The Truth About Being a Professional Poker Player
Many people ask me about what it is like to be become a professional poker player. And as somebody who played poker professionally online for 10+ years, I have a little bit to say about it!Is it all about sitting at the beach sipping pina coladas living the easy life while you hop online for a couple hours a week, crush some souls and print money?Or maybe you hop in your private jet to play in the big game in Vegas after a relaxing weekend in the French Riviera?Unfortunately, the reality for most poker pros is quite a bit different than this.And unfortunately there are also tons of myths and even downright misinformation out there about what it is truly like to become a professional poker player.Short Answer: No, the life of a poker pro isn't like what you saw on Instagram or YouTube, with million dollar tournaments and a life of total freedom traveling the world. In fact, for most professional poker players, their day to day life is nothing like this at all, and it is a lot less glamorous than you might think.So in this article I am going to finally dispel some of the ridiculous myths out there about what it is like being a professional poker player, and give you the reality of it, from someone who has done it.This is the truth about what it is like to be a professional poker player.
1. You Probably Won't Win at Poker
Let's start with the most important point of all. And hey let's face it, nobody really wants to talk about this!But I think it is rather important.And that is the simple fact that most people don't even win at this game in the first place over the long run.Poker is a hard game to beat these days, and for a variety of reasons, most people end up losing more than they win.In fact, as I have discussed before, at least 70% of people lose at poker over the long run.And the large majority of those that actually do manage to win are only very small winners, just above break even.If we are talking about "going pro," it is probably 5% or less of all people who play poker who are significant enough winners in order to even consider it.Bottom line:Most people don't even win at poker over the long run.It should of course go without saying that a major pre-requisite of becoming a professional poker player is being a proven long term big winner.So for the large majority of people who play this game, becoming a professional poker player will just never be possible.
2. You Probably Won't Survive as a Professional Poker Player
But here's the other perhaps far more important part about becoming a professional poker player that nobody mentions very often either.Even if you do manage to become part of that small group of elite winners in this game, it's really tough to stay on top and survive in this game over the long run.I can't even begin to tell you the number of so called "poker pros" that I have seen come and go over the years.For a variety of reasons (which I will discuss later on in this article), most of them didn't last. In fact, most of them don't even last one year before it is too much for them.You need to be 100% self-driven and have a superhuman work ethic in order to survive in this game as a pro. You also need the mental stamina and the emotional control of a Buddhist monk.You also need to be constantly studying and improving your game if you want to stay on top.For example, you need to be putting in the long hours away from the tables finding your leaks and fixing them in PokerTracker.The bottom line is that for most professional poker players, the game is all-consuming if you actually want to stay ahead of the competition and make it in this game over the long run.This is why most don't last.
3. Being a Poker Pro Can Be Really Lonely
The other thing they never tell you about what it is like to be a professional poker player is that it is really, really lonely most of the time.Poker is simply not a team sport and the sad truth is that at the end of the day nobody actually cares about your wins or losses. They only care about their own.And so most online poker pros end up spending long hours in a room (often by themselves), with nobody to really interact with or ever feel like they are part of something bigger.For somebody like myself who is fiercely independent and doesn't really require too much company or interaction with others in order to be happy, this was never a huge deal.But I am well aware that this isn't the case for most people. Most people enjoy being part of a "team" and they also enjoy the camaraderie of the office for example, at least to some degree.If this is the kind of person that you are, becoming an online poker pro is probably not going to be the best choice for you.What about live poker though?There is more social interaction if you are a live poker pro, playing in a casino. With that said though, nobody at the poker table is really your friend.While you can get more face to face human interaction in a live poker game, at the end of the day, you are there to take their chips, and they are there to take yours.
4. Becoming a Professional Poker Player Requires Incredible Mental Strength
As a professional poker player, your entire life will become one big emotional roller coaster. In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons why most don't make it over the long run (5 years, 10 years etc).What do I mean by this?I am talking about the never-ending ups and downs that are inherently built into the game of poker. And it doesn't matter how good you are, they will always exist.By the way, if you want to know the mental habits of good poker players, I discuss it more in this video:
Here's the reality of being a poker pro though.It is really difficult to win one day, lose the next day, and I am talking large sums of money for most professional poker players, sometimes 10k+ swings each day.It is very difficult to just mentally remove these results from your mind each day and carry on as if nothing happened.Because one day you are on top of the world and the next day you are down in the dumps. And this cycle of emotional ups and downs never ends.This is why I always suggest being extremely well bankrolled as a professional poker player, and ignoring your short term results completely, if possible.
5. Lengthy Downswings Crush Most Poker Pros
But most real poker pros can actually handle the day to day swings. It's not the end of the world. You still ride the emotional roller coaster, but it is manageable.The real danger for professional poker players is actually lengthy "downswings." A downswing by the way is what we refer to in poker as an extended losing streak.These soul crushing downswings happen to everybody. You hit a really bad patch of variance (poor short term luck with the cards), and you literally can't win a hand for days, weeks or even months.If you are a tournament pro, downswings can even last years!As a cash game pro I have personally had multiple 100k+ hand stretches during my professional poker career where it felt like I would never win another hand again.And I have some of the best results of all time at the micro stakes online!Ya, variance can be absolutely brutal in this game. Much worse than most people think.And the longer these downswings go on, the more difficult it is to handle it mentally as a pro without a good support network.And like I mentioned already, unfortunately most professional poker players don't really have a great support system. For the most part you will be on your own to deal with it.
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6. The Game Isn't Nearly as Fun for a Poker Pro Compared to an Amateur
One of the biggest things I noticed when I first became a professional poker player in 2007 was that the game was not nearly as fun as it used to be.Because after all, now I played poker to pay the bills.And this quite frankly, changes everything.It wasn't just a hobby anymore. And this meant bad beats hurt a bit more and I found myself getting frustrated with amateurs more easily.The bottom line is that when you change poker from a hobby to a profession, there is something fundamental that changes about the game for you.It is no longer just idle entertainment or a fun hobby to pass the time like watching Netflix or playing video games is for example.No, poker is now a job to you and you also have to win.Now, hopefully you didn't rush into going pro and you actually are a proven winning poker player, but regardless, you will still never look at the game in the same way.
7. Making Good Friends in Poker is Difficult
Alright, I don't want to throw all poker players under the bus here, as I have met a lot of really good people, especially in my travels. And some of my very best friends are poker players.But I would be lying if I tried to say that everybody in poker is a fine upstanding individual. In fact, I usually go out of my way to avoid making friends with most poker players!Because the reality is that poker does tend to attract a lot of people who are looking for a get rich quick scheme, instead of viewing poker as a serious long term pursuit.Also, as I just mentioned above, most poker players are on a permanent emotional rollercoaster depending on how their results have been lately, so they aren't the most mentally stable people either.There is also a ton of money that gets liberally tossed around (lended) in poker and, well, it doesn't always end well let's just say.People sometimes disappear with your money, and it seems like there is a new scam of the week at times, whether it is multi-accounting, super-using, collusion or some other form of cheating in poker.Heck, sometimes the poker rooms themselves are even in on some form of cheating!The bottom line is that if you are looking to surround yourself with a bunch of morally upstanding well adjusted happy people, you might want to find another game.It is an unfortunate truth that poker simply does not typically attract the best sort of people.
8. Most Professional Poker Players Are Not Rich
Another common misconception is that most professional poker players are rich. This also couldn't be further from the truth.Firstly, as I just mentioned, borrowing or pooling money is so prevalent these days, especially in high stakes poker games, that very few poker players actually have 100% of themselves (or even close to it for that matter).For example, most of the time when you see that guy win the $5…