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A Poker Life: Kane Kalas

Kalas Chooses Poker Over Many Other Options


Kane KalasFor some, a career in poker was the best option after the economic recession of 2008, resulting in limited employment opportunities for many young workers. Kane Kalas, however, never suffered from that problem, thanks to a diverse upbringing. For Kalas, poker was just the logical choice among many opportunities.

Kalas could have easily pursued his passion for classical singing or perhaps followed in his father’s footsteps as a sportscaster, but instead, the 25-year-old has spent the better part of the last five years grinding online and, more recently, making a name for himself in the live tournament arena.

An Incredible Voice

Kalas was raised in Media, a town just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was there that he developed his love for watching sports, while his father, the legendary Harry Kalas, called games for the Philadelphia Phillies and narrated features on Inside the NFL.

After hearing Kane speak, it becomes obvious that he inherited his father’s smooth, baritone voice, which was discovered early on while he was in middle school.

“They had a mandatory musical, which everyone had to participate in,” he recalled. “I figured, if I had to be part of it, I might as well be good at it. I went and got some lessons and I guess my vocal coach saw something in me and encouraged me to stick with it. My voice changed at a very early age, which allowed me to sing classically in middle school, which was pretty unique and turned a lot of heads.”

Kalas attended high school in Wilmington, Delaware, where he switched to opera. Unable to decide between a career in broadcasting or music, he chose to attend the University of Miami, which has excellent programs in both. It was there, in Coral Gables, Florida, where he discovered a new passion.

Poker Beginnings

It makes sense that Kalas would be so open to exploring a game like poker, given his early introduction to gambling as a child.

“I was exposed to gambling through my father,” Kalas said. “My dad would go to the dog track and bet on the chalk dog, which was the favorite. He was just a recreational gambler, but I was always very interested in the process. I didn’t get very excited about the thrill of winning or losing. For me, I was fascinated by the thought of finding a way to beat the game consistently and for profit, to the point where it was really no longer gambling in the traditional sense.”

During his freshman year in college, Kalas found the perfect game to satisfy that fascination. After observing a friend winning at poker online, he jumped right into a career in cards and began playing full-time.

“A friend of mine had actually dropped out of high school to play poker. I was very curious about the whole thing and asked him to teach me how to play. In a very short period of time, I learned from him, watched a bunch of training videos, and began game selecting to build my bankroll. In just a few months, I was a pro.”

Of course, playing online poker for a living requires at least 40 to 50 hours per week, and that just wasn’t possible with his demanding college courses. Kalas initially switched from the music program to theatre arts, keeping his dual major going with broadcasting, but eventually, he decided to take a hiatus from school. In order to play online poker, he moved to Costa Rica and has since also spent time in Malta.

“As long as poker continues to go well, I have to stick with that. Because of Black Friday, I can’t play poker in Miami, so every semester I send a check to the university to keep my credits active, which allows me to go back and finish my last three semesters whenever I want.”

Willing To Adapt

Poker isn’t an easy game for most people to master, but Kalas has always had a workman-like attitude towards his chosen profession that has kept him on top. Although he started his career playing cash games, he’s had to switch his focus and find ways to adapt when the games dried up and the money went elsewhere.

“The online environment is not nearly as good, but it’s been manageable,” he admits. “Pre-Black Friday, I played almost exclusively heads-up no-limit hold’em and was very careful with whom I played. It was very lucrative and very easy to do. Post-Black Friday, it became much tougher to make a living that way. But I’m a professional and I worked on my game every year becoming better.”

He also doesn’t have any desire let his ego get in the way of profit.

“If you are the second best player in the world and you only play against the best player in the world, then you are going to lose. It really depends on what your goals are. Are you trying to be the best or are you trying to make money? I’ve always thought of poker as a job. How much is my hourly rate? Can I make more money elsewhere? Those are the factors that I think about when deciding what to play.”

Despite the ups and downs of life as a grinder, Kalas believes he took the safest path to a secure financial future.

“This may sound ironic, but one of the reasons I went into poker was because there is a lot less risk involved. With poker, I am more certain that my income will be a direct result of how much effort and work I put into it. In poker, if I don’t succeed, then I really only have myself to blame. But if I wanted to be a professional opera singer, then all of the hard work and dedication might not yield any real positive results. I would essentially be at the mercy of luck and variance. There are a lot of talented individuals who never make it.”

Finding Live Tournament Success

In order to continue pulling in consistent income, Kalas has begun traveling the live tournament circuit more heavily. In 2013, he made a deep run in the WSOP Millionaire Maker event, finishing in 31st place for $32,882. This year, he made a final table at the Borgata Poker Open, cashing for another $37,792.

Then this summer, he went deep in the WSOP main event, busting in 115th place for $52,141. He followed that up in September with the largest score of his career, banking $500,364 for finishing runner-up at the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open main event. Kalas now has nearly $700,000 in live tournament earnings.

“It’s only been a little over a year since I really started playing live tournaments, so to get such a great result this early on is a nice surprise, variance being what it is. I was very happy with how I played at Borgata and had an awesome experience.”

His last two tournament scores earned him considerable publicity. He was featured on ESPN’s broadcast of the featured table during the WSOP main event and his WPT final table appearance will air on FSN in the near future. However, Kalas doesn’t play live tournaments for the attention.

“The buy-ins are higher live,” he explained. “If I go play online, the biggest tournament with amateurs in it is the Sunday Million, with a $200 buy-in. For live poker, however, you might find a $5-$10 cash game, which is the highest game in that city. So, in order to play live poker for bigger stakes, you kind of have to play tournaments. There’s more money to be made with live tournaments, especially since that’s where the amateurs are playing.”

Moving Forward

His game has never been better, nor has it yielded such positive results, but Kalas recognizes that he won’t be playing poker forever, at least not for a living. He says he will eventually return to school to finish his degree and likes to keep his pipes sharp with the occasional singing gig.

In fact, Kalas gets invited every couple of seasons to sing the national anthem and Take Me Out To The Ballgame at Citizens Bank Park where the Phillies currently play. (Feel free to check Kalas out on YouTube).

If singing doesn’t work out, he’d be happy to follow in his father’s footsteps with a career in broadcasting. For now, however, he’s spending his days in New Jersey, playing online poker between traveling to various live tournament destinations.

“I love baseball, just because I grew up with it, but I’m open to anything really,” he said. “Obviously, poker would make a lot of sense, but there are not a lot of positions in that field. I also have experience in the anchor position for a political program, so that’s a possibility as well. But until something presents itself in the broadcast arena, I’m very happy to continue working for myself.” ♠