Would you like to make a living out of your passion for playing poker? The panorama is filled with big names like Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and the now retired Doyle Brunson. Admired for their sharp skills and mental abilities, these famous professional poker players have garnered the respect of many in the field and amassed large quantities of money. The exciting case of Chris Moneymaker, who earned a seat at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event after getting involved in the world of online poker, has become the dream of many gamblers wanting to become pros. Moneymaker won that year’s tournament and turned into an immediate superstar, earning $2.5 million.
Although all these stories of success are very alluring, the reality is that for every fortunate poker star that earns a living playing, there are thousands of others that don’t achieve this goal. There is also a hidden scenario that we don’t get to see and that includes countless hours of practice, determination, intellect, skills, and some luck. If you are seriously considering becoming a professional player, we have composed this guide to prepare you for the reality that you will encounter. These tips are based on our own experiences as players that made a living out of poker and are meant to help you out on your journey.
Why Would You Like to Become a Poker Professional?
One of the most important things you need to know is that it requires a mix of commitment, effort, and passion to become a pro. Hard work and tenacity are two essential keys to success. Without them, it will be impossible to make it in today’s extremely competitive climate, where things shift easily and challenges can surface everywhere.
If you are truly considering this as a career path, you have to focus on the fact that it is not going to be easy and that it is going to take a lot of daily personal dedication. Although making a lot of money while playing poker can seem very appealing, it will not come to you without struggle.
Are You Actually Prepared?
A steady positive performance is a crucial element to consider when trying to take the leap of becoming a pro. You have to be fully honest with yourself about the quality of your game and the results you are getting at the tables. Playing poker for fun greatly differs from playing for a living, and you have to be able to treat it as a job, even if it is one that you have been lucky enough to carve out of a thrilling hobby.
You need to have favorable results that validate your choice since motivation can’t be a standalone factor. A good idea can be to start gambling as a side hustle and start building your plans up from there.
Have You Set Proper Expectations?
Defining from the beginning what you hope to achieve within your poker career can be beneficial in the long term. Things like the exhilaration of the game, the chance to travel around the world, and the opportunity to make a lot of money gambling are very tempting, but if you want poker to be your long-term career, you have to set realistic expectations and be prepared for possible setbacks.
Dedication and Work Ethic
Being a poker player is not always seen as a respectful profession and, sometimes, it can lead to a lot of criticism from the general public. The moral aspect of the game might have a thing or two to do with this, since profiting from the loss of weaker players can be perceived as an inconsiderate act.
People are not always aware of the hard work and dexterity that is involved in the task of becoming an elite player and often diminish the importance of this. Much has changed since the initial days of online gambling, when making money was easier and it required less time and effort. Nowadays, work ethic is an indispensable attribute in order to make a living and be able to reap the rewards.
Highs and lows are part of every job and it is not different in poker. The intense commitment and the pressure of the game can wear a person out, so it is important to take care of your mental health so as not to burn out by the stressful rhythm. Try to never compare yourself with other players and their success, and don’t measure your self-worth by the quality of your game. Your productivity can be affected and decrease if you get overwhelmed by comparison and the occasionally toxic environment of the poker world. Family and friends, time to relax, leisure and travel, and a healthy lifestyle are some of the positive things that can bring balance to your life as a professional player.
We recommend reading The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler and Barry Carter, a book that serves as a great tool for every poker player, both amateur and professional. It explains the big role that our emotions, our habits, and our mental states play in handling the fears and motivations present in every game.
Master the Rules
Rules are the single most important aspect of poker, and having a clear understanding of them is key to mastering the game. There are many variants of poker, such as the famous Texas Hold’em and the more innovative Badugi and Razz. While Texas Hold’em is probably the preferred one among players in the world, it is also the most accessible one and, therefore, the one that pulls in more competitors.
A good rule of thumb is to start practicing at online poker sites, becoming proficient in the different variants of the game, and learning how to profit from the right level according to your abilities in order not to lose money. The more unusual alternatives of poker tend to have less good players at the table, so it is a great arena to hone your skills and become a pro.
Practice Is Key
The very best advice that you can follow is to practice, practice, and practice. Building your skills over time and strengthening them with experience, trial and error, and hours of training will give you the necessary proficiency in the game. When playing online, it will be easier to put in hours and to try pursuing lower stakes until you become more confident and start seeing a constant rate of gains.
After improving your aptitudes, you can simultaneously play at two or three tables and increase the number as you get better. Upping your volume and risking bigger wagers are ways of taking a chance and earning big if done well.
Go for Winning Hands
If you go pro, it is of great importance to thoughtfully select your hands and try to turn the odds in your favor. Choosing the right hand is a great way of achieving your goals and there are different strategies you can implement depending on the poker variant that you are playing. In Texas Hold’em, for example, an assertive attitude with premium hands can take you far when you are in position, always making sure to keep an eye on your opponents.
You can also use technology to your advantage, since there are online poker sites that allow you to use a heads-up display (HUD) like Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker 4 to track data. You can follow your rival’s pre-flop raise percentage and the money they deposit in the pot. Another excellent tool to have is a push fold chart that will allow you to see the profitable hands and moves depending on your position and your stack size.
The Art of Bluffing
Bluffing is part of the fun of playing poker. Trying to trick your adversaries into thinking you have the best hand is crucial when trying to become a professional player. Also, mastering your poker face and taking advantage of every situation will give you a reputation at the table that might intimidate weaker gamblers and help bring bigger profits home.
Stealing the blinds and being more bold pre-flop are also good strategies to learn, as well as fostering the value of three-bets and big continuation bets when you have missed. Remember to use the aforementioned HUD or take notes in order to learn about the vulnerable points of your adversaries and their predisposition to bluffs.
Being on Guard Is Essential
When your goal is to become a professional poker player, you have to be ready to withstand long hours at a computer or at a table, training sessions every day of the week, lengthy trips, and big live tournaments. Occasionally, playing most of the day for a few days might become part of your routine. All of these stimuli require a strong physical and mental health that can handle the stressful routine of the job, and clean eating and regular exercise are a helping hand to stay calm and bright during a game.
After an unavoidable defeat, having a clear and sound mind will be a great asset to bounce back into your work and be able to handle the losses, something fundamental for a poker pro.
Handling Your Bankroll
Properly managing the amount of money that you have set to play a game is imperative for a good professional in the field. You have to find the perfect balance between maintaining a reserve and spending part of your budget in order to put up with the buy-ins. Making sure that you always have provisions to pull through a losing streak is also something to keep in mind.
There are many tips and tools for making good use of your bankroll. Online satellites, for example, provide a beneficial value for tournament players and are a great way of gaining an entry at a small cost. When playing cash games, having an adequate supply of money for rebuys is important in case you go bust.
As with any other job, taxes are a mandatory task, so keeping this in mind will save you a potential scare. Because of this, it is fundamental to keep your records up to date.
Choosing the Best Games
Once you find the poker variants that best suit your abilities and performance, you will probably notice an increase in your profits. The output of each player is different and, as a result, finding the most fitting variation for you is essential. One of the most popular choices is Texas Hold’em, which is broadly accessible online and in brick-and-mortar sites.
Depending on your temperament, you might want to pick something quick, like cash games, or play in big tournaments. The latter is only recommended for more seasoned players, although cash games also require a large bankroll and the same amount of preparation.
The assured prize pools of tournaments are an enticing aspect of the big games, but if you like the tournament strategy and disfavor the length, you can concentrate on becoming a Sit and Go (SNG) expert. However, big events appeal to almost every player, and finding out how to reach the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and gamble in Las Vegas is the goal of most of them.
The Importance of Consistency
Having a steadfast performance is a step in the right direction when turning into a professional gambler. To set goals and achieve them can be a way of tracking your work and growth. Big amounts of time have to be invested if you want to accomplish significant victories.
When playing tournaments, try to always look at the return on investment (ROI), that is, the percentage of your earnings minus the tourney buy-ins. As a means to calculate your return on investment, you can use the following formula: winnings minus buy-ins / buy-ins multiplied by 100. If you have won $350,000 over a year and have spent $7,000 on buy-ins, your ROI percentage would be 0.49 or 49.00%.
If you are a cash game gambler, then find a proper win rate. For instance, if you have a win rate of 10bb/100, then you are getting the worth of 10 big blind for each 100 hands that have been dealt. Any amount above 10bb/100 will invariably be a good aim.
There is tracking software such as Holdem Manager and SharkScope to help you with keeping a record of your results, gains, and losses.
Responsibility in the Game
Gambling involves a certain risk that can only be managed by a healthy mindset and demeanor. Avoiding bankruptcy and addiction are the two main concerns to pay attention to, especially when on a losing streak.
There are certain professional poker players that start gambling in different arenas, like other casino games and sport betting. If you plan on doing this, keeping different bankrolls is essential to having a responsible expenditure.
Another tip is to get other players to participate in your games by covering part of the entry fee, both tournaments and cash games. You can do this through a forum and it doesn’t involve risking any money, but you could earn some of the prize just by pitching for a tournament buy-in.
Learn to Control Your Emotions
Your mind is the main key when playing poker. You need a watchful and energized mindset and to remember to not hit the tables when on tilt. A reckless state of mind can make you lose big quantities of money, so it is of major significance that you take care of yourself and not jeopardize your gaming.
The odds are something you can’t control. It is good to keep a relaxed attitude whether you are being lucky or unfortunate. Don’t let frustration get to you and keep in mind that you will be successful as long as you keep playing with reason and consideration.
Know When the Time Comes to Quit
Achieving a win at the World Series of Poker championship is something every player dreams of but, realistically, it is not an easy journey. A lot of players end up quitting the game because they end up going into bankruptcy, not having been able to get an edge over their rivals. If you find yourself in such a position, be smart and quit.
It is better to leave early than to squander all the earnings you have been saving, and you can always play online poker and other local live tournaments around you. Most of the top-rated sites have freerolls during the week, and this can serve as a great way to earn some side income as well as a way to trust your instincts again and gain back your confidence.
Start Practicing at Lower Stakes
Getting experience through practice is crucial before deciding to become a full-time poker professional. Starting at lower stakes is the best idea to start building up your skills and moves and feel fully comfortable at the table. Not risking a lot of money will grant you the serenity to focus on becoming a better player without having to worry about losing your bankroll.
Learning the dynamics of the game and getting ready for bigger tables and players while practicing at lower stakes will allow you to improve and, eventually, start moving up the stakes towards the highest levels.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Poker Professional
Before stepping into the daunting world of becoming a professional poker player, we want to share with you how life really is in this field. You have read some of our advice to you and are probably aware of the certain roughness of the journey. Effort and time are the two main elements that you have to employ in order to reach a stable and prosperous career.
Good fortune plays a big role when playing poker, but your deftness and expertise are even more decisive. It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of this, although most people don’t realize this and tend to focus only on the admirably luxurious lifestyle that some famous players lead. Playing for fun and playing professionally are very distinct things, the latter requiring a lot of time spent at the tables, so try to always keep this in mind.
Below is a list of pros and cons of being a professional poker player:
- Freedom: You will have the flexibility to build your own schedule while working on something you are truly passionate about. The ability to create your own work-life balance is priceless.
- Competition: Competing against other players is really exciting. By playing with others, you will also learn and grow as a poker professional.
- Travels: If you reach a high tier, you will be sponsored to travel and not have to pay your own expenses. You will be able to experience new cities while working and get to enjoy the world around you.
- Money: There is a big potential in poker and you get to keep all your earnings. You can carve out a great living while playing, and the better you get, the more recognition you will achieve.
- Mental exhaustion: Although poker can be really fun, it can also deplete all of your mental energy, since it requires lots of focus and training. Variance is a very important concept to remember, since it will probably reach you at some point in your gaming career.
- Tiredness: In order to succeed, you need to invest huge quantities of time studying and practicing your skills at the table. This can be a very taxing exercise that, if you are not prepared, can make you weary. You could also end up on a long losing streak that could exhaust your motivation.
- Social stigma: Poker is often perceived as just gambling to people who are not very familiar with this world. This brings on a lot of stigma and friends and family might not instantly accept your career path, because they might not consider it a serious or a real job. You need to have patience in order to battle all the social stigma that comes along with being a professional poker player.
Keep all these bullet points in mind before deciding whether or not you are ready to become a poker pro and if it is the right career path for you.
There are so many options to juggle when choosing this career path that are not strictly related to the game but are still part of the process and you need to be ready to maximize your decision making process to deal with them. Choosing where to settle or choosing the way you handle your bankroll. For example, some users like holding part of their money in Bitcoin because of the easy online transfers and the value of a universal currency, and this has been an increasing tendency among players during the past few years.
There are also poker players that want to use their skills to earn some extra money with other types of gambling like sport betting, where the betters get back around 3-5% per game. Online gaming is also an alluring option because one can access a plethora of games from the comfort of their home and even hone their skills by practicing. MintDice offers the BitRocket Bitcoin crash game, Castle Royale, and Pyramid (coming soon), and they all have the same strategic appeal that poker has.
You will be able to successfully navigate the poker world with a good work ethic and by taking your personal situation, motivation, and lifestyle into account. Remember to choose the right variant of poker that adheres to your skills and taste, the right tactics and stakes, and the right mindful balance to be able to cope with this intense profession. Sometimes, it will seem an impossible aspiration, but with determination and enthusiasm all will be possible and you will go through the ups and downs and come out a stronger poker player. Even by playing lower stakes, you can end up earning a modest salary that can serve you well enough to make poker your sole career.
To have a winning combination and become pro you have to learn and invest the time, since you will only achieve this goal if you put all your might in it. The main issues you have to familiarize yourself with if you want to become a professional poker player are the following:
- Study the game: Learn the rules of your favorite specialization, practice your skills against your opponents, read books about the matter that talk about other professionals’ experiences, take courses, and never stop honing your skills.
- Build up a bankroll: When you practice at the lower stakes, you can amass money to start building up your bankroll in order to move to higher stakes.
- Slowly go for higher stakes: The ideal ending is to find yourself in a place that fits your skills and pays well, and you can do this by starting with lower stakes and climbing your way up.
- Enjoy the cash games: Once you are at a good level, you can play cash games and tournaments to have a source of income and grow as a professional poker player. Just find your niche and become an expert there, everything else will follow.
The average money made by a professional poker player is around $10,000 to $1,000,000 a year. However, there are some pros that make up to $10,000,000 a year. For example, a pro playing a $5 or $10 NLHE can make about $250,000 a year, and the ones who play a $2 or $5 NLHE can earn more than $100 per hour.
As with everything, it is not easy but can be achieved with determination and hard work. A winning record, big bankroll, and the right mindset are some of the things that will get you there.
Becoming a successful poker player might take years and depends on everyone’s path and skills. Daniel Negreanu, one of the biggest poker players in the world, started playing at 16 and would play 8 hours a day. He confesses that it has taken him years to get where he is now career-wise, and humbly admits that every day he learns a bit more about the game and keeps growing as a professional.
Lisa works as a content writer and specializes in delivering top tier i-gaming content which is why her articles and blog posts are always very engaging and informative. Well spoken, and does her research very well in an industry where transparency, honesty and constant follow up is a rarity.