Can I Make it as a Professional Poker Player?
I have played poker professionally off and on (currently on) since 2002. So you could be mistaken for thinking that I of all people would be quick to say that the answer to the question in the title would be a resounding yes! Many people swamp into poker in the belief that they can turn pro and many do.
The facts are damning! Only around 10% of all players make money from poker for a combination of reasons. In fact the real lifetime statistic could be chronically shorter than that. If you think you can buck these sorts of stats easily then you are seriously deluded….sorry if that’s harsh!
See also: Oasis Poker Classic
All of the players that I know personally who play poker full time did so under certain conditions. My path was easy simply because at the time I turned pro (2002), I had no job and no dependants. I also had some savings behind me too and very low personal expenses. I was in the perfect place to turn pro. If you have a good job, a family, mortgage and all the rest of it and you wanted to pack in your career to turn “poker pro” then I would advise you to see a doctor immediately.
So what are the Obstacles?
This article isn’t big enough to do credit to the subject but if you are searching for a condensed “fly-by” of what to do and what not to do in order to give yourself a chance then I will try my very best to get you to first base very quickly (forget romantic notions of hitting the home run). There are FIVE big things to avoid if you want to turn pro quickly.
- Don’t play poker tournaments
- Don’t play too high too soon
- Don’t begin by being unprepared
- Don’t play poker under-funded
- Don’t pack in your day job
I could think of a lot more but these five are vital. I see budding “poker pros” all the time who can’t wait to “turn pro” and then jump straight into the brutally luck orientated world of tournaments. For every “tournament pro” there are a hundred cash game pros. The adage is “tournaments for show, cash games for dough”. Remember that and remember it well.
If you don’t have a record of beating a particular type of poker game then you need to be very careful. The term “horses for courses” is relevant here. Beating your friends in your home game will not prepare you for an online game at the $100 levels. Beating the players at your local casino will not cut it at the online $200 levels and so on. All poker games are different.
Where do you want to play poker?
Where you play poker has a big impact on how well you do. On a level by level basis, live games are much weaker than online games. I play a lot of live poker and making £100 to £200 per session is relatively easy (assuming you have the necessary skill and experience). Just because it is easy for me doesn’t mean that it will be easy for everybody else.
So I would advise cash games above tournaments and live games above online. Sure you can play more tables online and play more hands per hour but the edges are much thinner and are often non-existent. If you have the option to play live cash games (many people don’t due to geographical location) then I advise you to pursue this option.
I am fortunate being in Sheffield that I have ample cash game action in my own city as well as in nearby cities like Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Bradford. The following point is important and any long term poker Professional will tell you the same thing because we have all seen countless wannabe pros…..if you have to ask the question of how to become a poker pro then you are almost certainly not ready to be one.
The world is full of poker players that jumped in too soon too hard and too fast only to discover how brutal the poker world is. Don’t be lured by the hype because the poker economy feeds off its players and it needs fresh blood to keep it alive. I would advise anyone to spend an intensive six month period of education to better their game and their mindset. A strong mindset is fundamental to success because of the losses that you will incur (which hurt many times more when your living depends on it).
If you take no more advice from this article than what I am about to say next then the read will have been worth it... DON’T PACK UP YOUR JOB! I apologise for that being IN BOLD but I really had to overstate the point. The wisest and smartest thing to do is to hedge your bets by playing part-time for at least six months. Then and only then should you even consider turning professional!
See also: Oasis Poker (Three hands)
The Big Caveat
Even if (and it’s a big if), you had a successful trial period of six months, there are still countless problems ahead. Firstly, Professional full time poker carries with it no paid leave, no pension, no sick pay, no insurance, no guaranteed earnings and no long term job security.
Are you really sure that you want to buy into this life? If your goal is to turn pro because you really like the thought of being one then you are already starting out on the wrong foot. You clearly have an ego and a romantic notion in your head of imagining boasting to people about what it is that you do.
Sorry to disillusion you but even if you succeed in becoming a pro, the majority of people will still see you as a “gambler” who will finally get his comeuppance. They will view your “career” as not being a career at all and do you know what, apart from a very small percentage of poker players, they are right!
If you really want to quantum leap your chances of making it, get yourself tagged up with an industry pro with many years’ experience of knowing exactly what is entailed and then you have a great chance of pulling it off and changing your life.