What Does It Take to Become a Professional Poker Player?
“First and foremost, if you really want to try to make a living at playing poker, you have to love the game. It has to be something you are passionate about, so much so that you’re reasonably sure you’ll still love poker for many years to come.” That is what Chris Moneymaker, a professional poker player and the 2003 World Champion of Poker, said in a 2013 interview in response to the question of what it takes to become a professional poker player. Indeed, as with most things in life, success comes from dedication and hard work and the only way you’re going to put in that hard work day after day, year after year, is if you love it.
Moneymaker also warns that you should be prepared to study. “If you are considering going pro, having a strong peer group you can talk to and bounce ideas off of is important,” he says, “and being ready to accept that you’re going to have to do a lot of work away from the tables is essential, too.” Many poker players get their start by being introduced to the game from a friend. Those friendships and tutorings are essential to continued growth. Andy Seth is another professional poker player who says although he had an interest in poker for a few years, he had no idea where to start until he met a friend during his sophomore year of college who was ”happy to take me under his wing, tell me what to read/study, and answer any questions I had as I began my online poker career.”
Another necessity both of these poker pros highlight is lifestyle flexibility. They both talk about how much easier it would be for young single people to make the jump into professional poker rather than people who have a partner or a family depending on them. Financially, poker is a roller coaster lifestyle. As Seth shared in his interview with the Guardian, “I have had two seven-figure winning years and one six-figure losing year in that time.” Besides finances, “the lifestyle of a poker pro — with late hours, travel, and the financial ups and downs — doesn’t lend itself well to having a family,” Moneymaker explains. Ultimately, this comes back to love of the game. If poker is something you love enough to do it professionally, you’ll need to be willing to make sacrifices.
There are other negatives to becoming a professional poker player as Seth explains: “Because of the individual nature of the game, you can often feel isolated and alone – there is no real concept of a team in poker. There are also countless opportunities to make bad decisions in the poker world – you have to consistently be able to responsibly manage your finances and be honest with yourself to see continued success. There also aren’t many professions in which you can do everything right and watch yourself lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of your own money.”
In spite of all the negatives, sacrifices, and commitment you need to make to becoming a professional poker player, the benefits are clear: freedom and flexible schedule, every day being different, every hand being different for that matter, and the ability to be your own boss. While this kind of lifestyle might not be for everyone, there are certainly advantages as well as disadvantages, just like any other job.
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