There are 1 million different stories in the new world of online poker. Behind those anonymous (or sometimes not so anonymous) screen names are real people, with real stories.
The online poker world is currently littered with 23 year old recent college graduates, (or dropouts) who have chosen poker as their 'profession'. They are young, have cash in their pockets, and are living the poker lifestyle to the fullest.
So, what happens when you have kids, a mortgage, and have settled into your adult life…only to find out you actually have a knack for this online poker thing. You spend your days making good money staring into your computer screen at work, only to make more money by staring into your computer screen at home at night. The night gig becomes much more fun, and the thought of not having a schedule becomes very appealing.
But, the mortgage is still there, as are the school fees, food for four, etc, etc. Can you take the plunge, and actually risk leaving the security blanket of that 9 to 5 job?
Nick Grudzien did just that. The 29 year old father of two young children was plugging away for a boutique firm on Wall Street, trading equities for high profile clients. At night, Nick was discovering that he could beat bigger and bigger games, and that the online poker was producing better dividends than the stocks were. So, in his late 20's, Grudzien left his safe Wall Street cocoon, and took at shot at playing as a 'pro'.
Over the last 18 months, Nick has become one of the bigger players on the net. He has recently launched a line of instructional videos which are becoming very popular. We sat down with Nick to talk about the transition from the real world to the online world, and how soccer practice and ballet can come before the $33 Rebuy tourney.
PN: What firm did you work for on Wall Street, and tell me about the type of trading that you did.
Nick: I worked for a small but well respected bank call Allen and Company, dealt mainly with institutional clients and high net worth individuals. Traded US equities and my claim to fame would be that I likely traded more shares of MSFT stock for Bill Gates than anyone else has.
PN: Did the stock market experience help you when you began to play poker? How? Do you still draw on those experiences to this day, and what is the single most important lesson being a trader taught you as it relates to poker?
Nick: Mainly money management and discipline. Emotional control is definitely important for both professions.
PN: What has changed the most about the online game since you started playing it? How has the make up of the average player changed?
Nick: The biggest change has got to be the tremendous growth. The number of higher limit games and the overall amount of money involved has reached lofty levels and seems to continue to climb. Good news for all of us. It is very hard to characterize the average player, but there is no doubt that there are many more "professionals" or people who do this for a living.
PN: How many hours a week do you play?
Nick: Between 30 and 50.
PN: How do you balance Family and Poker? Would you encourage your kids to play?
Nick: Working at home allows me to be flexible and I am able to log a number of hours at night. Most days I play a bit but I often also have time to take the kids too and from camps and schools, eat lunch with them and do other "stay at home dad" types of fun things.
PN: If you are coming to play the main event, did you ever consider coming out to play in the side games?
Nick: I will be playing in the main event, courtesy of Interpoker. I plan on sampling the side games – I'm sure there will be plenty of action!
PN: Why are you moving back to California? What part of California did you grow up in?
Nick: I grew up in Palo Alto, about 30 minutes south of san Francisco, near Stanford university. We still have family there and with young kids traveling and saying goodbye after short visits just became too hard.
PN: Tell me about the videos. How you got the idea to start selling them? What type of player can these help the most?
Nick: Stoxpoker has screen capture videos of me playing 4 tables of different types of games, so far we have made about 15 of them and plan to continue to release 1-2 per week going forward. The best feedback we've gotten on the videos so far is the commentary, Playing 4 tables for 35-45 minutes you easily see over 200 hands and some interesting situations develop which I get to analyze out loud in realtime for the audience.
PN: Any regrets about leaving a 'real job' to play professionally?
Nick: There are always regrets – I worked with people I really enjoyed and had a safe career path. Now I get to make my own hours, live where I want and reap the entire benefits of my work. Lots of life is comprised of tradeoffs and we're very happy with ours so far!
PN: What is the best part of being a 'pro'? What's the worst part?
Nick: The best part of being a pro is the flexibility, it is also the worst! Having empty hours in a day can be a blessing one day and a curse the next. Luckily for me, it is almost always a blessing.