By senior year, Dylan had given up the “prop player” gig and was simply playing poker for his own account, picking the pockets of the “dumb” players at the low-stakes tables or testing his skill against the best players in tournaments. On his best night, he made $5,000.
“I was always doing the go-for-broke strategy,” he says. “The adrenaline rush of playing for thousands of dollars was crazy.”
It also turned out to be pretty good training for day trading. When a company called AMR Capital Trading posted an opening on the university’s jobs Web site, Dylan applied. In the first interview, Hunter Beall, the partner in charge of the West Palm Beach office, explained that Dylan would get no paycheck until he had racked up enough profit to pay back the $25,000 stake the firm would provide him. That process of “making your bank” typically takes a year or more. More than half of the recruits never make it.
“In a 30-minute conversation, I can pick out pretty well who will be able to deal with the frustration and have the focus and passion to work 60 hours a week for a long time and get no money,” Beall says. In part because of his poker-playing background, the tall kid from Washington with the wild hair and beard seemed to Beall like a natural.
A move into day trading
So what’s it like telling your parents that you’ve decided to be a day trader?
“They hated it,” recalls Chris, 28, a Tulane University grad and one of Dylan’s AMR colleagues with whom he shares an apartment several blocks from the office. (At the company’s insistence, we have withheld the last names of the other traders for competitive reasons.) “I remember vividly walking into my father’s office. Dad had printed out a sheet from the Tulane Web site that said what finance majors in my region were earning. Maybe it was $40,000, $50,000. He said that was what I should be making, not taking a job that pays nothing.”
It was much the same for Dylan when he broke the news to his mother. Pam said it sounded a bit shady to her.
“She called a buddy of hers at Morgan Stanley,” Dylan says. “I was on the phone with him for more than an hour trying to convince him to convince her it was a good idea.” Pam has since come around to the idea, if for no other reason than her son might otherwise have become a professional poker player.