Simply put, the chief benefit of formalised higher education is that it forces you to learn stuff you didn't even know you didn't know, deeper than you ever thought you had to.
It's many years since I left university (studying electronics and software), and I while I still work in tech (who doesn't around here?!), I only used a fraction of what I learned there once I got to the real world. That's the chief argument of essayists like this one, and it's one I agree with.
However, I have many times been in situations where I've had to solve a problem that I would not have had the mental tools for, were it not for a deep distant memory of some obscure piece of maths I did (painfully, perhaps even reluctantly) in second year, or some recollection of a weird hack with CPU registers I learned in third year. True, these moments in my career have been fleeting, but they helped me in a way that OP could not have been helped.
I've since worked a lot as a technical trainer. For me, the difference between technical training (or vocational, or OP's self-inflicted syllabus) and education (college, university) is that the former gives you a great hands-on real-world grasp of the available tools and techniques and how to use them to solve problems. The latter gets you further into the "why", and makes you better suited to making your own tools and techniques. Those of you who have written your own operating systems and compilers - would you ever have done that had you _not_ been in university? And how much did you learn from it?
Does this post strike anyone as completely f'ing delusional? Perhaps applicable to the author, one of the greatest card sharks alive today, but seems silly to the vast majority.
However, I came to the conclusion that it was a good learning experience and that $80k a year was not worth having to sit in a room with a bunch of guys, hunched over a table, breathing in their germs, and listening to their half drunk rants. Great lessons to be learned from poker though, but you must be dedicated to average being profitable. If I go back and try now, I'm probably going to lose more often than not.
I love poker. I'm fairly good at it. I've even had a couple of nice 5-figure tourney payouts. But bank on my poker abilities to provide for me? For my family? Lunacy.
So play poker for two years and then (#9) start a business? No. Start a business TODAY.
Learn how to create a product/service that creates recurring monthly income. Doesn't matter if that income is $100/month or $10K/month — just that it is recurring, month after month. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Once you know how to create something that makes recurring income you will on a path to big growth. Maintain the products/services that are making the recurring revenue and start working on others.
I think there are great things you can learn from playing poker — the game is challenging, it helps you get to understand other people, tests your fortitude, and can be rewarding ... but it's not step #1 in a lifeplan.
How is that any easier or reliable?
Worse, let's say that you do this for two years. At the end of that two years what skills have you acquired? The ability to play poker. Basically that's it. There might be some tangential skills like reading people, staying calm under pressure, etc. — but, basically you have learned to play cards well.
If you spend that two years starting a business, trying out new product/service ideas, testing the markets, programming a website/service/app you are learning skills along the way that can help you down the road. Even if you completely fall on your face and every idea you have is a bust, you have some skills that will help you with your next business venture or (god forbid) getting a job. If you play poker for two years you have none of that.
If I had to choose between the two I'd pick the business route for the reasons you've listed. But relying on one or the other to work out and pay your bills is "crazy"
His poker argument actually started there, and I think this was the more important point. It's stuff like reading people, staying calm under pressure, evaluating probabilities, recognizing the important factors out of hundreds, and making good decisions that make poker valuable even if you don't make it into a career.
The point about making it into a career was, IMO, a distraction from the more important point about the life skills acquired from learning the game.
13rules' comment got me rather nostalgic about the kind of content and comments we used to see around here. And before anyone nitpicks, this account is only ~3 years old, but I had another for two years prior.
Anyway, I welcome comments like 13rules'.
In today's zero-interest-rate environment it is very difficult to generate risk-free income from capital alone.
Instinctively it would seem that "a million dollars" is cooler than "$10K/mo with little or no effort/time commitment" but if it lasts, long-term the latter is actually more valuable.
I've taught more than 20 people how to play Poker and you can usually tell within a couple days what their biggest weaknesses are going to be. Within two weeks, you can tell if they have the willpower to correct them. Most people do not; gambling can be pervasive in the mind.
However, most people will never become dedicated -- poker is an amazing lesson in cognitive biases. There are quite a few counter intuitive lessons of the game, that if left unaddressed, will severely hamper your winrate. I've also noticed a lot of people who develop incorrect 'pet theories' about the game that they refuse to either let go of or take any effort to empirically prove/disprove. The list goes on and on, but learning poker will do wonders for developing vital cognitive skills like outcome independence, patience and character judgement.
1. The author proposes to replace college by "a modern curriculum that, on average, will produce people better prepared for real life than college".
2. This curriculum "can be funded initially with $5000 for poker".
3. This is because after the first dedicated year of learning poker, "you'll be able to make between $45-60 per hour for the rest of your life".
4. If you follow this plan, your "chance of being self-sufficient and prepared for 'real life' is about 90%".
Let's boil this down even further: the author posits approximately 90% success rate -- for everyone -- for a scheme funded by generating an income of $45-60 per hour from a zero-sum game.
"Completely f'ing delusional" seems accurate to me.
"There's no guarantee, but I see people work pretty hard at school, and if that same effort were put towards the Hustler's MBA, I thnk the chance of being self-sufficient and prepared for "real life" is about 90%. I'd estimate that non-laywer/doctor college is somewhere around 50-70%. So, like anything, this plan is not totally foolproof, but I think it's a lot better and cheaper than the alternative."
I don't know what kind of experiences you've had with random college graduates and their level of preparation for real life, but I think he's being generous at 50-70%.
I'd certainly be more interested in talking to someone who had the initiative to follow his plan (poker, reading, starting a business, good health, etc.) for 4 years, versus someone who just graduated with a bachelor's in a randomly selected discipline and had no real life experience.
Also, I don't know if you've ever actually played poker seriously for a long period of time, but the reality is that if you're relatively intelligent, have self control, and are disciplined enough to constantly learn new things, you are truly a shark swimming with goldfish. The average person at a poker table in most casinos has no idea what they're doing. There is a reason that professional poker players exist. It is not purely a game of chance, although there is chance involved. Kind of like startups :)
As @nlavezzo pointed out, the reason why professional poker players can make their living off poker is because the average person has no idea how to play poker well, whereas the professional poker player excels at it.
The problem with your advice is that the more people follow it, the less money they can make from poker, because poker is a zero-sum game at best.
Now, I don't play poker at all, so maybe I'm wrong about poker and there's some way everyone can come ahead of the game. Or maybe I misread your post and you're not really recommending this curriculum as a replacement for college. But if I'm wrong, I'd rather you told me why ;)
However, it's not necessarily true that half of all current players are losing. Because bad players will quit, it is possible that a majority of current players are taking money from a rotating minority group of losing players. I don't think that's true, but it's possible.
I was pretty good with women beforehand, and certainly got better afterwards, but at a certain point during our training, my focus shifted from pickup to something more akin to 'reading, understanding and influencing people better'.
I think that's what pickup is really about: improving how you interact with people in general.
So yeah, some people will hate it for a number of reasons and that's ok. There are other ways to work on people skills. But pickup has a little additional incentive for you to work harder..
I could go on and on about this. But this Quora answer knocks it out of the park so I don't have to. Her analysis is spot on:
Poker, however, is not especially delusional. It is unlike other casino games in that you're not playing against the house, so the odds are not stacked against you. Obviously there is luck involved but if you play with discipline over a long enough period of time you can beat the fluctuations. Really, all you have to do is learn how the game works and play against people who don't understand it as well as you do. It also helps if they are drunk, tired and on vacation. It's not a rewarding job, but it's actually pretty doable.
Poker is a means to earn some money. Along the way, you pick up some analytical skills. If you're really good, you reach a point where you can inductively and deductively make decisions. Poker is also risky. It's also an emotional roller coaster. It's certainly not for everyone. The inductive skills you learn in poker will not necessarily translate to other walks of life and there are certainly better ways to beef up your reasoning skills than sitting at a poker table.
I suggest poker because it's something I have a fair bit of experience with and I'd repeat the entire process even if I was strictly break-even (I am profitable inline with my estimations in the post). In my experience, the lessons do translate to real life, and making money is nice, too.
One particularly relevant advantage of playing poker is that the money keeps it honest-- over the long term, you know exactly how well you've learned the logical skills. Business is like this, too, but not many other things are.
It's not for everyone, but neither are many classes required in school. Biology wasn't "for me", but I did it. The point of my proposed curriculum is to illustrate an alternative to school that someone could use as a base, not an absolute "you must do this" mandate.
Having a home to be in while you 'get up to speed in poker', having parents that understand and provide some sort of boundaries at 18 years old, assuming poker winnings will be the base 'bank' for all other ventures, and assuming that the networks you make at school are not very important are big red flags for me.
For some, going to college, despite the hand-wringing, is also a way to break cycles of poverty within a lineage, a sense of family pride, and an escape from their home circumstance.
It's a little disconcerting that the author is a little lost in their own privilege and that his Hustler's MBA curriculum is probably a product of previous generations who went to college.
I think the better message is: Don't expect college, however many years you spend, to GIVE you everything or ANSWER everything. You still have to live life, take chances, and exist outside of your comfort zone. College is a concrete foundation to that mission.
"In fact, apart from very specific cases, I think that school is a bad thing, not worth doing even if it was free."
Very wrong. You're not going to become a doctor, lawyer, nurse, accountant, etc. by playing poker and traveling. You're not going to get recruited by an employer because you claim to have read a lot of books.
What the author is actually saying, but incorrectly applies to everyone (startup bubble thinking, maybe?), is that for would-be startup founders, college may be obsolete. This is in no way, shape, or form, indicative of the value college provides to the rest of the population.
People have lots of motivations and reasons for attending college and many of them are completely valid, logically and economically.
To your point, you also aren't going to become a zookeeper or programmer by playing poker or travelling, but you also won't necessarily become one by going to college. You WILL become one if you make the effort to do so, it doesn't matter whether it's in college or elsewhere.
It is a great way to learn decision making with incomplete information though. There's sort of a class divide in the world between those who understand and apply the concept of expected value to every part of their life and those who don't.
I am of the opinion a number 18 year olds are very far from being emotionally mature and self possessed enough to get the most ouf of college. Such individuals would probably be well served by making a go at dealing with the world, which might well include some form of the OP's syllabus.
However, touting this as an alternative to higher education is IMO doling out plain bad advice. I'm not even going to touch the highly dubious claims made about poker as a source of reliable income (by an amateur with one year of experience).
I'd guess that its the 'hovering parent' syndrome which trys so hard to keep their kids 'safe' and 'competitive' that they don't let their kids develop into adults, but I don't know. It is definitely a factor though.
1-7. Do what I did.
8-10. Learn what I learned.
11. Listen to advice from random people on the Internet.
College is only overpriced if you make it overpriced (i.e. you major in underwater basket weaving).
My alma mater is one of the more expensive ones out there ... yet, between the connections I gained, classes I took, habits and ways of thinking it beat into me, and rep I acquired from the school ... it was worth every damn cent.
The states letting state universities set the price of tuition up to ludicrous level seems to be the main issue with debt. At a reasonable state college, a 4 year degree 20 years ago for tuition would have cost less than 2k/year (I think I have some receipts for $800-900 from 92 or 93 for a full semester, 13-18 credit hours at the time).
It is now about 2700/semester or 3x the price 20 years ago. Actually I guess 2700/semester is still not too bad, at full price for 4 years, that's a little over 20k.
While going to Stanford or somewhere and getting a CS degree might pay off, you don't actually have to go to freaking ivy league schools if you don't have the money or want the debt. If you are in the humanities or something where your future is probably a lower paying job, then a state school is probably the way to go. 20-30k in debt is still a bit painful, but that's a 4 year degree for the prices of a semester at some colleges.
Poker, btw, is a game of statistics, not chance. Since you can change your bet when the odds change, ie: betting more when the odds favor a bet, or folding when they do not. Craps, Roulette, and most other casino games are all games of chance, where the odds are not in your favor at any time. Craps can give you the best odds of a normal casino game, but every dollar you bet at craps is returning at best ~$.99 over the long run. I used to play craps until I read all the odds and now all I can see is the negative numbers everytime the dice rolls. Poker is pretty much the only casino game I enjoy playing, because skill can effect your outcome. However, I don't have the years or bankroll to be a professional at it, and haven't played in a few years now.
The idea that one has to go into debt to go to a top-level school is an outdated one. Every fancy school I got into was cheaper than the University of Texas after financial aid.
My impression is that if your family makes too much (ie: 80k or 100k/yr), you aren't getting anything but student loans.
A friend of mine went back to NYU a couple years ago to finish his degree while he was working, I think he still racked 50 or 100k in loans.
Obviously if you can go to a school with a lot of scholarships or grants, debt isn't an issue.
I also hate how people try and tell me poker is a skill. Yes to a degree it is, but it's more luck than anything once you understand the game, let's be real.
Seemed like a good blog post until he became delusional about poker.
Luck is only relevant if you're playing for the short run. Professionals generally make decisions that favor them in the long run against natural statistical deviations. That's why playing against a beginner is incredibly hard; they make poor choices that don't necessarily result in poor results. But put compare the results of that beginner vs a pro after 1000+ hands, and you'll see how much luck vs skill matters.
It's like when someone wants to trade stocks/derivatives. They may lose massive amounts of money before getting their sea-legs and that is a price that is far too high for most people (and their families) to endure without gaining anything tangible.
And I wouldn't think that "Professional Poker Player" is a title that would land a high paying job like a university degree might. If someone is spending all their time learning to be a pro poker player, it might back them into a corner where now that's all they're are capable of doing for the rest of their life whether they win or not.
Variable reward systems, like gambling, are damn hard addictions to break once conditioning has set in.
The overwhelming majority of poker hands are now played online, and the limits go as low as $0.01/$0.02 -- in today's poker landscape, the winning players tend to be those who initially invest a small amount of money and gradually climb the ladder with careful bankroll management.
The opportunity cost, on the other hand, can be very high. Many people waste a lot of time trying to become good at the game without experiencing any meaningful degree of success.
My brother used to live a fairly decadent life thanks to his poker winnings from a few years ago. However, that was at the peak of the world wide poker craze where everyone thought they could be millionares by playing Paradise Poker a few hours per day. But the times have changed in online poker and there aren't enough whales around that the poker sharks can exploit for profit anymore.
The only way to consistently make money playing poker is if the skill differential between you and your opponents is high enough and in your favor. The lower the difference, the more time it takes to make a profit, the lower your hourly wage gets.
On top of that, you can suffer fluctuations or "bad beats" as they call it. One week you may win 100k only to lose it the next week. It is a very stressful situation if poker is your work and you need to win. There is a definite risk of burning out.
85k isn't a lot when it takes 8-10h per day of really boring online poker playing.
Looking at another industry, take the extremely 'risky' business of a VC partner; if you look at one investment of his, you might say the odds dictate that his investment is more luck than anything, because he is investing $10,000 and has done so in a way which gives him a 10% chance to make $1 million. However, if you look at his track record of the 250 investments that he has put $10,000 into, you would see that for the $2.5 million he has invested, it has made him $25 million in return.
Is playing poker and investing in VC risky? Absolutely. Does it involve more luck than skill? In one iteration of the game, yes, but in 150 or 250 iterations? Not likely.
You need be able to separate the orthogonal components of EV and variance.
Over a large sample of hands, a professional poker player will wipe the floor with you.
There is a great deal of variance in poker, but that doesn't mean that one person can't be significantly better than another in the long run.
Not anymore, though, and not for the past few years.
That scared off a lot of the fish, plus, in mid-2007 (I think?) the biggest payment processor, Neteller, got busted by the US Attorney's Office (I hope I'm remembering all this correctly), which made it so that even the fish that were left around couldn't keep re-filling their accounts.
Also, there was a wealth of information about how to play by 2006-2007 and there were a lot more absolute numbers of good players which, with the decreasing supply of fish led to a much higher concentration of good players.
From early 2006 to early 2008, the game had changed so dramatically that it was guys who used to crush NL400 ($2/4 NLHE) couldn't beat NL100 (50c/$1 NLHE)
It certainly was possible (with a little bit of study) to make $85k/year playing online poker back then, but those days are long gone.
Also Tynan seems to be making the mistake of giving advice on how to be Tynan. This isn't really anything to do with "hustling" or an MBA (Is Tyan running a sucessful business? It appears not).
... and when the next tech bubble bursts, I look forward to picking up good CHEAP programmers without college degrees.
MWAH HA HA!