It is something that many consider, especially when things are going well on the poker tables. “Hey, I could quit my job tomorrow and start playing poker for a living!” It might seem like a great idea – give up all the responsibilities of a 9-to-5, 40-hour week, the drudgery of going to an office or a store every day. But is it really a great idea to do this? Are you mentally able to play poker for a living?
There are three things that you might want to think about before you even take the step of becoming a “professional poker player.” Some people do not manage these things well and, to be honest, if you are going to be a poker player for a living, they are critical to your success. Those three things are risk aversion, discipline, and money management – you must ask some tough questions of yourself in those 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 is imperative that you have the bankroll to withstand long runs where you just break even, at best. We are not talking about paying your bills, your mortgage, groceries, medical expenses, we are talking about simply the money you have that you can afford to “not have” if you lose. My usual rule for cash games is you have to have 100 times the normal stakes that you play. If you are playing $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em with a $200 max buy in, then in a perfect world you would like to have $20,000 on hand.
Yes, that is not realistic – I did say in a “perfect world.” But if you are to play five or six days a week, you have to be able to withstand some short-term losses. If you only go into your “profession” with a couple of grand and you lose it all in a week, then you’re going to be back at your “desk job” before you know it. Thus, a more realistic idea might be 25-50 times ($5000 to $10,000) a $200 buy in.
2) Am I Willing to Put in the Time?
To be a successful professional poker player, you do not play once a week and screw off the rest of the time. The best are studying the game for hours per day – not PLAYING poker, mind you, but studying the game. They are running simulations, studying certain situations, mastering different variants of poker (Short Deck, Omaha, etc.), and reviewing their previous play to look for any potential holes in their action. THEN they head to poker room or the casino and put in anywhere from six to twelve hours on the tables making your daily wage.
If you are not willing to put in a significant amount of time simply working on your game, then 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, many people would jump off the Stratosphere if they lost a down payment on a three-bedroom house. That can happen in a singular session playing at some stakes (you should check out The Lodge broadcasts to see this in action) and can also be a part of a long streak of losing sessions. Those that are professionals will jump right back into the game the next day, convinced that it was just a “one time” situation, that their play (through their study) was strong, and they were just the victim of variance.
Most people cannot handle those types of situations. If losing money is something you are averse to, being a professional poker player – or sports bettor, for that matter – is not going to be very pleasant for you. Even the best poker players do not always win – there are those times they take a serious hit to their bank – and they turn around and climb 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 come to the decision you cannot, there is nothing wrong with being a great recreational player that makes some good spending money. There is nothing wrong with either course in the world of poker.