and a sudden interest in your extensive knowledge of 70's era comic books from the more shallow of the farer sex. You know, the ones willing to look past your affinity for Star Trek reruns, Magic the Gathering, Einstein-themed t-shirts, and your incessant quoting of the Simpsons --sort of like the women who find Donald Sterling attractive.

This newfound attention often leads these people to think they are suddenly cool, that they were right all along, that geek is chic, but here's a free tip: Money is cool and trumps all your other deficiencies, so if you have money you are only cool by proxy.

This newfound feeling of having the world by the balls usually leads to a freewheeling lifestyle in order to continue to be "cool" and keep the attractive ladies and hangers-on by your side; it's a way to get the attention they have been denied for so long, and the way is simple… Money. 

Basically poker is the perfect outlet for geeks seeking acceptance from the cool kids, and we constantly see this play out very year at the World Series of Poker when some kid with pocketfuls of cash from online poker shows up thinking they are the cat's meow and puts on a clinic in poker AND in anti-social behavior that would make Screech from Saved by the Bell blush.

Like this guy (actually these TWO guys):


Or this guy:


Or worse, this guy, the king geek who thinks he's cool:


For most of these aspiring players they are looking to get "poker famous" and party like Dan Bilzerian, posting pictures of their debauchery on social media or bragging about buying a $100,000 car with cash. But these guys aren't Dan Bilzerian. They're cheap imitation knock-offs.

The problem with the instant attention young poker players (read as: geeks) get after a big win is that it has the same effect as a drug. you crave it more and more, and just like a drug it's an increasingly expensive high, as you find yourself surrounded by the most shallow of shallow people whose only reason for being anywhere near you is to ride your coattails and get you to pick up the tab.

Poker players who have some early success and fall into the "balla" lifestyle can often times find life a bit more difficult when their fortunes turn and the card start to go against them --or their party-hard lifestyle causes a new group of hungry young players to surpass them in ability. 


Everything is good when you're winning, but don't think anyone outside of ComicCon cares who was originally cast to play Han Solo in Star Wars when you're broke, those pretty girls and all your "balla" friends will suddenly be too busy to reply to your texts, having moved on to the next poker wunderkind.

If nothing else remember this: The idea of partying after a WSOP bracelet victory seems only natural; like going out after a big promotion at work, but the difference is that after a big promotion you know precisely what you are going to be making every week, and precisely what you can afford to spend.

Furthermore, the people you are partying with are likely longtime friends.

For poker players, especially tournament poker players it could be several years in between big scores, and while a $500,000 tournament win followed by $10,000 bottle of champagne may seem like a good investment at the time, but at some point down the road you'll be heading to the rail after yet another bad beat wishing you had that $10,000 in your pocket and wondering where all those people that helped you drink that bottle have gone. 

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