It sounds ideal, doesn’t it? A career where you can make great money while sitting at home in your pyjamas, or alternatively travelling the world and visiting some of the most glamourous locations and rubbing shoulders with superstars. No regular hours, just turn up and play when you feel like it, and walk away rich. Many people at one time or another have fantasized about a get-rich-quick career, and Professional Poker Player is the latest in a long line of jobs where that possibility seems almost within reach. Because, unlike talents like acting, singing, playing football etc, poker skills can be learned, and enough practise can see anyone become good enough to win.
However, the key to making a living playing poker is more than just being good at the game itself. There are many other factors to consider, including whether you are self-disciplined enough to handle the lack of structure and routine. But in an age where the traditional career route is becoming harder to stick to, and where entry-level jobs are thin on the ground, poker may offer a real alternative for committed individuals to earn a decent salary without having to slave away at a 60hr week. So let’s dispel some of the myths and take a look at whether a career in poker could really be worthwhile pursuing.
It’s Not All Easy Money
Actually playing the games themselves takes up a very small amount of a pro’s time. Where they improve their game comes afterwards, when the players look back over the hands they played, identify their mistakes and recognise where they could have played smarter. There is a lot of mathematics involved in analysing someone’s poker game, so if that isn’t your strong point, you might struggle. Luck and skill might help you to string a series of victories together, but to stay at the top you have to keep your game sharp, and that involves studying.
Poker as a game is constantly evolving, with strategies coming in and out of fashion. Being able to recognise a method that another player is using will be a huge advantage, but this requires you to keep on top of new developments. And if you aren’t, you can be sure that most of the other players will be, so you’d be at an instant disadvantage, no matter how well you played.
Time is Money
However, when all that hard work pays off, the results can be very rewarding. Depending on whether you stick to cash games, either online or offline, or whether you travel between tournaments, the pot sizes you’ll be handling could vary by hundreds or even thousands. Regardless, the money you could walk away with from a day of playing poker far exceeds the day’s wage at almost every job on the market. And when you manage to pocket a month’s wages over one weekend, that leaves your with a lot of flexibility for the coming weeks. Do you keep playing and bank even more, or do you use the time off that you’ve now earned to enjoy life? Many professional players can afford to take time to travel or spend on other hobbies, which would be impossible with a standard 9-5 job. The non-standard hours are a massive draw, especially for young adults, and is often cited by players as one of the best parts of the job.
Manage Your Bankroll
With any business, it’s important to keep separate bank accounts. You don’t want to start dipping into personal savings in order to fund a losing streak. Proper bankroll management is probably the most important thing to think about if you’re considering playing professionally. It’s nice when the money is rolling in, but until then you need to decide what you can afford to stake, how big a loss you can handle, and what your monthly poker budget should be. Knowing these will then help you decide what types of games to play in and whether you have enough to cover all the additional costs of travelling to tournaments.
Along with analysing your gameplay, analysing your winnings is important too. It will help you discover where you are most productive and which games you should be focusing on. If you make the most money playing frequent, low buy-in cash games, instead of monthly high-stakes tournaments, then maximising on those needs to become your new business model.
A Game of Numbers
A poker career may sound like a risky business because after all, it is gambling. Winnings, unlike wages from a steady job, are never guaranteed, and you will inevitably find that, when starting out, the losses are abundant. However, the more you study and practise, the more it becomes like successfully paying the stock market. There will be highs and lows, losses and gains, but with skilful management, everything can be balanced out to make a steady profit at the end of a given period.
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