Have you ever wondered if you could become a professional poker player? Or have you ever considered a career in poker?
If you have, then you are in the right place. This article will tell you everything you need to know on how to become a professional poker player.
In the last couple of years, there’s been a surge of poker players, and with the rise of online poker platforms, it has quickly become a vocation for millions.
Today, we will deconstruct various aspects of poker, including poker as a career, what it takes to become a professional poker player, and whether it’s worth it.
Sounds tempting? Then without further ado, let’s begin.
Can Poker Be a Career?
A question that often comes to mind when you think about a poker career is, “can poker actually be a career?”
The answer is yes; poker can be a career. Generally, a significant aspect of gambling involves luck, but there are also competitive skill-based aspects. Pro poker players leverage their skills to make their luck and edge out the competition to win.
This is because luck is short-lived, and professional poker players depend on long-term gains from sharpened skill sets.
Can You Play Poker for a Living?
Poker is like any other sport, profession, or business — there are peaks and valleys. When you first start playing poker, you might have a tough time, and the losses could upset you financially and emotionally. However, great poker players are those who can manage those losses and remain emotionally stable.
Like any other profession, players look at poker objectively and study their moves to resolve the problem that caused a downturn. Poker players who cannot cope with the downs of poker end up repeating mistakes and ultimately fail to play poker as a living.
So yes, you can play poker for a living, but it’s challenging. However, it’s no more or less complicated than any other competitive sport or business. It requires dedication, knowledge, patience, and experience to harness your skills and succeed.
How Is Playing Poker a Business?
Similar to any solo sport, professional poker players are never alone in their venture. There are investors, sponsors, lenders, managers, coaches, and even shareholders involved in the careers of most professional poker players.
There are also business-like aspects of management, branding, marketing, risk management, and more.
However, this isn’t always the case. Most beginners and some great poker players are entirely self-sufficient in their careers. Regardless, the poker player “business model” remains roughly the same for everyone.
Is Poker Profitable in 2021?
Poker is rapidly growing as a mind sport in the historically strong gambling industry. The online gambling industry alone is expected to reach almost 93 billion dollars by 2023, excluding offline gambling.
Poker is indeed profitable in 2021 and even more so for consistent and dedicated professional poker players.
How To Become a Professional Poker Player
As mentioned previously, poker requires a lot of emotional stability to harness your skills. However, technically speaking, once you know how to play the game, becoming a pro poker player requires two physical things:
A bankroll is the money you can use to play real-money poker. However, It’s not the money you have in your bank account. Instead, it’s the money you can afford to lose in poker. Therefore, you have to ensure that every aspect of your life, like rent, food, bills, etc., is covered before you put money in your bankroll.
Otherwise, you will be playing with what is known as “scared money.” Scared money negatively affects how you play because you cannot afford to lose it. Therefore, you need to manage your bankroll correctly and ensure you have enough to ride out the downs in your poker career.
A good rule of thumb is to have at least 50 to 100 buy-ins if you intend to be careful with your money. So, for example, if a poker player is playing $25 NL (No-limit) poker, they will need a bankroll of anywhere between $1,250 – $2,500 to play comfortably.
Naturally, to play poker, you must have a platform with other players. If you intend to play live poker, you will need a casino with a card room, where you can play poker frequently. Professional poker players who play live poker typically live near a casino because it’s practical for their livelihood.
However, if you intend on playing poker online, you will need to create an account on at least one real-money poker website and deposit money to that account to start.
Once you have these two things, you can start playing professionally and become a pro poker player by winning consistently, making a profit, and carving a name for yourself in the industry.
However, the term “professional poker player” is a broad term.
Millions of players are considered “professionals” because they have bankrolls, a platform, and make a living out of playing poker. However, others insist that you need additional prerequisites to be considered as a professional poker player. These include having million-dollar bankrolls, sponsorships, and enjoying global recognition.
So, how do you become a recognized professional in the industry? By consistently playing well and making big profits.
How to Get Good at Poker
Knowing how to play poker is one thing, but being good at it is a whole different story. To learn how to be a pro poker player, you must first learn to play well. Lucky for you, this list includes a few tried-and-tested strategies that will help you be the best at poker.
Play Tight but Aggressive
It’s common among amateurs to play too many weak hands (playing wide), which is a huge mistake and often leads to a quick downfall. Instead, beginners must learn to play fewer strong hands (playing tight). Hence, they don’t have to make many tough decisions after the flop.
It allows them to play their strong hands more aggressively by raising instead of simply calling. All beginners should follow this top strategy when they start, especially if they want to become professional online poker players.
It also gives them the advantage of effectively learning more poker strategies through the experience without eating up their bankroll.
Utilize Your Position
Your position at the poker table is an essential element in a hand of Texas Hold’em. One of the best strategies for beginners is to utilize their position is to play as tight as possible the farther away they are from the button.
The closer you get, the wider and more aggressive you can play. The most profitable position at the table will always be the button because it allows you to register everyone else’s play before you make yours.
Know Your Odds
If you want to go beyond and be an amazing poker player, you will have to learn the odds. Every professional poker player is expected to know poker odds because it helps them calculate their pot odds.
We cannot go into much detail here. However, odds are a mathematical calculation of possible outcomes or probabilities. They are an extensive but necessary concept to learn because they help you make tough decisions during play and understand how many “outs” you have.
Consider Your Opponent’s Hand
Texas Hold’em poker requires you to put your opponent in a “range” of possible cards to understand your odds better and make informed decisions during play. While this is a highly complex aspect of poker and requires experience to hone, beginners can consider a few things.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is their position?
- What hands could they be playing from that position?
- What does their post-flop action suggest about their hand?
- Why are they aggressive/non-aggressive?
- How long is it taking them to make decisions?
While the answers may not tell you their exact hand, they will help you understand your opponent’s hand better.
Beginners shouldn’t rely on bluffing to succeed. While it’s an essential and valuable strategy in poker, it’s a learned skill that requires patience and the ability to keep a good poker face. Instead, beginners should stick to their cards and play when they have a good hand and fold if they don’t.
As you move up, you will learn that this strategy doesn’t work for higher-stakes beginners, where bluffing and aggressive play is more common.
What Does It Take To Become a Successful Poker Pro?
Now that you have a better understanding of what it takes to become a professional poker player, let’s look into how to be a successful player. To be successful at poker, you will need a poker player’s characteristics, including their mentality, skills, experience, and a history of winning hands regularly.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Professional Poker Player?
Mentality separates future long-term pros from short-lived amateurs.
Beginners often lack dedication because they want to make money and become famous as fast as possible. However, becoming famous and rich quickly is the wrong incentive. Instead, the correct approach is to look at poker as you would any other skill, sport, or art.
To become an expert or professional at anything, you must dedicate 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to perfect it, and poker is no different.
What Are the Characteristics, Practices, and Skills of Poker Players?
Here are a few key characteristics, practices, and skills that will help you understand what helps professional poker players be so good.
Poker is no different than other professions, and there is a fair bit of studying to do. Of course, many players have never even read a book on poker. However, today’s competitive poker requires you to know your game in detail, which is why studying is as important as any other aspect of poker.
If you want to be a dedicated poker player, you will have to research. Good poker players constantly expand their knowledge by exploring strategies, techniques, opponents, tournaments, and even their games.
A mentor in any field can be beneficial, and many professional poker players have mentors and coaches to guide them through their journey. If you can find an experienced mentor for yourself, it will be priceless for your poker career.
If you want to look like a pro, you will have to learn to bluff. We mentioned earlier that this is a learned skill that’s not for beginners, which is true. However, bluffing can also be a player’s natural skill.
Whether you learn bluffing or are inherently a good bluffer, you will need it because it’s an essential skill in poker.
Patience is a crucial characteristic because even part-time poker players know there are long streaks of poor hands. As a result, you may often find yourself tired from folding hand after hand without any luck.
You will also experience the occasional winning streaks, but you shouldn’t forget that poker is a daily grind for professionals. It requires immense patience that stems from passion and dedication.
Professional Poker Considerations
Here are some significant matters that you must consider as you pursue a career in poker.
Commitment and Work Ethic
In previous years, becoming a professional poker player used to be much easier. However, nowadays, because people are more accepting of poker as a profession, the competition has increased. Therefore, poker players require commitment and proper work ethic to be respected and stand out in the industry.
State of the Game Today
Being a professional poker player decades ago was much more profitable than it is today. This change happened due to the sudden surge of competition. Unfortunately, this also means winning has become more complex, especially for online poker players.
Treat Poker Like a Business
If you approach poker like a business, you are more likely to remove emotion and bias and will be motivated to learn from your mistakes. Moreover, you will monetize poker more efficiently and turn it into a reliable stream of income.
Set Time Aside to Study
In poker, the most knowledgeable player at the table is often the most successful. Therefore, to become a professional poker player, you need to spend at least 20% of your time studying the game and its players.
Diversify Your Poker Portfolio
Texas Hold’em is just one type of poker game, but there are numerous types of poker out there. So you shouldn’t just stick to just one kind of game. Instead, diversify your poker portfolio by learning and playing different types like Omaha, Five-Card Stud, and others.
The recent technological advancements mean that poker players now have more handy tools at their disposal. For example, you can easily find poker training tools, odds calculators, and progress tracking apps. So as a professional player, it would be best if you considered using them.
Learn From Other Players
You should learn from the mistakes and successes of your opponents, other professionals, and your own experiences. Study individual hands and understand the deliberate actions that lead to their success or failure.
Evaluate Your Bad Beats Objectively
Bad beats are undoubtedly one of the most frustrating parts of poker. However, becoming a professional player means that you have to evaluate your bad beats objectively, learn from them, and take action to ensure they don’t happen again.
Loss of Respect for Money
A significant drawback of playing poker professionally is that players often lose respect for money. The quick comings and goings of money, paired with extreme upswings and downswings of poker, can change how players spend their money and how it makes them feel.
They stop being prudent in financial matters and become numb to the joys of purchasing things. Experienced players may overcome this problem; still, many professionals struggle with it.
Cheats, Hackers, and Colluders
While it’s less common, you may experience cheaters, hackers, and colluders in your professional career. Although this is quite rare, you should still be aware of the possibility that such people are looking to trick you out of your money, especially if you are looking to become a professional online poker player.
How Much Money Is Needed to Play Poker for a Living?
We already learnt a bit about bankroll management and how much money professional poker players need in their bankroll to play, but this doesn’t answer how much bankroll you need to play poker for a living.
The answer is subjective because it depends on your current lifestyle or the lifestyle you intend to finance with your professional poker career. Let’s discuss how you can calculate your bankroll to give you a better idea.
How to Calculate Your Poker Bankroll
Firstly, you must always be realistic about the amount of money you can make from your poker career. This is because higher stakes are involved, and they get more challenging to manage as you progress.
Secondly, you must know what you need to survive over long periods of losses or downswings. While you can easily find a poker bankroll calculator online, here are the things you need to know beforehand:
Your Monthly Expenses (Nut)
A nut is poker jargon for your monthly expenses that include living costs like rent, food, bill, etc., as well as your poker expenses. This amount will give you an estimate of how much money you need to earn each month from your poker career to maintain your lifestyle.
Your Big Blinds Per 100 Hands (BB/100)
Your big blinds per 100 hands, or BB/100, will tell you how much money you will make per hour of playing poker. To calculate this, you will need to track the number of poker hands you play and your winnings.
The equation for BB/100 is:
(winnings/big blind amount)/(number of hands/10)
The result will give you the amount you make for every 100 hands you play.
All that remains is how many hands you can play per hour, which depends on your poker strategy.
A typical live table has around 30 hands per hour, while a standard online table has approximately 70. However, online poker can reach over 200 hands per hour with multiple game options. Furthermore, if you play more than one table online, you can multiply that number further.
The top online poker players (who have learnt how to grind poker for a living) can play around a thousand hands per hour. However, this level of work can mess with your winning potential.
Once you know your hands per hour, you can multiply it by your BB/100 and learn how much you will make per hour of playing poker. Now you need to ask yourself, is this number worth the grind? Can you make a living from it? Will you be able to support your current or dream lifestyle?
These are hard questions; however, they will help you understand your future decisions.
Online Platforms for Poker Pros
There are numerous online platforms where poker players, including professionals, can play real-money poker online. The most popular online poker platforms among professionals include:
While all these websites are excellent and offer great deals to players, PokerStars is by far the market leader in online poker. They regularly host professional online players and elite live professional players.
Closely behind PokerStars are 888 Poker, a popular pick among professional poker players in the UK, and GGPoker.
Alternative Poker Jobs & Careers
Becoming a professional poker player isn’t the only way to experience poker professionally. Just because someone isn’t good at poker doesn’t mean they can’t become a professional within the industry.
These are just a few industry professionals who enjoy their passion for poker while earning a living from it:
- Casino Workers
A casino worker is someone who works on the casino floor. The best casino job for a poker lover is a poker dealer because they are closest to the action.
- Poker Coaches
As mentioned earlier, professional poker players have coaches. However, being a poker coach is a vocation that requires experience and a deep understanding of the mind sport.
- Poker Bloggers
Poker bloggers are like any other blogger, but they specialize in blogging about poker.
- Poker Investors
A poker investor is someone who finances one or more professional poker players for cash games and tournaments.
Pros & Cons of Playing Professional Poker
Like everything else in life, becoming a professional poker player has its pros and cons. We have compiled the main ones below:
Pros of Professional Poker
- Big Earning Potential
Playing professional poker means dabbling in high stakes with equally high winnings. This is why professional poker players often make far more money than most jobs.
- First-Hand Learning of Life Skills
Professional poker teaches you valuable life skills first-hand. Learning skills like stress management, money administration, quick decision-making, risk assessments, etc., are part of the job.
- More Freedom and Flexibility
Poker offers professionals more freedom and flexibility than most jobs. They can set their schedules, take as many days off as they like, and typically don’t have a boss to answer to.
Poker is highly competitive, and becoming a professional poker player means you are constantly challenged and stimulated at the poker tables.
- Luxury Travel
Other perks of being a professional poker player are all the gambling destinations you get to experience. As well as some of the best hotels and casinos the world has to offer.
- Live Your Dream Lifestyle
If you’re a skilled professional poker player, you will earn lots of money and afford the lifestyle of your dreams.
Cons of Professional Poker
- Negative Social Stigma
There is a negative social stigma attached to gambling, which means that professional poker players often experience rejection or judgment from others.
- Daily Grind
Professional poker players, specifically online players, have to work long hours at the start of their careers until they make it to the high stakes.
- Learning Patience and Coping
As previously mentioned, patience is an essential part of poker, and professionals often have to learn to be patient to cope with lengthy downswings.
- No Steady Income
Professional poker players have no steady income. They may experience months of losses and deal with the emotional and financial stress while having to remain confident about winning.
Professional poker is an attractive and potentially rewarding career, but it has its ups and downs. It requires immense dedication, commitment, and hard work. Although, it eventually pays off in the long run, but only for those who keep working hard to make it to the high stakes.
We hope that our guide has cleared things up and you have a better idea of how to become a professional poker player and whether it’s right for you.
If you want to learn more about becoming a professional poker player or online poker, please feel free to check out our website.
Can you make good money playing poker?
Yes, poker can make you good money if you win at higher stakes, which are more rewarding.
How hard is it to play poker for a living?
Playing poker for a living is no harder than playing any other mind sport or demanding profession. However, poker knowledge, skills, experience, and overall abilities will define how difficult playing poker for a living is for each person.
Do you have to be smart to be a poker professional?
There is a certain level of aptitude needed for playing poker and consistently winning. You will need to know how to calculate odds quickly, pick strategies, and apply techniques. However, these are all things you can learn.
How often do poker players win?
In the past, poker players had higher chances of winning. However, in the current poker climate, beginners win under 30% of the time, amateurs win under 50%, and professionals win under 60% of the time.
When should you stop playing poker?
You should stop playing poker when your bankroll runs out or when you are physically exhausted to the point it’s harming your health.
Can you make a living off online poker alone?
Yes, you can make a living off online poker alone. In fact, many successful professional players play exclusively online poker.
How many hours do pro poker players play each day?
The hours depend on the poker player. Generally, a poker professional plays full-time at the beginning of their career, and an established poker pro may play far less frequently for different reasons.
Can you make a living playing limit poker only?
Yes, you can make a living playing limit poker only. However, it isn’t easy, and it requires a lot of work.
How much money do you need to play poker for a living?
A good rule of thumb is to have at least 50 to 100 buy-ins if you intend to be careful with your money.