I heard a story about a promising young sax player who came to the attention of a patriarch in the local jazz scene. The patriarch ask the fellow if he'd like to come by the house and join in with a group of major players who got together to jam several times a month. The kid said flatly, "I only play for money."
When I was starting out, money was in short supply, so getting paid to play was a high priority. But whether I had regular work or was completely destitute, I took advantage of every opportunity to play and to learn, especially if it meant a chance to play with ‘A team’ musicians.
Playing with people who are markedly better than you is like playing on a very high quality instrument on your best day. Playing with good musicians makes you play better and it makes you a better player. And the better player you are, the more valuable you are. And it’s free!
There's also the incalculable value of making a connection with well-connected pros. If you impress them with your playing, you will be remembered, talked about, invited back, and likely recommended for gigs. That's exactly what happened to me: I showed up, word got around, and I was off and running.
Not every playing opportunity has something positive to offer, but when you're just starting out and someone you would normally pay to go see offers to spend time with you, the correct response is "When? Where?" not "What's it pay?"