This week’s episode of Emergent Podcast features Software Engineer Jason Paff. Jason followed an unconventional career path, going from professional poker player to software developer. In this episode he talks about how he got into poker and how it ultimately led to his current role at Emergent. Plus, he ends with some advice for those looking to get started in software engineering.

Becoming a poker pro

Jason tells us that he first got interested in online poker in the early 2000s. Although he was losing money for years, he eventually got quite good at the game. In 2015, while working at Party City, he realized that he had made more in three months of playing poker than he would make all year at the store. So he decided to go full-time.  

While Jason played some live tournaments, he mostly focused on online poker, which is very math heavy and requires good tracking. However, maintaining his spreadsheets was getting very tedious and time-consuming, especially as he was playing 40-50 games per night and streaming on Twitch. He needed a better system.

Jason found that there were good tools on the market for tracking hand history, but not for tracking tournaments. Each existing tool had features that he liked, but no software had everything he needed.

So he decided to make his own. But first, he had to learn to code.

Building his first app

Jason’s open-source app is called “Tournament Life.” In order to make it everything he wanted in a tracking app, he spent two years coding all day and playing poker at night. Although it was a lot of work, it was worthwhile because of his passion for the project.

After 8 months, he had a good enough product that he started sharing it as an overlay on his Twitch stream so viewers could follow along with his games. One night a software engineer was watching the stream. He asked Jason some questions about the app and told him he should consider a career in development.

Launching a new career

At first, Jason didn’t have a lot of success applying for software engineering jobs, so he attended a six-month bootcamp to learn some more useful skills. Then he started the application process again.

Since he already had a lucrative poker career, he could afford to be picky about which companies he applied to. He wanted to work somewhere that would allow him to continue to learn and grow. Emergent Software impressed him with its staff development program and the fact that he would get to jump right into working on interesting projects.

Jon, the Emergent recruiter, was impressed with Jason’s work on Tournament Life. Jason also aced the coding challenge and technical interview (you can learn more about the skills-based hiring process he went through here). He got the job.

Tips for aspiring developers

Jason has now worked at Emergent Software for two years and he has some advice for those who aspire to become software engineers. He suggests you find an idea you’re passionate about and just build it. Learning from a passion project is the best way to gain coding skills while also having fun.


Interested in a career at Emergent Software? We’re hiring!