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In a couple of years we plan to spend at least a year traveling the United States playing poker. That goal is still more than 2 years away, but the planning has definitely begun. Constructing a lifestyle based on poker travel requires significant preparation. Creating the plan and communicating our discoveries is one reason that we started this blog.
We should define what we mean by long-term poker travel. We are hoping to play poker several times per week while maintaining financial viability and travelling around the country. For poker players who have reached a comfortable retirement or are independently wealthy, the financial implications may be minor. For the rest of us, such a plan requires a delicate balance between freedom and flexibility and working to maintain economic stability. Our intended nationwide trip is still at least 3 years out. Yet sometimes it feels like we don’t have sufficient prep time.
There are four critical areas to address if you want to forge a successful poker travel lifestyle.
1. Improve at Poker
Even if you’re a solid recreational poker player, it can be a challenge to break even. The impact of rake and tipping in small stakes cash and tournament games is substantial. On top of that, it seems like every year the average poker player gets better. A decade ago, there were very few good, solid players in low stakes games. Today at any given table, half the players may be pretty good.
Show me 10 low stakes players who claim they are lifetime profitable, and I’ll show you 9.7 liars.
For the vast majority of players, poker is an avocation not a career. We accept that, like any hobby, playing poker will cost us some money. However, being a good player, vs. bad, can determine whether poker is a sustainable or unsustainable hobby. We can justify spending $100-$200 a month on our entertainment, but we can’t absorb $800-$1,000 of monthly poker losses. That means our poker win rate has to be high enough to sustain losses that fit within our budget. If we manage to break even, or make a profit, all the better.
Therefore, if you are planning long-term poker travel, you must build your skills. These days there are as many ways to build poker skills as there are learning styles:
- Reading about strategy/technique. We read voraciously. Whenever a poker strategy book is published, we read it, absorbing any new information, and discuss how (or if) we will use it to enhance our games. If you are looking for yourself, we talk about our current favorite poker strategy books elsewhere.
- Watching training videos or live poker games. If you’re not a reader, or just want to supplement your reading, there is a wide variety of visual poker content, from Daniel Negreanu’s MasterClass, to PokerGo, to free videos on Youtube and Twitch.
- Sign up for an online poker training site. Advanced Poker Training is a fabulous site for quickly improving your poker game. We signed up two years ago and it rapidly became our favorite way to train. It even spurred us to go work for them.
- Hire a poker coach. If you have a little extra money and want that personal touch, you can go out and hire a personal coach. While we have not yet sought out personal training, we are considering it in the next couple of years. Many who do pay for coaching feel that it is well worth the cost.
2. Create Lifestyle Flexibility
You can certainly play plenty of poker working mostly 9 to 5 on weekdays. Most card rooms heat up on weekends and even some weeknights. But committing to a poker travel lifestyle is made significantly easier if you have flexibility in your life and work schedules. Fortunately, we have jobs that are portable and can mostly be done within flexible hours. We’re continuing to examine ways we can increase that flexibility further. Having diverse revenue streams further enhances our flexibility.
There are an increasing number of digital nomads out there who have managed to find remote work. There are plenty of traditional jobs that can now be conducted remotely. If you are looking to hit the road for your own poker pilgrimage, you may be able to speak to your current employer to see whether you can do your job outside an office environment. Alternately, the gig economy is thriving. There are thousands of contract jobs these days that are completely location independent. Finally, there are jobs that have been created with travelers (specifically RVers) in mind. A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV, by Alyssa Padgett is a great resource for those who are thinking about living and working on the road.
Another aspect of flexibility is evaluating your personal responsibilities. Currently we have two kids in high school, and aren’t free to take off for a year. We are planning to start our big poker pilgrimage after they start college. We will return to New England when they are out of school over the holidays and at least the first summer. We’re a blended family so our children stay with our exes during part of their holidays. If we find ourselves in a place that would interest the kids, maybe they’ll join us. We know that even when they’re in school, we’re always just a plane trip away if an emergency arose.
3. Plan the Details for Long-Term Poker Travel
First you need to decide where your poker trip is going to take you. We have compiled a map of all the US card rooms that have 10 or more tables. This will help us figure out possible routes for our year-long trip. In addition to playing poker, we also want to explore the country. There are parts of the US that don’t have many (or any) card rooms that we will still want to visit. Our route will take that tourist wish list into account.
Next we need to consider where we will stay and how we will travel from place to place. Initially we figured we’d hop in our gas efficient Mazda3 and use our hotel booking skills along with sites like Airbnb and VRBO. We also thought we might be able to throw a little house-sitting in the mix to reduce our overall costs. Then Heather mentioned thinking about a motorhome and the Rv debate ensued. While I was originally strongly against RVing, a look at the potential savings of an RV lifestyle has definitely shifted my opinion. Much work still needs to be done to figure this out, but it is nice to know that we have a range of options.
Once we bang out the where and how, we’ll be able to address “how much”. How much do we need to earn or have saved in order to finance this journey? Consequently, how much will we need to work while traveling?
- 6 Travel Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
- How Much Can You Save When You Cross Country by RV?
- The Anatomy of a Poker Room Review
4. Money: Earning, Saving, and Budgeting
Nothing would be worse than spending all of this time envisioning and planning our trip only to realize, when the time comes to launch, that we can’t afford a poker travel lifestyle. Poker and fiscal responsibility are often not synonymous. However, in order for us to pull off an enjoyable poker pilgrimage, they need to be. If you are similarly interested in long-term poker travel, you probably want to enter that lifestyle with: 1) substantial savings; 2) a dependable means of income; and 3) as little debt as possible. You do not want to find yourself in Florida wondering whether you can afford to make it to New Orleans.
One key to making sure that you are fiscally prepared for your big trip is monitoring current outlay. Each month, we set a budget for spending. At the end of the month we evaluate whether we have kept within or exceeded that budget. It’s impossible to save for the future, if current spending exceeds post-tax income. Next, we have set some goals for how much money we want set aside for the trip. We want to build savings to help with living expenses, support our primary avocation (poker), and allow for tourist expenses. We’re also assiduously paying off current debt and making sure we do not accrue any additional debt. We really want to minimize the bills we have to pay when on the road. Fortunately, we have done some calculations and determined that travelling full time may actually be less expensive than staying at home.
Income generation for many people is tied to their current employment. In our case, our main employment income varies month-to-month and year-to-year depending on available work. In either case, having supplementary income streams helps. These are often referred to as side hustles. Side hustles may include traditional part-time jobs, but can take many other forms. Side hustles that allow you to work remotely at your convenience are ideal. Here’s how we started side hustling and what we have found to be our favorite micro-hustles.We are still astonished by how much work is involved in planning for long-term travelClick To Tweet
As you can see, all of our keys for long-term poker travel are inter-related. How you decide to travel frames the budget requirements for your trip. How much you save ahead of time dictates how much you need to earn while traveling. Greater work flexibility and economic freedom open up more possibilities for sightseeing and poker playing. Playing poker well lowers the overall trip cost, and lowers your earning needs.
All long-term travel planning requires an organic analysis of the trip’s impact on your life and an identification of how your life needs to adapt for a successful journey. While our trip’s primary purpose is to play poker all across the country, yours may be to visit every national park, or play golf in all 50 states. The specific avocation prep may change, but the employment, financial, and travel planning remains the same.
Although we were not completely naive when we began, we are still astonished by how much work is involved in planning for long-term travel. If done well, it will all be worth it.
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