What’s It Really Like To Be A Pro Poker Player?

Katrina Jett, Jesse Sylvia and Jason Somerville
Katrina Jett, Jesse Sylvia and Jason Somerville

By nature, professional poker players are tight-lipped. However, recently Katrina Jett, Jesse Sylvia and Jason Somerville agreed to reveal what life is really like as a professional. This conversation happened at the 15th International Gambling & Risk Taking Conference at Caesars Palace. The three professionals all have very different backgrounds, but bonded over a lifestyle that few people will ever know.

Jett lives in Las Vegas and has been to the WSOP final table four times, however when she’s not working on her skills, she’s working in her garden. She’s married to another pro star, Chip Jett, and it’s clear that Vegas is her home. Sylvia recently won $5.3 million at Martha’s Vineyard, and Somerville gained attention for being the first poker player who’s openly gay.

The Beginning

Jett comes from a family of poker players, although she’s the first professional. It’s allowed her to travel the world, but she and her husband have kept poker out of their children’s lives. Instead, the big focus is on education. Jett has been on the circuit since 1977.

On the other hand, Sylvia has only been pro for five years and started playing to put himself through college. He shares Jett’s love of travel. Somerville began playing when he was 16 with friends, then moved onto online casinos. By the time he was 17, he’d won $100,000.

The Transition

Jett has moved into real estate, too, and considers it a kind of gambling, and Sylvia is following suit. The thrill of the risk is the same, and playing with numbers is what realtors do. However, Somerville is looking for something else to balance out his life. He likes making videos and short stories, but he’s constantly on the lookout for the next fun thing to catch his eye. After playing games for a living for 10 years, he feels it’s time to expand.

Jett reports struggling to keep up with changes, such as the no-limit poker that wasn’t around when she started. She cites a lot of research to keep her game fresh. However, Sylvia says poker isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. Without obsession, Sylvia says even the best will fail. Somerville agrees that studying is a must to play well, and review sessions are a requirement.

The Game-Life Balance

Unlike Jett, Somerville made a conscious decision to live in New York where casinos aren’t readily available. He steers clear of poker players and enjoys spending time with old friends. However, he does indulge in online gaming at times. Sylvia simply accepts that poker is part of who he is, sometimes for the good and bad.

However, Jett is adamant that poker is a part of her, but doesn’t define her. She’s focused on her family, but admits it’s a daily struggle to strike that balance.