Dreaming about going head to head with the best players in the world, where you've got a pot of over a million dollars just one bluff or hand away is probably something most punters or card enthusiasts have indulged in at some point. But what if you're really serious about becoming a professional poker player? Just how hard is it, and what do you need to do to make it work?
We'll take a quick a look below, but suffice to say that just like any profession, it requires dedication, patience and lots of practice.
Busting the Myths
Before we look at some of the things you'll need to consider, it's important to start by putting some of the myths about being a pro poker player to bed.
As with anything in life, there's no easy way to become a professional. It might seem like simply sitting down and playing a few hands of poker is no hassle, but professional level games are serious, stressful and require a lot of mental preparation. It's not like playing a few hands for fun at Jeff's place every Saturday.
Being Good at the Game is Enough
No matter how good you might be at poker, pure skill at the game won't carry you through a professional career. Again, as with most things, there's always going to be someone better than you, so you need to be ready to keep learning and improving all the time. This is especially true for online poker, where rules can change very often.
Bluffs are Everything
While big bluffs can often win games, they're not the be all and end all. Bluffing skills alone won't carry your plays. It's an easy trap to fall into given some of best players often pull off some amazing bluffs, but it's important to remember that they fail way more often, and those failures aren't often on YouTube or TV.
You Need to be a Genius/Mathematical Prodigy
This one might come as a relief. While it's true that there are a lot of professional level players that are exceptional at maths, or have multiple degrees, you don't actually need to be Einstein to play the game at the top level. If you have a good grasp of how the odds work, this can actually be more than enough.
Ok, so now that's out the way, lets look at just how you can take the required steps to becoming a pro player. Again though, it's worth mentioning that even if you do everything right, there's still a very high chance you won't succeed. This is simply because the skill level required to maintain an income purely from poker is very high. There's no harm in just enjoying the game for fun, and that's important to remember, which brings us to the first point.
Understanding Your Skill Level
You need to be honest with yourself about how good you really are at poker. Are you winning consistently? Even if you are, what kind of games are you winning at? Playing a few amateurs is very different to the professional level game world, and this first step is crucial to gauging whether you can really cut it in the long term. Online tournaments are a good way to see how you match up against other players, especially as pros enter these tournaments very often. It's not unheard of for an unknown to win, and this is also a great entry into the professional sphere.
Managing Your Bankroll
Being able to sensibly manage your finances is crucial for any professional player, and this means being able to control how much you bankroll for games and understanding and factoring in for losses. Remember that you'll need money to live off too, and this can make things very tough if you're having a bad run.
Knowing When to Step Back
This is essentially related to the above point. If you've having a losing streak, or simply a very bad game, knowing when to call it a day can be the difference between long term success and failure. The temptation is often there to try and 'power through' a losing streak, but this very rarely works. Instead, you'll need to learn how to discipline yourself and understand how and when to take your losses while looking at the big picture. Other than these three pointers, the main thing is to practice, practice, practice. Being professional can be hugely rewarding, but it's not for everyone.