Luke Kim’s path to playing poker professionally follows an atypical yet familiar storyline of successful players. He graduated from Wharton, followed by a mergers and acquisition consulting position living in Maryland - Luke started playing in Atlantic City, then resigned from his consulting firm in March 2004. He lived in Atlantic City for the rest of 2004, then packed his Porsche 911 and headed to Las Vegas, where he resides today.
CC: Tell us about how you started playing poker.
Luke: I did not know the rules of Texas hold’em until the airing of the World Poker Tour in early 2003. After watching the first episode, I researched the game on the Internet and bought Sklansky’s Hold’em for Advanced Players.
CC: Take us through how you came to the decision to leave your consulting position and move to Atlantic City.
Luke: Once I was committed to poker as a recreational activity, I would play a couple of hours after I returned home from work each night. On the weekends, I would make trips to AC. The thought of playing full-time did not occur to me until I was soundly beating the $20-$40 game at the Trump Taj Mahal. Once I made some rough estimates of my poker income, I made the decision easily. The decision to play full-time and to move to Atlantic City were one and the same.
CC: What were your greatest learning’s during your time living in Atlantic City?
Luke: I learned how hard it is to live as a poker player. I especially liked the idea that to become a successful professional poker player, one has to do more than play poker well. In other words, he has to avoid destructive habits in drugs, girls, and gambling.
CC: What was your motivation to move to Las Vegas?
Luke: My friend, Ashok Surapaneni, had decided to play poker full-time. I was anxious to move to Los Angeles or Las Vegas soon, so his decision spurred the relocation.
CC: Tell us about your record keeping in poker and in your life.
Luke: I have kept records of my sleep, eating habits, expenditures, income, books I have read, and movies that I have seen. Extending this obsession to poker was easy for me, although it is difficult for many players. The search for truth is all too important in my life, and record-keeping assists that endeavor in poker.
CC: What percentage do you play live vs. online?
Luke: This breakdown varies from 0-100 to 100-0. Lately, I am playing no live poker.
CC: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
Luke: Yes, although a typical wake-up time does not exist. I get up, play an online session of 1.5 to 3 hours. I take a break from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Repeat as needed.
CC: What have been your greatest learning’s during your time in Las Vegas?
Luke: Admittedly, Las Vegas has not been as instructive as Atlantic City in my poker profession. I have been more slack-prone in Vegas, so I would say that it is important to keep pouring in the hours.CC: You don’t seem to play tourneys often. If so, why not?
Luke: You are not the first person to make this observation. I first learned poker as a cash-game limit hold’em specialist, and I have not deviated much from this area. I have not had overall success in tournaments, and that fact discourages me from investing more time and money into this area. However, I realize how important tournaments are if I ever wanted to make it big. To that end, I will play the occasional tournament online and work on this facet of my game.
CC: Where have you seen the greatest improvements to your game?
Luke: My biggest improvements are seen in my hand-reading in short-handed play. However, my full-game play has suffered due to neglect.
CC: It sounds very glamorous to actually play poker professionally. What does it really mean to you?
Luke: I feel that it actually is glamorous, especially compared to my more normal previous occupation. I have more risk, but I have many more rewards, including unsurpassed freedom of life.
CC: What does the future hold for you?
Luke: When I first started playing full-time, I did not envision that I would play for more than five years. However, I like the game and profession too much so it is a virtual certainty that I will be a poker player far beyond this initial outlook.
CC: Are there any criteria that someone should use before playing poker for a living?
Luke: 1) Beat the game. 2) Have discipline. Poker is a mathematical game, so these two criteria simply represent the reward and risk components of it as a profession.