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How can I admit that I have a high income without sounding like an ass?
August 2, 2014 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I am a professional poker player and I have averaged $670 per hour over the past 11 years of poker. When people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them that I am a professional poker player, they often are incredulous and say "you make enough to live off that?" How can I openly and honestly convey the truth is I have made millions and I make over $600 an hour? snowflake details inside.

vI have been a professional poker player for almost 12 years. My average income per hour is about $670 per hour. Out of 136 months, I have ended with a positive income out of 135 of those months, it has been a relatively steady, profitable job. There is very little luck, and I am good because I worked my ass off, studied my ass off, and was at home on friday nights studying high level poker theory while my classmates were drinking or whatever. I am very proud of myself. When I meet people anywhere (especially professionals who are wealthy) they ask what I do for a living, and I tell them I have been a professional poker player for 11 years. Common responses are "isn't that risky?" "oh and you can survive off that?" "you make enough to pay rent with that?". I am super proud of myself, it took a lot of guts, and not listening to nay-sayers who told me not to pursue this career, but I now have the freedom to travel the world, do what I want, when I want, and to have a very high hourly wage. I want to tell them these things, I want to tell them I have averaged over 600 an hour for over 10 years. But I want to do this in a matter of fact way without coming off as a pompous ass (and I want to say it in a way where they will believe me, because when I have tried, most people don't believe me ). Is this possible? How can I be open and honest about my profession and income without sounding like a total douchebag?

I am tired of people writing me off as a degenerate gambler, lucky, a liar, or probably a guy who barely gets by on 1000 a month. I am proud of myself, proud of the work and calculated risks I have taken, and proud of my job.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (70 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think, in the United States, it's possible to straight-up tell people you make a lot of money without sounding like a douchebag. When people ask if you are able to make a living, you could just say "Oh, you'd be surprised" or something coy like that. Why rub it in people's faces? What do you hope to gain?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:17 PM on August 2 [81 favorites]


You simply can't give out exact numbers regarding your income and not sound like a pompous asshole. There's no way to do that, no matter what the job.

What you can say is something to the tune of, "Yes, I make my living as a professional poker player. It's a little unconventional, but I put in a lot of study and practice time and it turned out well for me."
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:23 PM on August 2 [46 favorites]


If you want to advertise your wealth, wear expensive clothes, drive an expensive car, live in an expensive house, take expensive vacations, eat out at expensive places.

No need to ever talk about your money explicitly. That smacks of insecurity, just the opposite of the impression you want to convey.
posted by shivohum at 10:25 PM on August 2 [26 favorites]


Don't give numbers, but feel free to establish a ballpark if you need other professionals to take you seriously.

"Oh yeah, I do very well. I make more than your average lawyer and without the student loans!"
posted by annekate at 10:28 PM on August 2 [23 favorites]


"Wow, you make enough money to make rent doing that for a living?"

"Yeah... I love the job, it's a blast, I've put in a lot of work so I've been making good money, and it's working out pretty well for me. I love it."


It's bad form in the US (and in much of the western world) to gloat about how much money you make. A simple reply like that does enough.

And without giving you too much of a hard time, let me just point this out- why do you care so much about what others think? Be proud of your accomplishments... who cares if others fawn over you because of them? If you care that much, then you need to look within to help you solve this insecurity issue.
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:35 PM on August 2 [8 favorites]


I'd just say something like, "Well, it's been working out really great for 12 years, but you never know!" You won't get far trying to talk directly about money because it's considered gauche. The same is true about ostentatious non-verbal displays. They're likely just ignorant when it comes to professional gamblers and assume that the house always takes the money because it always takes their's.
posted by quince at 10:36 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I am good because I worked my ass off, studied my ass off, and was at home on friday nights studying high level poker theory while my classmates were drinking or whatever. I am very proud of myself... I want to tell them I have averaged over 600 an hour for over 10 years.

I have friends who supported themselves playing poker and realize that you can do plenty well playing poker. And you come across as kind of annoying and self absorbed when you talk about yourself to the point where I don't want to hear about it.

Not all jobs have an equal amount of prestige associated with them, even if you make a lot of money doing it. It sounds like you are frustrated by this state of affairs. But that itself is a choice you made-- spending Friday nights studying high level poker theory instead of developing a low cost method of providing clean water to villages in developing countries or going to med school to learn how to perform lifesaving surgery on orphans.

"I am a professional poker player" should suffice to describe what you do for a living. If someone asks how well you do, just say, "I do quite well." Lawyers don't get hung up trying to tell people what their billing rates are to total strangers.
posted by deanc at 10:43 PM on August 2 [47 favorites]


"I have taken risks, but they are calculated risks and I have consistently earned money in my career. I have reached a level of security and freedom that most of my friends in more traditional jobs hope to reach decades from now. Their careers could be cut short by one botched surgery, a bad judgement or a crooked partner. Those are risks I am not willing to take."
posted by Yorrick at 10:45 PM on August 2


There's a lot to be said for humility. The fewer income details you give, the better. You don't have to minimize your hard work -- you can say that it's taken years of research -- but talking numbers is rude. Just say that you're earning a living. Chances are people will want to know more about what you DO, not about how much money you make.
posted by Ostara at 11:06 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


It turns out that some people will continue to have a negative impression of a career as a poker player no matter how successful you are. It sounds like you want everyone to have the same kind of positive reaction to your chosen career that they do to other high paying or high status professions and that just isn't going to happen. I say this with love as a fellow high stakes poker player, many people have a bad reaction to it. Maybe they have known someone with a gambling problem, maybe they read too many bad novels, maybe they find it morally repugnant, but you aren't going to overcome any of those things easily.

In addition it sounds like you are bothered by their disbelief in the earning potential of poker. This isn't entirely unreasonable, since people making high six figure incomes in poker are in fact quite rare. You could either invest in things that signify financial success like expensive watches or shoes or cars or clothing or you can learn not to place much value in other people's opinions of your income. I agree with everyone that there is no possible way to discuss your income frankly without coming off as a "douchebag." Being defensive about how lucrative poker can be is more likely to promote the idea that you are dishonest than just being enigmatic and saying it has worked out quite well for you.

You might also try developing interests and hobbies that you can use in conversation that make it fairly obvious that you are living comfortably. It also has the bonus of being more interesting than discussions of bb/hour and rakeback.
posted by Lame_username at 11:09 PM on August 2 [11 favorites]


It sounds like this is less about getting respect for your money and more in reaction to the lack of respect this career path receives, so you could say something like "oh yeah, at a certain level it's all pretty much theory-based. It's actually a pretty great career for applied math."

Saying you make a lot of money or wearing flashy clothes won't necessarily get you respect -- to my mind, a lot of the shadiness comes from the idea of recklessly gambling and that has always been associated with flaunting wealth. So say something that makes it sound like a nice serious white-collar profession.
posted by trig at 11:10 PM on August 2 [26 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; helpful, productive answers, please.]
posted by taz at 11:13 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I would say something like, "I am able to live very comfortably, but I understand your skepticism." And then just smile and buy the person a drink or something and be done with it. People are so damn nosy. If you told me you were a pro poker player I'd tell you that you're a badass and then ask to accompany you to a game to watch you kick but.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:24 PM on August 2 [7 favorites]


There is no way to say "Oh yeah, I'm a baller" without sounding like a dick. I think rachaelfaith has a great response. Saying "With a lot of study and practice it's reliably lucrative" conveys that you do make a living and it took effort to get there.

If anything, specifying numbers might solidify the "degenerate gambler" stereotype in people's minds, as they might assume with the amount of money you're making that you're a sleazy sort of fellow who lives it up in the casinos every night.
posted by schroedinger at 11:27 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


Bret Maverick never mentioned amounts. If admitting that you are a professional gambler causes you to explain or brag, then you are not very comfortable in your career. A little mystery would be more cool.
posted by Cranberry at 11:53 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


You've gotten great advice so far. I wanted to chime in and caution you against two types of replies:

Oh yeah, I do very well. I make more than your average lawyer and without the student loans!

I have reached a level of security and freedom that most of my friends in more traditional jobs hope to reach decades from now. Their careers could be cut short by one botched surgery, a bad judgement or a crooked partner. Those are risks I am not willing to take.


These replies read very competitive to me and are therefore unappealing. I'm not a lawyer, surgeon, or entrepreneur, but if someone said this to me I would make it a point to stop socializing with them. I get the desire to let others know that you're comfortable and secure, but there is no need to belittle others' professions and/or salaries. These comments and others of their ilk read extremely mean-spirited to me.

My advice is to assure the questioner that you live a good life thanks to your hard work, then move on, without making cheap digs at others' jobs.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:54 PM on August 2 [28 favorites]


isn't that risky?
'Yeah, just like life.'

oh and you can survive off that?
'Well, I don't own my own plane yet, but I'm doin' OK.'

you make enough to pay rent with that?
'For the penthouse at the Savoy? No.'

There are ways you can respond to these comments that indicates your self-assessed location on the status pole without actually saying 'yeah, I average six mawsons an hour'.
posted by Kerasia at 12:10 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Show, don't tell. Dress and present yourself like a 'man of wealth and taste'. If someone still asks whether you can make a living, just say 'Oh yeah, that's not a problem'.

Why do you even care so much? You're doing fine, isn't that what counts? Why do you feel the need to tell others how well-off you are? People will generally not appreciate that. Hell, I wouldn't.
It feels like you want to rub it in people's faces. No good will ever come from that. Nice and smart people aren't impressed by money, and the others will just resent you.

If you want to impress people, talk about the time you spent learning all of this. That is something to be proud of. Money is not; it's a tool, meant to be used, not bragged about.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:34 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


You might respond with something like, "Well, if it makes any difference, I'm one of those One Percenters you've heard about" or "Well, winning at poker is a lot more complicated than you might think - I worked hard to get good at it, but now it keeps me in an upper tax bracket" or something like that without specifically putting the numbers out there.
posted by aryma at 12:41 AM on August 3


That smacks of insecurity, just the opposite of the impression you want to convey.

So do any suggestions to show off wealth. Don't do that; it is beyond tacky.

How can I openly and honestly convey the truth is I have made millions

You can't, without being gross.

However, with all of that said, anyone saying things like "you can pay rent with that?" is beyond grossy. I'd just tell these people "I've had a very good ten years and I'm financially independent now; these days, I mostly play to keep my skills fresh."

But I actually think you're asking the wrong question here. You say, "I am tired of people writing me off as a degenerate gambler, lucky, a liar..." and you seem to want to combat that perception with the facts about your earnings. You are failing to understand that for a percentage of the population, you will always be a degenerate gambler and worse, regardless of how financially successful you are at your job.

A world-class companion will have a BA and often a graduate degree; speaks several languages, invests time and money in her physical assets, dresses impeccably, is charming and delightful company, nurtures an entire skill-set behind her job and charges several times what you earn per hour. To a lot of people, however, she's still just a whore. Similarly, there are people who do not think gambling is a respectable profession, and are never going to be anything other than rude and patronising about your job. I'm very sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:06 AM on August 3 [24 favorites]


Just tell them you do a lot of work in non-market-correlated investments. I have clients who have dealt with this precise issue; memail me if you want to discuss.
posted by Mr. Justice at 1:09 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Alternatively, you could also just say "I'm ranked as one of the world's top 50 Limit poker players. I do very well." and leave it at that.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


It's OK to say you're one of the top poker players in the world and you make a good living. If pressed, you can be specific about how good you are, e.g. if you are currently ranked #8 in the world, or if you've ever won the World Series of Poker. It's not OK in most company to be specific about financial figures. Really it's best to be modest and vague about career acheivements too. Being self-effacing and vague makes people more comfortable, even though it actually sounds more self-assured and impressive. If you have to give career details make people work for them.
posted by w0mbat at 1:20 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I think also you should cut people some slack. Most people know nothing about professional poker and what they do know comes from silly portrayals in the media and on film - a romantic view the industry itself promotes to outsiders.

It is certainly gauche that people are so easy with opinions on something they know little about, but not unforgivable.

View such declarations as an opportunity to educate; most people will be fascinated to learn about the realities of professional poker and how it differs from the popular perception. It's an opportunity to give someone a better insight into your life and what makes you tick, and also correct the misconceptions you are railing against.

Pithy comebacks make a person look childish; they are the battered armour of the insecure. Also, accept that some jobs are a little ridiculous. My job, corporate communications, certainly is a bit ridiculous compared to my friends who are doctors, or who working to make the world a better place. That's okay, I'm more than the job.
posted by smoke at 2:47 AM on August 3 [8 favorites]


I think it's fair enough that you might want recognition for the unusual level of skill you've achieved, and I think I understand why you'd try to get at that through talk about money - because that's what it's for, it signifies value, worth, and you want to feel your worth in your interactions with others.

One way to make an impression is for other people to do it for you. If you're well-known only within your professional world, getting involved in high-profile events outside of it might get people talking before you arrive at parties etc. (I guess doing things for charities is a well-worn bridge; that might help counteract at least some of the expectations people have.)

Other than that, I think trig's answer would be effective in helping to shift the way people think about you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:05 AM on August 3


I sympathize with you - I have a job that, despite being ubiquitous, most people haven't heard of. I try to look at it thusly: since it's a bit unknown, there is a lot less competition, and my skills are a lot more valuable.

When someone asks "you make enough to live off that?" act like they are concerned for your welfare - give them a big smile, and say "I'm doing really well, thanks!"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:12 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Also, wealth is conveyed through a lot of little things over the course of a conversation. Mentioning your diving holiday in the Maldives, the ski shack you rent in Aspen, the beach shack you own at Pink Sands.

"Do you really make enough to pay rent with that?"
"I do."
And that's that.

Being a professional poker player must, I would think, be about way more than x cards beat y. This other thing, math, theory, psychology is what you studied what made you good, so discuss that.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:17 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


Is this a dating issue? Because socially (well, in my social circles) what someone does and what they earn, is sort of irrelevant. However, if you're looking to partner up, and you know that the sort of person you're interested in has a preference for a financially secure partner - I can see it would be an issue. In this case, I would (in your shoes) as Too-Ticky suggests, use other status signifiers like tailored clothes, nice shoes, high-end accessories (watch, wallet, platinium credit card), maybe an expensive car?

When the issue of employment comes up, I'd prevaricate - maybe - initially, or use euphemisms like Mr. Justice suggests: work in the entertainment industry, work in mathematics or statistics, and change the subject.

When someone is a trusted friend, you may feel more comfortable sharing about how long you've been successful, and also giving them a hard time about their reaction if they're wankers.

I know of some classmates of a pal of mine, a professor in maths. Four (I think) of his undergrad classmates formed a group that does something like this - but maybe with horse racing or lotto, or something that seems as unlikely. One of them has established a museum in his home city to reduce his tax burden. That's a significant tax burden, that you need to fund an entire museum. So I get that some extraordinary people can do well in gambling (maths/probability & statistics), but not many people will believe it.
posted by b33j at 4:22 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Is this a dating issue?

It sounds like it's a respect issue. That's what I'm hearing. It might help if that could be clarified.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:37 AM on August 3


I want to tell them these things, I want to tell them I have averaged over 600 an hour for over 10 years.

Wanting to tell people stuff does not always actually make it a good idea to tell people stuff. Those wealthy professionals you meet, the people who are really doing well among them? You know who those people are because they've got better tailors, because they're more relaxed when talking about their achievements, because if someone acted incredulous that they made enough to pay the bills all they'd do is smile.

If you want to take a page from the Tony Stark "billionaire playboy philanthropist" model, remember that Tony Stark has panic attacks--his demeanor isn't to get respect from other people, everybody already knows he's a billionaire superhero, it's to keep up his own confidence. I see this as a totally valid reason to talk yourself up, but don't mistake it for a thing that is going to make everybody else think you're respectable. You have to find a balance between what's going to make you feel good, and what's really going to get people to respond the way you want them to respond.
posted by Sequence at 4:49 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


I would just say, "Oh, at the end of the day, it's not that different from earning a living on the stock market. I've studied a good deal of math, and I choose my investments wisely."
posted by BlueJae at 5:08 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


The first answer was the correct one. Just say, "oh, you'd be surprised!" And leave it at that.

And FWIW, you saying you make $600 an hour means nothing to me without knowing how many hours a week/month/year you work.
posted by amro at 5:29 AM on August 3 [24 favorites]


Many professionals making large sums of money have no idea how much they earn per hour because that's an irrelevant number, especially when you're succesful enough to set your own hours. A very succesful person generally does not earn a "wage", and if they do, they don't refer to it as one due to the unsavory implication of working for someone and depending on them for income. Even if you find a time abd a way to refer to how much you make in a way that isn't a serious faux pas -- and honestly, I have no idea how that sort of scenario would occur -- an hourly number is decidedly not the way to impress anyone.
posted by griphus at 5:56 AM on August 3 [9 favorites]


I am a sex worker and I get this. What I do is help people understand how my job is professional! Your income is boring, but the nuts and bolts of how you got to be top tier are interesting. (Well they are to me, but I'm a nosy person!)
posted by Mistress at 5:57 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


"I do okay."
posted by sandra_s at 6:01 AM on August 3 [14 favorites]


I am all about being proud of your accomplishments. In the Unites States we can be proud of our wealth and hard work and not feel like it's some kind of embarrassment to have money.

With that being said, I would say something like, "I do alright". It's gauche to talk about specifics. Who cares if people know your average hourly income? It sounds like you want to justify your profession. You don't have to do that. Your friends and family will see that you can travel the world and that you have financial freedom. You don't have to spell it out to acquaintances or people you meet who you may never see again.
posted by Fairchild at 6:06 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Just one way this can backfire: if you told me (a complete non-gambler who's played poker once, with candy) how much money you've made in the past 10 years, I would assume you got it by cheating. It wouldn't improve my view of you.

I can imagine asking if you can make a living at it, as I think of it like a hobby and would say the same thing to someone who said they were a professional Scrabble player, for example. Sometimes people are dumb or rude if they're surprised. (Everyone tells me how much they hate chemistry. Every field has its annoying responses.) Of the responses above I like the applied math one, or just a simple "It's a mix of hard work and luck like any career choice, and I've worked hard and been lucky. What do you do?"
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:12 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


"I'm an independent trader in highly specialized financial instruments."
posted by miyabo at 6:16 AM on August 3


All you have to say is, "I'm comfortable." The only person entitled or interested to know your balance sheet is your accountant.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


When people say "isn't that risky" and "you can pay rent that way," they're expressing a form of jealousy, not a lack of respect. They're really saying "I'm too scared to take that risk" and "I wish I could pay rent playing poker." You'll hear people say the same thing about pretty much any mom-traditional job, no matter how much skill it may take. Heck, they use to say this sort of thing to computer programmers back in the 1980s.

As to what to do, I think your best bet is to downplay rather than oversell. Signaling wealth is easy to screw up and make you look like a want to be. You're making good money, enjoy that money however you see fit. If you want to go to fancy restaurants, do so, live in a big house, do so. People will figure out you have money soon enough. However, when they express their "incredulity" about your job, downplay everything and say "I do okay." It's pretty much the only thing I ever hear people with real money say about their income (this includes people who have made tens and hundreds of millions). People who brag about their money seem to be those who don't hold onto it for very lomg.
posted by eisenkr at 6:36 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


You are missing the upside to be a closet rich person. Nobody is hitting you up for money. Trust me, as soon as it's known that you have cash to spare people will be all over your ass with opportunities to make "real" money. They still won't respect you, they'll look at you like a lottery winner and an easy mark for various investment schemes.

Enjoy your anonymity. You are much better off this way.
posted by COD at 6:37 AM on August 3 [15 favorites]


Ask them if they've seen that movie, All In, with the eponysterically named John Moneymaker. If not, tell them to get back to you when they have. With all the publicity professional poker's gotten, I'm really surprised that people other than, say, your grandmother, don't realize it's a lucrative profession.

But also as someone said above, some people just like to give people the third degree about their careers. If it's a creative or nontraditional career, sometimes this seems to be motivated by jealousy. But whatever. Don't let this get to you; it just makes you look insecure.
posted by BibiRose at 6:38 AM on August 3


"I do quite well actually. Once you reach a certain level of skill, being a professional poker player isn't more of a gamble than, say, being a trial lawyer or a professional investor."

Once you've gotten that out of the way, I'd think there'd be lots of fascinating stories you could tell about your work. I'd be really interested if I found myself standing next to a professional poker player at a party. Where have you traveled? How, exactly, do you make most of your money? Is it from playing against other professionals, or from playing against wealthy people who mistakenly think they can outplay the pros? Do you specialize in one or two games, or do you play basically any kind of poker? Have you ever found yourself among criminals and in danger? What is the social scene like? Etc, etc.
posted by alms at 6:42 AM on August 3 [8 favorites]


Prior to taking over the family business after his father died, my husband had been a professional poker player for most of his adult life. We used to phrase it as "He's been living off $6 for the last 10 years" ($6 was the amount he had on him when he sat down in his first poker game in college).

So, that approach might work -- instead of talking about how much you earn in a given time period, talk about how long you've been living off exclusively poker income. Focus on the 11 years and 135/136 winning months instead of the $670/hour average and millions of total income. IMO that longevity is what best distinguishes you from -EV players who just got lucky in a tournament early in their "careers" but eventually lost it all back (*cough* Moneymaker *cough*). It's also a good way to show that you really are a professional who knows what you're doing without trotting out specific dollar amounts, which many people find crass.

The thing is, though, you also have to accept that a lot of people are never going to believe you no matter what you tell them because they've had it drilled into their heads that "the house always wins" (they don't even understand that poker isn't played against the house!) or that anyone who gambles as much as a professional poker player does must be a degenerate gambling addict who will eventually ruin his life and the lives of everyone around him. The average person is too innumerate to understand basic concepts about EV, much less the complex systems of strategy, game selection, bankroll management, etc. that pro players operate in.

In my experience, the only class of normal people who consistently seem to get it and appreciate the skill involved are finance industry professionals. So if you're looking to socialize outside of the poker world, you might try making friends in those circles?

Please feel free to MeMail me if you want to discuss the specific scenarios in which you're encountered these attitudes (how is it coming up so often? is it a dating thing? or do you just feel some weird compulsion to justify yourself to every new acquaintance?) or just to commiserate about all the ignorance and prejudice there is about your career. As a former poker wife I know aaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll about it, and have probably actually had it worse than you -- most people are too confrontation-avoidant to insult someone to his face, but will vigorously try to save an "abused" wife from her "degenerate" husband because obviously he's lying to her, the poor naive thing, and it's just a matter of time before he steals all her money and ruins her life and they just need to make her see that before its too late and just UGH to all that.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:53 AM on August 3 [13 favorites]


Don't ever say anything. No one who is going to respect you solely because you have money or because of your career is worth getting respect from.

If you care because you want to be spraying double mags of DP on models chests at Nikki Beach then just spend the money. People figure it out without you telling them.

I'm surprised you find people don't understand what being a pro poker player means. Certainly in many finance circles it would be seen as a pretty cool thing to do.

Having said that I have something else to tell you...

I think you should consider seeing a therapist to talk about this. In the long-run I think it will be good for not just you, but also your returns. Not to be too harsh, but this question shows a sort of insecurity and overconfidence that might eventually get in the way of your game.

You can still have the sort of confidence you need to make the wagers you want to take and run risk the way you want to run risk without letting ego get in the way.

There is always luck - even in as simple a form as path dependency and the size of your stake.
posted by JPD at 6:58 AM on August 3


"Yes."
posted by michaelh at 7:14 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


When people say "isn't that risky" and "you can pay rent that way," they're expressing a form of jealousy, not a lack of respect.

If it's anyone that doesn't regularly play poker, it isn't jealousy. They're hearing, "I make money playing slots."
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:17 AM on August 3 [8 favorites]


Caring about how people judge you, especially on your income, is pretty much guaranteed to make you miserable. Many people disapprove of gambling. You have a job that a lot of people may dismiss. Instead of trying to prove something to them, show, don't tell. Wear really nice shoes that are in good shape, don't wear tshirts with slogans, be well-groomed. Use good grammar and speak like an educated, well-read person. If you want to display wealth, it will come out when you mention the trip to Tahiti or Switzerland. I once had a job that people found intriguing and impressive. I usually downplayed it, just saying I worked at X. When people learned that I was the owner, not an employee, it had an impact. I'd rather be around people who get to know me and befriend me because I'm a great person, not because of my income or bank account. People who dismiss your work are more likely to be less interesting people than someone who says Poker? What's that like?
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't that they need to know you make a great living. It's that they're rude and nosy, and also they're insulting you by implying you waste time and money on gambling. Unfortunately, there's no polite way to tell someone their manners are terrible.

I suggest you go to the other extreme. I know a guy who was able to retire young; he owned a company that sold customized promotional items like note pads, mugs, key chains, and especially pens. When someone asked him what he did for a living, he said, "I sell pens." He enjoyed seeing their confusion, and didn't elaborate.

Just say, "I play cards." If you like, you can add, "And I win."
posted by wryly at 8:10 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


"Oh, I know, it sounds crazy, right? But poker players are numbers people by nature, so I'd notice if I was going broke. I'm doing alright."
posted by jacquilynne at 8:17 AM on August 3


I'm with COD. Don't let people know you're a millionaire. I have a friend who makes a fair chunk of change, which she is deliberately vague about (she lies about where she lives and things like that), but she still seems to know enough people who try to mooch off of her for money. You don't want to let people know this stuff. Just say you do okay. Like others have said, this sounds like more of a "I want respect for what I do" issue to me, and while saying you make millions would get you some, it would also come with problems you don't want if you go there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


If somebody asks you what you do for a living, don't just provide what you do, also provide a suggested alternative topic. e.g. I play poker and I invest, but I love to spend my free time ____. What do you love to do?
posted by grudgebgon at 8:49 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


You: I'm retired
Them: Really? How did you manage to do that at your age?
You: Hard work and my gamble paid off.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:05 AM on August 3


"Sure, the top tournaments have top prizes of $X these days."
posted by dvrmmr at 9:13 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I might also add that it what you want is prestige/respect, you can approach the issue the same way you approached the problem of making money-- find out what you can do that confers those things, and figure out how to get good at it.

The people I know who have a certain amount of social respect or are able to be socially desireable don't have some magical aura or list of phrases that makes them so-- rather, they developed instincts to figure out what decisions conferred social rewards, and they pursued those paths.

The conundrum you're facing is not uncommon among a lot of people who became financially successful via non-traditional means. What they do when they decide they want more social respect is that they take their money and channel their wealth and talent into something more clearly prestigious-- a successful landlord/quasi-slumlord and cheap restaurant owner in a sketchy neighborhood takes his capital and becomes a "commercial real estate developer." The bootlegger buys a newspaper and becomes a media baron, the war profiteer becomes an art dealer, etc.
posted by deanc at 9:25 AM on August 3


Correct response. Is a humble. "I get by. Say do you like my new Rolex?"
posted by wwax at 9:59 AM on August 3


I agree that there is no way you can say that you make $600 an hour without sounding like an ass, for many of the reasons enumerated above. Part of the reason is that many people (myself included) do not automatically confer respect on someone solely as a matter of how much money they make -- and, not only that, being confronted by someone who expects respect on the basis of how much they earn will itself cause me to lose respect for them. In other words, it's not just that it's gauche to announce how much you make like this; it's that in many cases, it will actually backfire on you.

I also agree with the comments suggesting that you give people a break. I would be willing to bet that a good portion of the "you can pay the rent with that?" comments you receive are just people genuinely expressing their curiosity about it because they probably have never met a professional poker player before. This happens all the time to people with unconventional careers -- sometimes because people are rude, but more often because people are just curious. My dad has made his living as an artist for 50 years, and he's lost count of the number of people who've said "you pay the rent by painting pictures?" He doesn't respond by announcing how much he sold his last ten paintings for or who his celebrity clients are; he just says something like "yes, it's always paid the bills," and if people are interested in knowing more, he answers their specific questions.

At the end of the day, you can't "make" anyone respect you. Besides, do you really want the respect of someone who only gives it to you based on the amount of money in your bank account, and not in the qualities you possess as a human being? Let your own self-respect for your guts, your intelligence, and your skills be its own reward. The people whose respect actually matters will see that and respond accordingly.
posted by scody at 10:28 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


This is a status move on their part. The status jockeying move on your part would be to ask an insulting question about their profession. Or just laugh and change the subject.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:31 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I know someone who is a professional poker player who tells people that he's an actuary for insurance companies. The conversation quickly moves on to other topics. If you want to discuss how you make your money, then be my guest, but in general, I think there's other subjects that make for lively conversation.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:43 AM on August 3


I also have a (creative) job that gets a "So, you like, actually do that for a living?" or "Cool so what's your real job?" response a lot. I usually just smile and say "Yeah I love it and stay very busy" and try to change the subject.

I don't think you have to bring money into it (I would never be like "Look little office drone, my day rate is more than you make in a week so stop implying that I'm sort sort of trust fund artist who smokes weed all day"). It is really frustrating to work hard and take lots of risk and make lots of sacrifices, only to have people who could never do that place you in their little "not a real adult" box. I too find it disrespectful, but I also realize the only people who do this are people who don't know me very well personally.

When people say "isn't that risky" and "you can pay rent that way," they're expressing a form of jealousy, not a lack of respect. They're really saying "I'm too scared to take that risk" and "I wish I could pay rent playing poker."

True, this is a lot of it. Most people just can't even imagine the work or risk it takes to have a career that's not some kind of traditional, structured path. The problem is it's hard to separate the people who are incredulous from the people who want to get in a dick measuring contest in casual conversation. I'll answer specific questions if people want to know, but the best bet is to just change the subject.
posted by bradbane at 11:21 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Freelance actuarial practitioner.
posted by sammyo at 11:47 AM on August 3


Here's my shot at an approach: Tell the truth about what you do and point out that in general most business is fundamentally about managing risk; and the great thing about poker is that once you've put in the time and effort to develop a high level of expertise, if you keep up your game and don't get lazy or greedy the risk is much easier to reliably quantify than in most other business endeavors. It has its ups and downs, but less volatility than the stock market. (Perhaps insert a few lines from Kenny Rogers here.)

Also, many of the more conventional ways of managing business risk involve shunting it off to anyone you possibly can—you slip it to your business partners mixed in with all the other things exchanged in a complex commercial relationship, or you transfer it to your customers and swathes of people who don't even realize, or have a full consenting understanding, that they've become the scapegoat for business risk: suddenly they see just another fee appear on their bill and a few more clauses added to their customer agreement, or maybe their pension or IRA fares poorly for complicated indirect reasons they have no control of.

But in professional poker, you're sitting face-to-face with the people who are going to get the downside of any upside you garner, on an even playing field, and you all entered with full knowledge of the risks and possibilities of the game itself; and indeed your opponents often have quite a bit of data on your own past performance and strengths and weaknesses.

So when you look at it that way, as a direct non-intermediated contest between fully aware and consenting professional players, poker is actually a more ethical way of making the same amount of money compared to other professions that can confer the same prosperity at the elite level. Yeah, anyone who makes your kind of money usually does so by a means involving someone else losing out in a major way, but you've actually chosen one of the more honest and honorable ways to do it.

I'm not a poker player or even a spectator, so I have no idea if the above is true (except for the fact that conventional business operations at some level generally involve screwing over large numbers of people or otherwise exploiting them absent their knowledge and consent), but it sounds good to me.
posted by XMLicious at 11:51 AM on August 3


"Oh, you make a living off that?" "Yep, if you study hard and treat it like a real job, it can pay like a real job. It took a lot of work to get where I am today, but I've managed to make a very comfortable living at it."

Even reading this question, I had to admit if you told me this was your job and you earn that much, I'd have a hard time believing you anyway. If you can specify that you are nationally ranked in the top 100 poker players or something like that, that *may* put it in perspective. I know nothing about poker, but I have to assume it's sort of like being a movie star. For every person who makes it big, there's MANY who didn't. If you can put into perspective that you are one of the ones that "made it" -- one of the outliers -- people may believe it more. Because "poker player" doesn't seem like just a normal job anyone can do. You have to sort of acknowledge that fact.

Don't mention specifics of what you earn. a) You'll sound like a douche. b) It won't make them believe you any more than saying playing poker is your career.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:27 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, Jeph Jacques, author of Questionable Content, is the biggest/most successful web comic author alive today and makes six figures a year. A few months back, when he tried to open a new business account at the bank and told them his website was called "Questionable Content," he was asked if he was selling marijuana on the Internet.

True Cartooning Stories

People in the poker world should know who you are and have some respect for your accomplishments, longevity, whatever. Most other people will have no idea.

Also, I am struck by the irony that you submitted this as an anonymous Ask while asking how you can tell people this about yourself. That should kind of be a big clue to you that you already know that doesn't really work.
posted by Michele in California at 2:04 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


"At my level, it's solid".
Or:
"Think of it like pro-sports - the vast majority people who want to make it don't succeed. But for those few able to play at our level, it's a great career."
Ie, imply "elite" rather than "money", turn the focus to ability/success rather than income, so you can hopefully be confident while less likely to seem insecure. (Working against you here is that you probably are insecure - get over it if you can. :-) )

Note, the "our" instead of "my" can be used to imply "I assume you're similarly awesome at whatever you do" - i.e. you're talking to a peer instead competing, so they won't be on the defensive.
posted by anonymisc at 6:31 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


"It sounds crazy, but there's actually a lot of math and strategy that goes into it. Sure, you can lose money on any given day, but in the long run, if you keep making smart decisions, you'll come out on top."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:54 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I think the more important thing is to focus on what the money does for you, rather than focus on how much money you have or can earn.

It's like being an extremely good writer who's never finished a story or novel. What's the point of it? Or having an extremely high IQ but never bothering to apply yourself to any field of study, and instead spending your time arguing with people on the internet.

Money is a means to an end. No one truly respects how much money you have: but they will respect what you do with that money. Money is a great enabler not because of the material goods it can buy you, but because of the opportunities it opens up because you're not having to work all the time to support yourself. Go and climb mountains, learn to cook, take up photography. Find a charitable cause to support and champion. Make friends and build relationships. Build something that may outlast yourself.

If someone asks you if you can support yourself, the answer is to smile good naturedly and open your arms wide and say "Well I seem to be doing fine so far." Your life should be living proof enough. Of course if they ask you how much you earn, you can go ahead and tell them.
posted by xdvesper at 11:31 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


Regardless of how much you earn, telling people how much you earn is one of the greatest faux pas. No good is going to come of it. In your case, people will think you're either lying, or a braggart.

The only time I've done it was recently when a younger close friend in the same industry as me was going for a new job and asked me "What kind of money should I ask for?".
posted by Diag at 5:31 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I never tell people my hourly wage: in the US, that is considered taboo. It's fine to say, "I actually do very well at it." and leave it at that.

The world doesn't need to validate you - however appealing that is. And if people knew how much you made playing poker, they would not appreciate your hard work or Friday nights spent home studying. They would resent you for getting paid so much for what them would appear to be "playing".

To most people, it's a fucked up world where a poker player makes $600 an hour and a teacher makes, whatever shitty pay a teacher makes. So consider that if you want positive attention for your money, you might have better luck if you put that money to socially meaningful use.
posted by latkes at 8:44 AM on August 4


"I play cards instead of stocks, every bit as seriously. As an experienced and successful player, my returns are similar."

That will do the job of both telegraphing that you are affluent because of dedication and talent and serves an understated reproval of any stigma that might be attached to being a professional poker player.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:07 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


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