An interview with professional poker player, Xavier Fok
Being a professional poker player is certainly an unorthodox career path. But this is exactly what Xavier Fok, 25, does for a living.
I caught up with Xavier recently and asked him some questions on his unusual job as a professional poker player
Xavier, what made you start playing poker?
I played a few other games before, like mahjong Forex trading but I did not understand it well and poker was pretty popular and everyone was talking about it. I also found an online site that was providing poker education and decided to give it a try.
How old were you when you started playing for fun? Playing professionally?
When I came out from the army at 20 years old, I played poker for fun. About one to two years ago in 2012, I turned professional.
Why did you take up this unconventional career path?
I spent a lot of time meeting people from different walks of life, namely accountants, insurance agents, sales people from MLM companies, poker players, business people and others in marketing, bank and finance jobs.
I then realized the job that actually had the best lifestyle and income and work environment was that of a poker player. I did not believe this at first and it took a few overseas trips to talk to the relevant people before I was convinced this was the job for me. My friend who was exploring poker together with me in 2010 started making some money and began paying for some of his expenses, and the poker players I met overseas were living a pretty cool lifestyle. My immediate thought was that they were either getting the money from their parents, or drugs or poker. After a while, I was convinced that the money and lifestyle was from poker.
What is it like playing poker professionally? What are the hours and work commitments like for you?
It’s a lot of emotional ups and downs. We lose and win hundreds of dollars daily at my level – sometimes up to thousands daily. It can be sometimes a challenge to deal with these losses as we question our own abilities and playing mindset. It’s also easy to get overconfident and lose focus on your play.
Our hours are really flexible. It takes only five minutes to set up the computer and maybe two minutes to stop our work. We generally work between 100-150 hours a month, but there’s no set time. We can work maybe one hour a day or 10 hours a day.
Describe a typical day in the office for you?
I wake up, look for food, play some poker for maybe an hour and then find something else to do. Maybe I’ll meet a potential business partner, or a friend for lunch or dinner. Sometimes I watch an educational video, or sometimes just entertainment videos for fun. Once every one to two weeks I will try to get some exercise like swimming and then at night I open up the poker tables and play again for maybe two hours. Sometimes we have lockdown days, which means we basically stay in the room and play for like six to eight hours straight like a normal job.
Is this a profitable career path for you?
I made more money running education businesses and doing sales but they don’t offer the same kind of freedom that poker does. I can buy a plane ticket to anywhere in the world with no plan of return and have my income stay the same. I work an average of four hours a day at my own time.
But poker can also be 24 hours and may operate on weekends too. Professional players typically make between US30-100 per hour and sometimes even higher. Usually they don’t lose money at the end of each month, so someone with an average income of say 5k per month would have the following results: January + 10k, February -1k, March +5k, April +3k, May +8k. If you are asking about the money we lose within the month, we usually lose up to a few thousand.
Personally for me this number is up to about US2,000+ but for my friends playing higher stakes it has been up to US10,000, but they usually win it back, though.
I’ve heard about the fancy lifestyles of players. What type of lifestyle do you lead?
My lifestyle is unlike what you see on TV. I did live that lifestyle before, but I don’t really like it. I prefer staying at home and going out with friends and family.
I am currently trying to meet more people who have a similar lifestyle to me, who have flexible timings, are mobile and usually run some kind of a business or who’s self employed. We regularly have discussions (face-to-face and also online) on the future of our careers, other businesses and investments.
What type of resistance, if any, do you face from family members and relatives, about your chosen career path?
Loved ones are usually not open to the idea of playing poker professionally. They are taught from young that gambling is bad. But I do my best to ensure that my closest loved ones have some sort of understanding of what I am doing.
For example since 22 years old, I have stopped taking an allowance from my family, started paying for some bills (electricity, phone and internet) and sometimes bring my family out for lunch and dinner. These actions help my family to see that what I am doing is improving our lives and that I actually have a stable income. I also cover myself with heavy insurance policies and plan for the future such as investments and real estate. These actions show to my loved ones that what I am doing is right.
How do you become a professional poker player?
In June 2009, I came across this poker site, which was giving some free money and education. Here’s my referral link.
I then explored some of the strategies with our friends and started making $100 per month. It was not quite good enough but that was good motivation for us to continue learning. We met people who were in the field and learnt from them and started pushing the income up to $500-1000 per month.
With this new spending power we hired qualified coaches and paid for software, analytic programmes and poker table management softwares to take our game to the next level. I intend to continue to improve by hiring coaches playing profitably at higher stakes than me.
Poker is actually a test of character. The reason why I love poker so much is that it really tests your character in so many ways, through emotional and financial setbacks. I think that poker players who succeed are those with?
a) A great learning attitude
b) A learning humility, knowing when they are wrong and where to seek the right answers
c) Above average intelligence
d) A willingness to adapt and learn new things – even though these may be something uncomfortable
e) An open mindset.
Any poker tips that you could perhaps share with the readers?
Sign up at the site I provided and browse through the materials and learn from the community and ask questions. I think this is the best way to move forward. There is no one tip that’s important and even if I give it to you now, it’s going to take time to internalize and learn it. You need people to help you, and that’s the purpose of the community. I would never have made it if not for encouragement from the community and friends.
*Photos on this page reproduced with permission from Xavier Fok
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