I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for rebels and nonconformists, which goes a long way in explaining my initial fascination with Carlos Welch. But it’s his dedication to study, simple living, and a deliberate pursuit of happiness that has made me a dedicated fan and admirer. For a blog that aspires to ideals of minimalism, deliberate practice and study, balance, and living a purposeful, happy life, I can’t think of a more fitting first interview than Carlos. Enjoy!
Poker Monk: For those readers who may not know who you are, please introduce yourself, talk a little about how you got into poker, and where you are now in your poker career?
Carlos Welch: I got into poker around 2003. I grew up kinda poor and was always looking for a way out of poverty. I tried all kinds of get rich quick schemes. None of which work obviously. One day, I was flipping through late night TV infomercials and saw poker on TV. I thought maybe this could be a way out until I heard that some dude named “Chris Moneymaker” made money by doing this. Obviously, this was just another badly written financial freedom fraud. Turns out, this one was actually real.
Afterwards, I dabbled with poker for a few years until 2012 when I decided to quit my job as a math teacher and pursue poker full time. Now I make my living as a poker writer. I call myself a professional poker student meaning that I both study and play the game everyday and then write about what I learn.
You live a very unique lifestyle and I’m very interested in learning how the practical aspects of your life work, living in a minivan and living off your various poker-related incomes. Can you describe a typical day in the life for Carlos Welch?
Most days I start by reviewing hands I played online a couple nights before. I may also do some studying or watch a video at TournamentPokerEdge.com. If I learn a lot about an aspect of my game, I’ll write about it for my readers. In the evenings, I grind online pretty much every day during the week. On the weekends, I play live tournaments in Las Vegas.
From listening to you on podcasts like Thinking Poker and The Mindset Advantage, you sound like one of the happiest poker players out there, yet you have foregone all the material trappings that most poker players seem to embrace and even covet (I’m thinking of all those horrible Cribs-style High Stakes Living videos that CardPlayer used to air). Do you think that living a simple, minimalist lifestyle contributes to your happiness or are you just naturally happy?
Most people don’t believe me when I say this, but I am an introvert. I am naturally happy when I am alone, which I often am. That said, my new minimalist lifestyle in the van only adds to that happiness because now I don’t have to go to work with other people in order to pay for a place to live. I find that the fewer things I have, the happier I am.
Is your plan to sacrifice now to be a baller in the future? Or are you legitimately content with your lifestyle and plan on continuing it? If so, do you think your current lifestyle is sustainable?
I will never be a baller because I look at money way different than most people. Every dollar I save by not buying a new car or a house, just means I can avoid getting a soul crushing job for that much longer. I don’t want to own more things, but I would like to do more things. More money would allow for that, but if it never comes, I will be content with not having to work a 9 to 5 primarily for a check. I know my lifestyle is sustainable because I already live in a van and eat beans from a can. What could possibly happen to mess this up?
Living such a non-conformist lifestyle, how do you deal with society’s pressure, as well as possibly pressure from your family and friends, to conform to social norms? Do you feel pressured to get a regular job and have a regular home?
As an introvert, I’m pretty immune to societal pressure. It’s hard to shame or ostracize someone who likes being by themselves any way. In America, normal means being in debt and hating Mondays. I feel no pressure to be normal.
You refer to yourself as a professional student. So study is obviously an important part of your approach to poker. Can you talk about how often and what types of materials you study?
I study pretty much every day. This mainly takes the form of hand history reviews, TPE videos, podcasts, articles, books, etc. Other sources that I really like are the Thinking Poker blog, Assassinato Coaching, and Red Chip Poker.
Do you do any type of off-felt practice, such as utilizing software like PokerSnowie or techniques you’ve developed yourself?
I use most of the well known pieces of poker software. I’ve done extensive work with PokerSnowie. I also come up with my own techniques, especially in terms understanding the math of poker. As a former math teacher, I can do calculations in my head pretty well. That skill comes in handy in poker.
How much study do you think most players in the limits you play are putting in?
Most people I play with don’t study at all. If they ever start, I’ll just look for games where people don’t study. I have no desire to play with competent players on a regular basis.
What portion, if any, of your study time is dedicated to the mental game? How important do you consider the mental game in comparison to the study of strategy?
I don’t study the mental game as much as I should. I’ve done a little, but I can always do more in this area. I think both mental and strategic study are important.
Do you actively work on your mental game with the things such as meditation, exercise, etc.?
I do not meditate or exercise specifically for poker.
In a recent CardPlayer article, Ed Miller mentioned that it’s very rare for a player to start from the lowest limits and work his way up to a professional level and play in the higher limits. He said most pros have some windfall from a tournament or from some outside source of income and use that to start a bankroll and play the higher limits right away. Do you agree and do you think it is realistic for players to think they can start at the bottom and work their way up to a professional level?
I do think that moving up is realistic. I also know that a professional level is any level where you derive most of your income. If people keep their expenses low like I advocate, they can be at a professional level without moving up.
You’ve chosen Twitch as your main outlet for interacting with the poker community. What is it about Twitch that appeals to you?
I like Twitch because there aren’t a ton of rules and I can do it by myself from anywhere in the world, like say the front seat of my van for example. It’s perfect for a minimalist, freedom loving introvert like myself.
Who are your biggest poker influences? Non-poker influences?
What are your long term goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My long term goal is to be happy and free. In 5 years, I see myself somewhere happy and free. Maybe even happily and freely doing another interview like this one. I’d like that.
Rapid Fire Questions
Favorite TV show?
Online or live?
Favorite place to play poker?
Favorite place to be when not playing?
Favorite poker book?
The Course by Ed Miller
Favorite non-poker book?
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
I can’t thank Carlos enough for taking the time to do this interview. If you’re not inspired by his dedication to both excellence in poker and leading a simple, happy life, you’re just not paying attention. I’d also like to give a special thank you to Andrew Brokos for connecting me with Carlos and making this interview possible.
Make sure to follow Carlos on Twitter and watch his Twitch stream. Carlos also has a great monthly column in the Two Plus Two Magazine, so be sure to check that out. Here’s some of the places you can currently find Carlos:
Tournament Poker Edge: http://www.tournamentpokeredge.com/author/carlos-welch/
Thinking Poker Podcast: http://www.thinkingpoker.net/tag/carlos-welch/
Heads Up Poker Podcast: http://headsuppokerpodcast.blogspot.com/search?q=carlos
Poker News: pokernews.com/editors/carlos-welch
Two Plus Two Magazine: http://www.twoplustwo.com/magazine/
Thanks for reading and remember to leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the interview. Also if you know someone you think would be a good fit for an interview on this blog I’d love to hear about it!