We’ve all seen them splashing the cash at the poker tables, living what we assume to be a lavish and luxurious lifestyle. Professional poker players lead the kind of life that average poker grinders often aspire to, although it’s not always as glamorous as the persona that some of the celebrity poker stars often project.
In some respects, the pro poker player isn’t all that different to a pro athlete or basketball star, because each needs to have dedicated a huge amount of time and practice to get where they are today. The real question is, do you genuinely have the determination and mental fortitude to reach the same level?
That’s not always easy to answer if we’re honest with ourselves. With that in mind, these are perhaps two of the major elements that are essential towards pro poker players maintaining their success.
You must always study and strive to improve
Practically an obsession amongst the leading poker professionals is their willingness to learn and improve. The very best will regularly compare strategies and experiences with their peers, continually reviewing how they’ve played in games and carefully analyzing how to manage different hands. They will also dedicate countless hours studying everything they can about poker, seeking every possible way to improve their chances of winning more frequently.
After all, you wouldn’t expect to become a successful doctor or lawyer without being suitably qualified, following years of study and practice in such vocations. The same applies to anyone who is genuinely seeking to pursue a successful poker career, because to stand any chance of making a living from this game, there’s a serious amount of learning and study involved.
Likewise, beyond having a good understanding of card strategies and how the game itself works, pro players have a distinct edge if they also possess a strong head for math. They’re able to quickly calculate the odds of winning and losing during any given hand, capable of working out various probabilities on the fly; often using complex poker mathematics to shape their betting decisions.
There’s also a great amount of psychology involved in poker, especially for those playing in live or cash games against opponents they can see. Some of the best tournament players have spent years learning the psychology surrounding the game, whether it’s being able to judge their own state of mind or that of their opponents during games.
Essentially, unless you’re willing to put in the time and effort to study a whole variety of skills associated with poker, and with an almost academic level of zeal, you’re unlikely to ever improve or get very far as a professional. Just like any vocation, getting better at what you do takes time and intimate knowledge of your profession.
You must know how to carefully manage your finances
We’ve already mentioned how much study and learning is required to be a successful pro poker player, well there’s another skill you’ll need to master if you’re going to be successful – bankroll management. One way of looking at playing poker professionally is that in many ways, it’s like starting your own business, and you’ll need to be financially adept if your new poker career is going to last.
Even some of the most famous poker players of all time have struggled to manage their finances well, leading to them ultimately going broke. Not all of them lost everything they had because of their poker activity, yet they provide a valuable lesson in life that being a poker pro isn’t all glitz and glamour. The very best can still go broke if they don’t know how to manage their finances through the good times and the bad.
Building and maintaining a poker bankroll is vital for your continued ability to play professionally. There are lots of guides out there, although how much you start with depends entirely on your own circumstances. The main point all of the stress is that your bankroll should be whatever you’re comfortable with setting aside and potentially losing.
Other income streams, the money you have that pays the bills and puts food on the table; this should never have anything to do with your poker bankroll. Your private finances and poker finances should always be kept apart and considered entirely separate. If ever you hit a bad run playing poker, at least you’ll still have a roof over your head and be able to eat.
Just as important when managing a poker bankroll is knowing your limits. This might depend on the staking level and kind of games you’re playing, not to mention taking poker variance into account and your own style of play. Any bankroll will also be dictated by the comfort level of players, which means knowing when to end a losing streak and quit, along with knowing when to take the money and run in a winning streak, before the curve in fortune comes.
These are just two of the truths that successful professional poker players will always have in mind if they’re focused on making a living from the game they love. There’s no easy route to success and being a pro requires time, dedication, learning, and good financial know-how.
Something else to bear in mind is that beyond the poker table, most of the famous stars and celebrities you’ll see on TV aren’t reliant entirely on their poker winnings alone to fund their lifestyles. They’ll often have sponsorship and endorsements paying them an income, which means they can perhaps afford to be a little more frivolous in how they play.