Playing Poker Professionally

Playing poker professionally is one of the most rewarding careers you could possibly have, it is also a damn grind! Last time we discussed Poker Bankroll Building by taking shots. But playing poker as a full-time poker professional is a step every player who has survived this game long enough has at least considered. It’s a very tough decision that many don’t think thorough thoroughly. Just having a ‘good winrate’ will likely only get you so far. There’s so much more that goes into the life of a professional poker player. We have to think about time management, poker finances and motivation to name but a few. So if you’re a player that’s at this crossroad, you‘ll want to read on. Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls that have grounded many aspiring professional poker player…

Playing Poker Professionally – Its A Hard Game! 

Poker Professional Expenses

When you turn pro, Poker Bankroll Building just got tougher; you have a new rake to contend with… living expenses. Once you beat the blinds, the rake and your opponents you have your monthly nut to grind out just to break even. You are now in the realms of your old job: Living wage-to-wage. Dependant on your country of residence you will also have tax laws to adhere to also. Poker just got serious…

Being Your Own Poker Boss

Being your own boss is the one thing most of us dream of doing and it’s not hard to see why – start and finish the day when you want, nobody to answer to, hell don’t even go to work today if you don’t want to! But power comes with hefty responsibility; YOU make all the decisions now. Your discipline to turn down party invites, self motivation during bad spells, work ethic and controlling tilt on and off the table will be thoroughly tested time and time again. As a part time player, if you only played poker when you felt 100% then you’re in for a culture shock. Because there will be times as a pro when you would rather cut off your own head than sit and play poker, but the bills still need paying of course, so the hands need to be grinded out regardless.

Failing at Poker

You may not have even considered it, but what if this poker thing doesn’t work out despite your best laid plans? Imagine in a years time you decide you would rather poker be a profitable hobby than a full time gig, could you go back to your old job or indeed industry? Can you realistically go back and expect the same kind of salary? What will the employment gap look like on a résumé? It may be frowned upon in your particular employment sector to see the previous job title of ‘Poker Player’, as many people not in the know just translate this to: Poker > Gambler > Degenerate.

Unrealistic Poker Expectations

One of the hurdles that befall many players when they start playing poker professionally is the unrealistic things they expect with more time on their hands.

More time = more money right?

To a degree yes. But If you played 30hrs p/w before on part-time basis, don’t assume you can now just work 60hrs p/w playing poker with your extra 30 hrs. Many players think that because they gave up 30 hours of work from the old job, they can just stick that on the new poker job. “Boom! 60 hrs per week!” they’ll say. I’m afraid it just doesn’t work that way.  With something as mentally demanding as poker, I’d be surprised if you could manage 40hrs per week playing. I don’t know anyone who plays more than 50hrs. That’s’ not to say you can’t get that many hours in of course, but just be aware that it’s not as easy as it may sound and if you presumed all that extra time equalled more money, well… you could be in deep before you realize it.

More tables = more money though right?

Then there’s this expectation: “I’ll just play more tables for more money!” Again, you have to consider the likely drop in winrate that comes with playing more tables. Yes, you might get more rakeback if you play more, but if your game suffers enough over more tables AND longer hours it may not be worth it to you financially or mentally. It may be a good idea to plan this out before you dive in the deep end.

Playing Poker Professionally – Variance Considerations

We all know variance is a function of our winrate. The more we play the more variance we will experience both good and bad. But just how wild can it get? I’m afraid if your winrate is marginal like 2bb, it will be waaaay different than a player with a 6bb winrate. Just look at these screen shots (from for random 50k samples for each winrate:



Just look how many losing 50k samples (the squiggly lines) a low winrate is potentially subjected to – truly sickening! The reality is if you only planned on playing 25k hands per month as a pro with a 2bb winrate, you are going to have a lot of losing months, variance dictates this. Can you mentally handle it? Can you financially handle it? I’m not trying to put you off here, on the contrary. But you have to be aware of the pitfalls of low winrate poker before deciding whether or not to become pro.

Poker Finances – Time Is Money

As a part time player, you likely had the mindset just to get better at poker and never really considered your hourly earn. If you are playing poker professionally, it will define you. When ever you sit down and play, you are playing for a wage.

Ex: Let’s say we play NL100 with a 5bb winrate. This equates to the following:

$5 per 100 hands is $0.05 per hand. You win on average 5 cents a hand. If in an average session you played 1500 hands and won $350, you won $275 more than you were supposed to. That’s because our EV per hand is $0.05 or $75 over a session (1500*0.05 = $75). Numbers above and below that number are just deviations from the mean. (The mean being our $75 per session). This in essence is all you need to remember, you earned $75 in EV for your time at the tables. Whether you ran good or bad (presuming you did not tilt or sit in bad games) that is your wage for your hours put in. If you don’t turn up because you can’t be bothered, your EV is zero. As a pro the quicker you acclimatize to this new professional setup the better it will be for you. Your hobby just became a job. But it’s a good one if you have a professional attitude to go with a good winrate  : ).

So are you capable of Playing Poker Professionally?

There’s no doubt about it, playing poker professionally is a hard way to make an easy living and it’s only going to get harder. Players are getting better and the networks are trying as hard as ever to keep us from hunting the fish (anonymous games anyone?). These factors makes poker bankroll building more difficult than ever. So let me ask you this:

  • Are you willing to play when you don’t want to?
  • Can you still maintain 40k hands p/m on a downswing?
  • Are you willing to continually spend time improving even as a pro?

If the answers are no or even maybe, they you sure as hell aren’t ready to go full time. For those in doubt, I’ll leave you with this youtube video from Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker. This guy explains what’s needed to ‘make it’ in any form of life.

Cinch (author)

Edited by Paul Ratchford


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