May 11, 2022

Want to be a poker player? A few questions to ask

This is something many consider, especially when things are going well at the poker tables. “Hey, I could quit my job tomorrow and start playing poker for a living!” It might sound like a great idea – giving up all the responsibilities of a 9am-5pm, 40-hour week, the drudgery of going to the office or the store every day. But is it really a good idea to do this? Are you mentally capable of playing poker for a living?

There are three things you might want to think about before you even take the plunge into becoming a “professional poker player“. Some people don’t handle these things well, and to be honest, if you’re going to be a poker player for a living, they’re critical to your success. Those three things are risk aversion, discipline, and money management – ​​you need to ask yourself some tough questions in all three areas because not everyone is equipped to be a “poker player”.

1) Am I willing to put THAT much money on the line?

In poker, and especially in cash games, it’s imperative that you have the bankroll to endure long runs where you just break even, at best. We’re not talking about paying your bills, your mortgage, your groceries, your medical bills, we’re just talking about the money you have that you can afford to “not have” if you lose. My usual rule for gambling is that you must have 100 times the normal bets you are playing. If you’re playing $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em with a maximum buy-in of $200, then in a perfect world you’d like to have $20,000 on hand.

Yes, that’s not realistic – I said in a “perfect world”. But if you have to play five or six days a week, you have to be able to take short-term losses. If you only go into your “profession” with a couple thousand dollars and lose it all in a week, then you’re going to be back to your “office job” before you know it. So a more realistic idea might be 25-50 times ($5,000-$10,000) a $200 buy-in.

2) Am I ready to devote the time to it?

To be a successful professional poker player, you don’t play once a week and get stoned the rest of the time. The best study the game for hours a day – not by PLAYING poker, but by studying the game. They run simulations, study certain situations, master different variations of poker (Short Deck, Omaha, etc.) and examine their game precedent to look for possible holes in their action. THEN they head to the poker room or casino and spend six to twelve hours at the tables, which is your daily wage.

If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time just working on your game, you’re not going to cut it as a “professional”.

3) Do I have the emotional makeup to play poker for a living?

To be brutally honest, a lot of people would jump out of the stratosphere if they lost a down payment on a three-bedroom home. This can happen in a single session playing certain stakes (you should check out The Lodge shows to see this in action) and can also be part of a long string of losing sessions. Those who are pros will jump right back into the game the next day, convinced that it was just a “one-off” situation, that their game (thanks to their study) was strong, and that they were just the victim of variance.

Most people can’t handle these kinds of situations. If losing money is something you hate, being a professional poker player – or a sports bettor, for that matter – isn’t going to be very pleasant for you. Even the best poker players don’t always win – there are times when they take a serious hit to their bank – and they turn around and get back in the ring the next day.

If you ask yourself these questions – and are honest with yourself about the answers – then you should be able to decide if you can live the life of a true professional poker player. If you decide you can’t, there’s nothing wrong with being a great recreational player earning pocket money. There is nothing wrong with either course in the poker world.