Back in high school I had a different dream than most kids. My dream was simple, I NEVER wanted to be put into the spot where I HAD to work a job I HATED. I had a great teacher and friend, Ms. Anne Bott, who would always ask me, “how?” I can’t think of a more perfect question to ask a young motivated person. It reminds me of the saying, “Some people work to live, and some people live to work”. I wanted to be in the crowd living to work. She was asking me how I was going to do it.
Now I was in search of a career I loved, that payed well enough to allow me to retire at a young age. I was 16 and already dreaming and planning my retirement! Having a job with a boss almost made me nervous, and I HATED that feeling, so that eliminated most standard options for a job. The idea of working for yourself making your own hours seemed very appealing, so I chose to explore that route. Not only that, I strongly believed that if I worked really hard, that by the time I was 30 I could be retired and doing things all on my own. I knew it was possible, I just had to find my niche.
Then I saw the World Series of Poker on ESPN. You would see people putting up as little as $40 and turning it in to millions. This is when I first realized, that you didn’t have to be a professional athlete to play a game for a living. This was especially good news for me, since I loved games. I enjoyed playing checkers, chess, computer games, and all the latest console games. My passion and drive from competitive sports would transfer over into the games that I played and I had the mentality that “winners win”.
That’s the key: finding a way to win. Winning can be anything. It could be doing well on a test, getting into the college of your dreams, landing a scholarship to pay for school, winning a sports game, or even making the team. For me though, winning went back to finding a way to work for myself and retire at a young age. Just like Ms. Bott used to ask me, you need to ask yourself how. How can I win? I saw poker immediately as a possible career that fit all of my criteria I was looking for.
I started to play in any poker game I could find. Week after week I lost my $10 buyin and I would go home and reflect on my different decisions from the game. How did I get beat? How did I play? How did so and so manage to win again? How come I didn’t do this, or that? How can I get better?
It got very frustrating in the beginning and I knew it wasn’t just because I was unlucky. I had been outplayed and outsmarted by the older tougher competition. This didn’t slow me down though. I began using all the resources I could find to get better. I constantly was googling terms such as, “poker strategy”, “poker advice”, “free poker discussion”. I would go to the local bookstore and spend hours reading through all the different poker books until finding exactly the right one to buy. It didn’t take long before I was the best player in any game I was in, and boy did that feel good.
Poker became my high school job. I bought a nice set of clay poker chips and an even nicer poker table to run the games on. I did my best to get poker games together as much as I could and most of the money I made in the beginning went into reinvesting back into my poker business. I bought more books, better cards for the games, and the rest of the money I saved for my poker bankroll. Eventually my friends no longer would play in games with me and I was forced to move online where the stakes were higher and the competition was a little more tough. I went on to do well online, and when I finally turned 21 I went out to the World Series of Poker where I’ve also had good success.
Poker has been very good to me. It’s allowed me to travel to Las Vegas more times than I can count, the Bahamas 3 times, London, Boston, Mexico twice, Toronto 4 times, Niagra Falls twice, California 5 times, New York twice, Lake Tahoe, Hawaii. I’ve bought my past 3 cars cash (BMW 325i, 05′ Infinity G35, and an 08′ Acura MDX), I’ve got to swim with dolphins, sky dive, buy a $5,000 watch (only to lose it in Las Vegas), drink Crystal and eat $1,000+ dinners. I also spent a year in Breckenridge snowboarding, a year in downtown Denver and 2 years down in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
With almost anything in life though, poker also has it’s downs. I’ve had 2 losing years since I first started playing poker back in 2002, both of which I lost over $100,000. Luckily, I was smart with my money and I saved and invested it as best as I knew how to get me through the tough times. When I lost, it would push me harder to find a way to win.
My next step is to brand myself as a poker player to land future sponsorship deals. The first question you should be asking is, “How?!” I’m going to use the powers of social media to take me to the next level in poker. I started my own website www.KevinPhwap.com, I have my own youtube channel talking about poker, and even have a fun passion project called www.KeepBraggin.com that I started with my friends from Widefield. Now I know everyone in the world can’t be poker players, that’s why you need to find something you love and go out and do some winning.
If you are interested in starting your own business, at a young age, some good ideas I can think of include starting your own clothing company, inventing something, selling something, writing a book, or making a website that creates revenue. The first real idea I had was starting a fence company. I knew that building fences was something I could do, and I thought it would make a perfect summer job. Something simple like that can be enough to get you going. Just think of what you love to do, and ask yourself, “HOW can I make a living do this?”
I still keep a part of a present Ms. Bott gave me after I graduated. It’s a small rock that says “Believe”. It reminds me to always have a plan and things will work out.
I think we need to spice up the nba dunk contest and start adding some props that make it really interesting.