If you have played poker for a while and have noticed you can actually earn some money from it, you’ve likely played with the thought of quitting your day job to become a full-time professional poker player. Poker as a career option can be a very tempting idea: You would be your own boss, decide your own playing hours, there’s no ceiling on how much money you can make etc. But, it’s definitely not for everyone – there’s an old famous saying that accurately describes the downside:
‘Poker is a hard way to make an easy living’
Poker will test you in a lot of ways if you decide to take it as a profession. We have put up 8 steps for you to make sure you can do everything in your power to become a success as a poker pro, in case you decide to make that leap. Let’s jump right into these steps:
Step 1. Make sure playing poker is something you love doing
Compared to a 9-5 job, poker can be immensely more rewarding if you have a true passion for the game. In the modern world many people are looking to make a living by doing what they love, and many poker players are truly living their dream. But, if you feel you are only playing for the money, it’s likely you will reach the point of burnout at some point as a pro. Poker is simply such a demanding game it will take its toll on those who don’t enjoy the game itself but just the monetary rewards.
Step 2. Take advantage of the freedom offered by poker
Very few professions offer you the ability to set your own hours. Poker is one of those though, even if it gives you incentive to play at times when the games are the best. You can still take holidays whenever you want, travel to play a tournament series at short notice or simply take a day off when you don’t feel like playing.
The coin has two sides here though, as the only person and you’ll be accountable to is yourself. Great players like Daniel Negreanu have often compared poker to running a business – both require critical thinking and adaptability to changing environments. You are essentially your own boss, and no one will force you to play if don’t have the drive to do so. Therefore it’s important to build good routines that help you put in the hours.
Step 3. Maximize your earning potential
When you turn pro, you want to give yourself the best chance to succeed. You should look for the best games suitable to your skillset, as game selection is one of the key factors that determine your long-term monetary results. We recommend to specialize in one specific game format, as playing many formats will most likely make you good at several games but master at none.
Step 4. Manage your bankroll properly
Step 5. Work on your game until you’re the best player playing in your regular game
Whether you’re a cash game or a tournament specialist, you should not only feel like you have a slight edge in the games you play but have a clear understanding how you dominate your opponents and which technical skills make you a far superior player compared to your average competition. In case you don’t feel like you can dominate your opponents, you have some studying to do!
Effective forms of studying include discussing hand histories with better players, finding leaks from your game, actively watching training videos from your specific game format and taking notes, working with solvers and identifying & fixing your mental game issues. Make sure you do some of these each day until you’re 100% confident you can dominate the competition!
Step 6. Deal with any emotional issues rising from variance involved in poker
Variance is by far the most challenging aspect of the game for those who decide to play full-time. Not only it can be financially hard on you when on a downswing, but it might give you emotional challenges too as running bad for a longer period will make you question your usual plays and strategies.
You need to make peace with variance if you want to survive in the game of poker for the long-term. When you don’t feel like winning, you should at least consider moving down in stakes temporarily. It is way easier to play your A-game when things have been going well and you have a winning mindset – this could be easier achieved in a smaller game where you have a bigger edge than your usual game.
Lastly, whether you’re on an upswing or a downswing, you should always keep studying and improving as a player. You should have an openness to try out new things and figure out how the best players are playing in your specific game format – learning their strategies will be of enormous value the more you play!
Step 7. Take care of yourself mentally & physically
The days of cigarette-smoking, whiskey-drinking poker pros are long gone. The modern poker professionals are young, fit and focused on being in a sharp condition both mentally and physically. The best players in the world take care of themselves as strictly as world-class athletes do – there’s no room to give edge to their opponents even outside the felt.
To get an extra edge in poker, you should ditch the poor diet and stop neglecting your emotional life. Our top recommendations here are to improve your health, fitness & relaxation either on your own or with the help of a coach.
Step 8. Have a life outside of poker too
Poker Pro FAQs
Do professional poker players make money?
Yes they do! Yet, poker has become harder over the years and you have to be willing to work a lot on your game constantly if you want to make big money in poker. There’s no room for a non-professional approach, poor bankroll management or playing when tilted – you have to approach it seriously to succeed with poker as a career.
What is considered a professional poker player?
The truth is only 1% of all poker players have a chance to become real professionals who make money from the game. But once those with the right abilities do, they can make a lot more money than would be possible in a typical 9-5 job.
How long does it take to become a winning poker player?
If you have been playing for some time and are wondering how long it will take before you start winning money from poker, we can only give you a rough estimate of between 6 months to 3 years. If you play in soft games and study the game every day you might be able to make it in 6 months, but in case you have a full-time job and are playing only on the weekends it might take a few years.
Luckily there are numerous things you can do to speed up the process of becoming a winning poker player:
- Play a few hours each day and get consistent in your approach to the game
- Read strategy articles from various topics regularly
- Subscribe to a training site that offers videos from your specific game format
- Find other players who are dedicated to improve as players and form a mastermind/study group
How much do online poker players make?
The best ones make a lot of money, and we mean A LOT – while your typical high-stakes online beast can make between 100-300k USD a year, the nosebleed crushers can make +1M USD playing online. The proof is in the pudding though, so make sure to check out some actual graphs of winnings from Beasts of Poker Team Pro’s in Do you even grind – Hall of fame
Has anyone regretted becoming a professional poker player?
The poker is definitely not for everyone. Most professional players survive in the game for 2-3 years, and some very good players for 5-10 years. If you are exceptional, you can play for a living for over a decade. The people who might regret turning pro are those who realize at some point they had a massive opportunity cost to them becoming a professional player, meaning they would have been much better off having a traditional career or starting a business. The good thing about becoming a poker pro is that you can transfer into a business owner through utilizing the money won in poker for something else, if at some point poker is no longer the thing you want to do full-time.
Who is the richest poker player in the world?
If we don’t take into account the richest businessmen who play poker, it is estimated that the best players have won between 50-100M USD during their careers. Players like this include Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius, Erik Seidel and Doyle Brunson. There are also multiple players with over 30M USD in live tournament winnings such Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo and Fedor Holz. You can read inspirational biographies of top crushers in poker from our article The Best Poker Players in 2020.
Who is the best female poker player?
Recently many great female players have taken their place in the poker scene that used to be very masculine. It’s hard to point out the absolute best female player, but there are multiple women who have won several millions from poker. Such names include Vanessa Selbst, Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke, Annette Obrestad and Live Boeree.
Henri is a Pot-Limit Omaha specialist and an expert in all aspects of poker tracking software. Henri has played poker professionally since 2009 and regularly plays the highest cash games available online.