The Professionals: Life After Poker

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When I first started traveling to poker tournaments, I knew exactly zero people. I showed up to the first event I was covering at the Bicycle Casino in August 2006 with the name of a PR person for the WPT and a list of about 10 members of PocketFives that had let us know they were playing

I quickly met Amanda Leatherman, TheWacoKidd, trickybstrd, and a handful of other players, staff, and media members and was on my way to becoming a part of the traveling circus around poker events. Along the way, I made a lot of acquaintances and a couple of really good friends. My definition of a “really good friend” is pretty strict, so I feel blessed to have gained a few of those in my time on the poker circuit.

My job generally had me working solo for all events except the WSOP, so at any stop, I was always looking around to see who was there that I knew, especially in the small group of poker media that would be on roughly the same schedule as I was and with the same restrictions. Once a player busts the tournament, they can do whatever they feel like until they skip town, but those of us in the media were mostly start-to-finish for every day of the tournament.

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Not only do the long days limit your ability to schedule many meals or activities with others, they also leave you spending a lot of time sitting in a room with the same small group of people. While joking, laughing, and generally killing time is great, I am also the type of person who enjoys more in-depth conversations and debates, especially with people I disagree with on some things, but also respect and think are exceptionally intelligent.

My top two “real discussion” folks were B.J. Nemeth of the WPT and Owen Laukkanen (pictured) of PokerListings. For a long time, my schedule seemed to match up almost exactly with Owen’s and we hit every stop together for over a year straight, eating a lot of Subway and talking about topics like politics, religion, baseball, hockey, finance, comparing the U.S. and Canada, evaluating the best airlines to fly, and the perks of frequent flyer programs.

For me, poker was never a destination or a dream. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a professional poker player and even when I was earning most of my income playing, I didn’t consider myself a pro player. I still don’t, and don’t have any intention of changing.

The business opportunity to do some writing, project management, marketing, and consulting in the poker world just happened to fit perfectly with my degree, background, and interests, so as each new opportunity has came my way, I have greatly accepted and embraced it, but have always been working on other projects and career goals at the same time.

I know feel entrenched enough in the poker world and the businesses around it that I expect it to be part of my life forever, but I also fully expect to go through periods where poker diminishes significantly as a percent of my time, effort, and income.

In all of our hours talking, one of the most common themes discussed by Owen and me was what would we be doing after poker. For both of us, there was a strong feeling that what we were doing wouldn’t last, and if it did, there was no chance we would continue doing it for more than a few years. The travel is great but becomes taxing and the work is interesting but can become tedious at the same time. Many of the ventures and ideas I am currently working on started with a seed of thought or a discussion with Owen.

While I have branched out into different areas within the poker world, Owen went cold turkey and left poker altogether to pursue his dream of being a writer. He was always unanimously considered the best writer among us, and today, a major publishing house has released his first novel. My copy of “The Professionals” is on the way and I can’t wait to read it. When I am done, I will send yet another “Congratulations, I’m so proud of you” message to my friend and soon to be national best selling author Owen Laukkanen.

The release of Owen’s book sent me down memory lane, thinking back to all of the hours I have spent around some exceptionally talented people while I was covering poker tournaments. Owen’s talent as a writer deserved to be in a form that would reach more than the niche of poker, and as of today, it has.

As soon as my pre-ordered copy arrives, I am going to read it and then get back to working intensely on all the things I am trying to accomplish both inside and outside of poker.

Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at PokerRoadCourt@gmail.com.

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