07/08/2008

Turning professional...what exactly does that entail? What exactly does “professional” mean? I know it sounds fancy and many people have desires to become one of these so called “professionals” but I will bet my last dollar that the vast majority of these people haven’t the faintest idea what lays in store for them.

I suppose that the definition in the minds of most people as to what a professional poker player actually is tends to be someone who plays poker all week and whose sole income comes from this source. Well I will leave it up to the readers of this forum to put forth their own interpretations of what a pro actually is but suffice it to say that I think the phrase is over used.

I much prefer the term “successful” poker player because this in my mind represents the area where all players should be striving to get to. I simply don’t believe that any new player should be striving to be a “professional”. Most players don’t even understand the variance anyway and it’s a damn sight worse when it is happening and not when you are merely reading about it.

I simply do not recommend the life of playing poker full time. It can be a great life for a very small number of people but most successful players don’t fit into that bracket. I have played online poker for eight years and I would say that I only played it seriously from 2002 onwards. But as for playing it full time then this can be compressed into about a 2 year period and it is something that I wished that I hadn’t done.

I made the mistake of letting my dependency on my poker income become too great. It got to the stage where my playing hours crept higher and higher and at one stage I was playing 60 hours a week. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to do anything for that amount of time! I wasn’t multi-tabling and was trying to cram the hours in to secure a wage by the month end and the games were getting tougher and my game wasn’t.

I was playing so many hours that I simply didn’t have the time to sit back and analyse my game and all this was caused by me playing full time. Now I know that things are slightly different now in that you can get far more hours in multi-tabling but I still don’t recommend going full time and that still presumes that you can hack it playing more tables. I decided a few years ago that I badly needed to diversify otherwise I was simply going to jack the entire thing in and call it a day.

Some people can probably hack it better than me staring at a computer all day but I crave to be outdoors. Online poker was supposed to be giving me freedom from having to put up with an employer ever again.

But all I was doing now was becoming a slave to my computer, too bloody scared to stop playing because of what bad runs lay in wait and I was determined to put the hours in so I could play through them and still have something to show for it come the month end.

Unless you can seriously increase your current income by playing full time then I simply do not recommend it. The novelty wears off...trust me! But I had to diversify for my own sanity and was why I went into writing and theory three years ago. But the great thing about reducing my playing hours was that I actually became a far better player. My hourly rate also increased substantially because I was playing better poker and I was understanding poker far more.

The other available time was spent analysing my game and watching games far more and the writing side which ended up growing bigger than I had intended. But finally I had balance in which I was immersed in poker all week but not always playing. But there are upsides to decreasing your playing hours because there is no doubt that you do become a better player. I was playing every session fresh unlike before and this had a tremendous impact.

But the recognition that I have received as a poker theorist/writer has been worth it and I don’t regret cutting back. I have recently been asked to join the illustrious Stox Poker (www.stoxpoker.com) coaching team which was a fantastic honour for me as the players and the coaches on that site are second to non in my opinion. It is always nice when people on the inside who know your game respect you in this way. Then getting asked to write high limit theory for David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth’s 2+2 magazine was another great honour.

These were things that simply wouldn’t have happened had I continued playing full time because I think that the overall level of my game wouldn’t have been good enough. But you will notice that I haven’t mentioned once about bankrolls and living expenses and all the rest of the mathematical side of turning professional. This isn’t because it isn’t important because it is. It also isn’t because this article is a thorough coverage of the topic because it most certainly isn’t!

I almost didn’t write this article as I said on the forum last week because I am simply going to repeat what everyone else as said. Even if you are making the game pay then are you making it pay enough to warrant taking all the bad beats, bad runs and probably bad health that comes with playing online poker for prolonged periods of time? Also if as a successful poker player, you think that you will be happy then you are wrong.

I have said before on this forum how poker is a negative sum game emotionally. I guarantee that if you win $1000 after playing poker for 5 hours today and lose $900 after playing for 5 hours tomorrow that you won’t be happy about being ahead $100 after 10 hours of play. If you find £20 in the street tomorrow and lose £20 the following day, you will feel worse for the loss than the corresponding £20 that you were up from the day before.

Once you start to accept being a successful player then little things start to get to you that previously didn’t, Sure this takes time but it still happens. Therefore I recommend for what its worth, playing part-time or if you want a fancy name...semi professionally.

Keep the job...keep the other sources of income...don’t fall for the hype...keep the playing hours down to ensure high concentration play and if you make poker fit around your life rather than the other way around then you will not only be under far less pressure but you will also be happier and do you know what...I fancy your chances of making it far more.

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