Melbourne tech wizard, Ricky Glaser, explains how a vague interest in online poker became a fascination and eventually, a full-time gig that would take him around the world.
As told to Nat Kassel. Photos by Curtis Hay.
How it all started
I was 18. I finished high school and went straight into uni for film and TV, just because I really liked editing and post-production. Around that time, I learned that online poker was a thing. I deposited $50 and I was playing $2 stake cash games. I’d buy in with $2 and maybe play a hand and bet with 10 cents. But what’s cool about poker, is that no matter what stakes you play, the strategy is the same. So it was good that I could learn everything about playing by just playing for $2.
I was playing $2 stakes and learning a lot online, reading forums, reading poker books. Around that time I hurt my knee skating and had to have surgery with five screws in the top of my tibia. I was on crutches for three months and during this downtime from skating, I focused a lot more energy into poker. Then I started doing all right. I was winning at the $2 stakes and I had enough money to move up to the $5 stakes. It sounds stupid, but there’s a difference between the players of the $2 stakes and $5 stakes. They’re getting better and better. Basically, I just kept doing that and working hard and reading and learning more until I started playing $25 stakes, $50 stakes and sometimes $100 stakes. You have to be a good player, but then at the same time, you have to be good at managing risk and never risking too much, and understanding the variance of the games that you’re playing. Because you could be a great player, but if you risk too much then you’re just going to lose all your money, so it doesn’t matter how well you played.
The necessary skills
There’s some basic level mathematics that you need to understand at the start, like game theory, but once you get your head around that, it’s not like you need to be a super genius at maths to be good at poker. It’s a lot more critical thinking and problem solving and using logic. But you have to able to do it in the moment, and be very observant and use a little bit of pattern recognition as well. You’re predicting peoples’ behaviour and extrapolating how certain types of people do certain types of things. It’s like in skating, if you saw someone pushing mongo, you know what kind of skater they are. I’m a good player and my friends are good players and other people like us are good players. If we just only ever played each other, we wouldn’t make much money because we’re all of similar skill. The money comes from the random people playing for entertainment that don’t know much about strategy.
I finished uni and I was like, Let’s take a shot at this. That was the end of 2012, so the start of 2013 was my first full-time shot at poker. I had all these goals of what stakes I wanted to play and how much I needed to make to justify playing. I worked super hard that year and went really well. I smashed all of my goals. That year I didn’t really even skate or do anything else, I just played. From then on, I was like, this is great. I can play from anywhere in the world. I can do whatever I want, work whenever I want and have total freedom over my own life.
A lavish lifestyle
I went to this poker festival in The Bahamas and met up with some friends that I’d met online through poker. They were like, “You should come to England after this,” and I was like, “Oh yeah, why not?” Six of them were living in a house in England and they were all poker players. I was like, Fuck, this is sick. All my experience of poker at the time was on the computer, so to talk to people about poker and hands and stuff in real life was a really good environment for me to be in for my poker progression. So that was cool. I became close with a few of them, and we ended up travelling around Europe a little bit. Then we went and lived in Thailand for a few months, and then we ended up living in Mexico for nine months. That was sick. We had this penthouse villa right on the beach. We’d all play and hang out in Mexico and do cool stuff.
Finding a balance
At the end of 2015, the other guys went to live back in England, but I couldn’t stay in Europe for too much longer because of visa stuff. I came back to Australia. What I missed most about Australia was skating, for sure. My life’s been pretty interesting, but when all the poker stuff was happening, I was thinking, Maybe my days of trying to be a good skater are behind me and I’m more just going to be skating for fun. But then it was cool to come back and be like, You know what, fuck that, I’m here. I was like a grom again. All I wanted to do was get better at skating and film shit and have fun. I was reignited. I was still sponsored by Folklore but hadn’t really been doing much and didn’t have any other sponsors. But after that period of honing my passion with skating again, I got a bunch of new sponsors and was starting to get better than I was before, doing new tricks and filming heaps. The time away from skating was kind of good because I figured out who I was. When I was younger, I was always a bit confused about who I wanted to be. I got the pro board only recently, in December. Folklore were kind of like, “Damn, Ricky’s been on a mission.” So they thought it was the right time to do it.
“I wouldn’t advise people to gamble”
I definitely wouldn’t advise people to gamble. If you want to do it for fun with your spare money, for sure, but I wouldn’t tell people to try to be a professional poker player. It’s like anything in life really, you have to put in the practice hours, learn the fundamentals, then learn the higher skills and tie it all together. You have to put in the work if you want to get good at it. But what I do like about poker is that it teaches you things about life. The most important thing in poker is you have to view yourself objectively. If you’re too optimistic or delusional, you will get destroyed. You have to be honest with yourself about how good you are and understand exactly where you’re sitting. If you don’t, you’re going to lose lots of money. That’s a really humbling thing.
Ricky gambles a nollie hippie jump and comes up trumps.