Alex Fitzgerald started his professional card career at age 18, while living in the University District.

The Alaska-born, Bothell-raised poker pro has since won more than $2 million playing online and hundreds of thousands of dollars at live poker tables. Today fans watch Fitzgerald’s training videos at ­ pocketfives.com or read his musings at pokerheadrush.com, where he writes about everything from his constant globe­trotting (he’s visited about 40 countries) to the hand he was dealt last night. We caught up with the 24-year-old pro, who’s now living in Costa Rica.

How did you get involved in poker? I’ve been playing cards for money since I was 15. I’d start games in the back of my classes or in the cafeteria. I’d make $20 or $30 then spend it all on comics and CDs…. I quit my last real job—as a security guard at the old Safeco building in the U District—on October 31, 2006…. I have been a professional poker player ever since then.

What convinced you to play poker full time? There was never really a question in my mind about what I was. If I played long enough I always made money at poker…. The month before I quit my security job, I made $1,200 working 40 hours a week. I made $7,000-plus that same month playing poker at nights. So I knew if I took it seriously as my only job that I could really flourish.

Have you ever considered giving up poker? I’d be playing for tens of thousands of dollars one minute and then the next minute eating a cup of noodles on some street in some city I didn’t know, wondering how I lost it. That never really worried me like it should have. My family was rich when I was a young child and on food stamps when I grew up, so I always felt money came and went.

Has your relationship with finances changed since then? The money element of poker is strange. If you never save or spend the money you make, in reality you’ve never made a cent, you’ve just played a tournament with yourself using all the money you have in the world…. My girlfriend, and soon-to-be wife, has helped teach me about investing in my family and my future, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get involved with charity projects over the years. Playing for some other purpose gives meaning to the financial rewards and motivates me to be a much more cutthroat player. 

What’s your advice to would-be poker pros? Do not quit your job until you have six months of expenses saved in an outside account for emergencies. To the younger kids, go to college, and grow up there. I grew up on the poker tour, which was much harsher and lonelier than learning about life with my friends in a university…. Study on your own, away from the game. A bad habit can stick with you and cost you money for your whole life. Watch training videos, read books, and watch the great players play. Poker is no different than any other endeavor of controllable risk. Hard work and study beget success. Mindless gambling delivers ruin.