When it comes to playing the game of poker, many people have different viewpoints on exactly what it means to them. For some, poker is a recreational pursuit, a fun way of enjoying a hobby that can provide thrills along with profit. But for others, profit is everything, and the game of poker is something they’d love to turn into a professional career instead of a passionate hobby alongside other work. If this sounds like you, we have some tips to help you turn your poker game from something that provides light relief to putting bread on the table!
Ask any professional and this is one of the first things they’ll mention as crucial to becoming a career poker player. If they’re good at bankroll management, this will often be in a winner’s interview or if they aren’t good at bankroll management, it’ll be from behind the counter of a popular fried chicken outlet. The importance of bankroll management can’t be understated, with the mechanics of never risking what you cannot afford to lose and betting within your means a key part of development. If you want to succeed at poker, then practicing good bankroll management is crucial, from making sure you have a stop/loss on cash game buy-ins to keeping your tournament buy-ins in line with your ROI and skill level.
Poker is often portrayed as a fun game and there is no doubt that at its best, there’s no better way to spend your time short of an all-expense paid trip to Vegas! But being a professional in poker means retaining discipline almost all of the time across a wide range of testing areas. Volume is so important when learning the game that you’ll forget what it was like merely to play for fun. Training through articles, strategy posts on forums and online videos will consume your time like never before. Fitness will need to be monitored to put you in the best physical and mental shape to cope with the rigors of playing not just for profit but for sustenance. If you still think playing professional poker is for you, then maybe you already have the mindset for success!
An often overlooked skill as a poker professional is game choice. Whilst poker fans are often best informed about No Limit Hold’em, there are a plethora of poker variants which are just waiting for you to try. Some professionals make all their money from PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) and then take shots in No Limit tournaments. Others know that they will always be a better cash game player, so restrict any tournaments they play to those with a super-deep structure (last year’s WSOP Main Event saw several cash grinders do very well for this very reason). Whatever your passion is for poker, don’t be afraid to mix it up in your formative years of turning pro – you may discover a game you previously ignored is your strongest.
When was the last time you berated someone in the chatbox of an online game, or talked about how bad someone’s tactics were at the live felt? How about celebrated a goal your team scored in a football match? Whatever your passions and private life, professional poker will often expose the worst elements of it. How you behave at the table should always be respectful, courteous and polite, even if you’ve received the worst bad beat of all time from a player you can’t believe just… you see how easy it is? The higher up the game of poker you go, the more lights will be turned in your direction. While this is obviously good news in terms of positive exposure, it also means that elements of your life that were known by nobody before you were will suddenly be more likely to be thrust into the public eye. How you behave in your everyday life will influence your poker game when you are a professional. You want that to be a positive thing.
Learn from the Best
We’ve already told you that to be a professional, you need to put in a ton of volume and train like Rocky in Russia. But the hard work doesn’t end there. If you want to be the best and want to beat the rest, dedication really is what you need. One of the best ways to move up the levels quicker than most is to listen to players who have achieved more than you. Note that we don’t just recommend that you listen to players who tally with your own mindset, tell you that you’re wonderful or pat you on the back and say ‘But what can you do, mate?’ There’s always something you can do and if not through private coaching, then forums, video-sharing conference calls or a Whatsapp group – make improvement happen, and have no ego about how bad your play really is.
Volume, coaching, game choice and you’re eating granola and bulgur wheat for breakfast. You’re a machine and you’ll almost certainly start to notice the difference in your results. But the hard work doesn’t stop once you’re a success. Being a professional in any job is about staying ahead of the curve and always aiming to improve on what made you good in the first place. There is a long list of players who did well in poker, got greedy, spent too much of the money and when they took a break from the game, lost their edge. Being a success as a professional requires constant adaptation to your game and what makes you unique as a poker player. Playing the percentages never works for long, especially when you come up against professionals in more and more of your games. Ask anyone who is a pro and they’ll tell you the same.
While we advocate good bankroll management ahead of anything when it comes to becoming a poker professional, every up and coming player should take opportunities to turn up the heat and win a tournament with a big guarantee like The Uppercut on Sundays for example. But taking a shot can mean many different things. Taking a shot to you might be practicing your short-handed end-game by becoming a ‘Sit N Go Hero’, in the new 4-player format where even a $1 entry could mean going for a share of a $10,000 prize-pool. It might mean filtering some of your profit into satellites towards the Caribbean Poker Party. But it can mean anything to you, from traveling to a live event to entering higher tournaments one day for every week you’re in profit. Just be sensible with the bankroll as a whole and you won’t go far wrong.