Becoming a Professional Poker Player – How Your Life Can Look?
From afar, living the life of a professional poker player may look like a dream for many.
You spend days doing what you love, no boss is hanging over your shoulder, you set your working hours, and there is virtually unlimited space for improvement.
The more you work – the more you earn, and you get to keep it all.
So, it isn’t strange that many people are wondering how to become a professional poker player. It seems like a dream come true, but do not rush out of your job just yet!
I won’t deny it. I am playing poker professionally for the last ten years, and it certainly has its perks. However, there are some downsides to this life as well, and make sure to understand all parts of it before making your final decision.
If you do not care much about that, skip this section and go straight to the 12 steps part where I cover what you need to do to become a poker PRO. However, I think additional information can’t hurt you, right?
Where Do You Even Start?
Like every profession, playing poker, when you do it as your only source of income, isn’t the same as when you’re playing for fun. So naturally, you need to approach it differently as well.
If you wanted to change your career and become a lawyer instead of a medical doctor, you’d go to a law school. If you wanted to become a car mechanic, you’d find a school for that. I guess you see where I am going with this.
Luckily, these days you also have a ton of recourses where you can learn poker, and if you want to take it seriously, I highly recommend considering joining one of the best poker training sites online.
Because one thing is for sure, if you want long term success, you have to be better than your opponents.
You also have to understand, that being a professional poker player is, a rather solitary thing, and this is something you need to get used to right from the outset.
So, to start with, you should answer a few very basic questions:
- Why do you want to be a poker professional?
- What makes you think you could do it?
- What are your long-term expectations from this career?
All of these questions are very important and can help you make up your mind if this is something you really want to do or if it’s just a pipe dream that sounds like fun.
Why Do You Want to Be a Poker Pro?
Are you considering this because you’re sick and tired of your current career or because you have a passion for the game? Can you see yourself spending hours playing poker and enjoying every minute of it?
If it is just a career change you strive, or you want to make more money, you should probably look into some other options first. Without real passion and dedication, you won’t make it, plain and simple.
It is especially true in today’s highly competitive and tough poker environment where you have to work every day to outstand your competition.
It is not going to be an easy ride, so better know what to expect from the beginning.
Are You Ready for It?
It’s one thing to play a bit of poker on the side. It is entirely different to play the game for a living.
Your existence will be entirely dependent on your results at the tables. Therefore, you need to be able to consistently beat the games you’re playing before you consider the life of a professional poker player.
It is no secret that people are very biased when talking about their poker results, but it is of the utmost importance, to be honest, and open with yourself.
Never consider going to poker full-time, if you do not have any results to back up your decision.
If you’re barely winning or have been breaking even for years, it won’t change just because you decided to become a professional player.
No amount of positive thinking will help you suddenly become a master of the game, so start playing as a side hustle and do not put too much pressure on yourself.
What Are Your Long-term Expectations?
Finally, you need to be at least somewhat clear about what it is that you expect from your professional poker career.
Is it the freedom you look for the most, or you want to travel the world, or you want to make a lot of money playing.
Your long-term goal, while somewhat hard to define this early on, will also play a big part in choosing what you are going to play and the likelihood of you being happy with your newly-found career path.
What Do You Expect to Achieve?
People get into poker for a variety of reasons, and before you take the plunge, you should think long and hard about what it is that you’re seeking.
Are you in for the money?
If you’re looking to make a decent life, this should be more than achievable with some effort on your part.
At the same time, many other professions can give you good living with much less stress. So once again, don’t dive to poker just because of the money.
Unless you love the game and enjoy your time, spending six or more hours playing poker every day will feel just like any old job – with the added stress of swings, bad beats, and disappointments that come with close calls.
Of course, if you ready to dedicate a lot of time for playing and learning, and even enjoy it, playing poker could be a great path to making money.
What about freedom?
Many people fall in love with playing poker for a living because of the freedom this lifestyle seems to offer. While that is true, the freedom you actually get is not exactly what people imagine.
Of course, you will not have anyone bossing you around, but that does not mean that you don’t need to do things. Quite contrary.
You have to put a lot of effort and will power to build a structure for playing and learning hours and most importantly stick with it. It is not an easy thing if you do not have enough motivation or know why you want to play in the first place.
Would you like to travel the world?
Finally, if you’re dreaming about traveling the world and playing big tournaments all around the globe, there are several things you need to know:
- You’ll need a big bankroll to support this lifestyle
- Big tournaments come with some huge variance
- Additional expenses (traveling, accommodation) makes it hard to be very profitable
If you are just transitioning to playing poker professionally, this is not something you are likely to do at the beginning. Well, unless you have a huge bankroll and great skills, but then, you probably would not be reading this article.
However, you should not give up so easily. There are plenty of ways to get into tournaments and enjoy traveling the world.
You can play small satellites and win your tickets, or sell your shares for a specific tournament to other players and only hold some % of your action.
All of the previously mentioned reasons are attractive and attainable at the same time, but make sure to see the full picture.
How Does Professional Poker Players Life Looks
From your current perspective, it may seem that winning in poker isn’t all that hard. You may have had some success in local tournaments, or you have a solid cash game session here and there.
But, if you’re looking to take things to the next level and become a professional poker player, this simply won’t cut it.
Carefully managing bankroll
Firstly, let's talk about money. You’ll need to figure out what your monthly expenses are and how much you’ll need to make playing poker to cover these.
At the same time, you’ll want to be able to make some extra money on top of this so you can continue to grow your bankroll and move up through the stakes, which should always be a part of your long-term plan.
We will talk about realistic expectations about what you stand to earn playing poker full time in the next section.
Meanwhile, I highly recommend keeping close tabs of your results and expenses. It is important to be very honest here and keep accurate records.
After a while, look at the numbers and see where you stand. Had you been exclusively playing poker for the past period, would you be able to cover your expenses? Are you even winning?
If your results aren’t at the satisfactory level, this isn’t the end of the world, and if you set on becoming a professional poker player, you don’t have to give up.
There are many training resources and poker software that can help you get better.
But, until you’re beating whatever games you’re planning on playing, whether online or live, you shouldn’t consider ditching your current job and going into poker full time.
Always grinding and learning
There are many professions where you can have success even if you don’t particularly enjoy them. I don’t think poker is one of them, though.
If you don’t enjoy the game in all of its segments, you probably won’t make it in the long run. And loving poker isn’t easy.
We’ve all experienced many bad beats over the years, but when you play for a living, you have to accept that it will happen more than you want and see it as a part of the game – which isn’t easy for most.
On top of that, if you want to become a professional poker player, you have to understand that you will be spending a lot of our time at the tables, and I mean A LOT!
Obviously, this only stands if you want to succeed, but this goes without saying.
Serious players are grinding games really hard, and they spend many hours of the table polishing their skills and learning new strategies.
Therefore, if you want to give this a shot, be ready for long hours. If you are ready, let’s discuss how much you can expect to earn in different formats.
Professional Poker Player Salary: How Much Can You Expect to Earn?
While bracelets, titles, and shiny trophies are very cool, this is not what put money on the table for the most part.
When you play poker professionally, the only real measure of your success is how much you can expect to earn consistently.
Even though it is very hard to give exact numbers because it depends on your skill, competition, and many other factors, I will try to give some figures in this article to help you understand what kind of salary you can expect to achieve.
To make it more realistic, I will compare lower stakes games, but you can easily do the math for higher ones as well.
Many people dream of playing large online tournaments because of the possibility to hit a huge score that can change their life in a matter of seconds.
If you’re wondering how to become a professional poker player, though, you need to get out of this mind-frame and think about the long run.
Winning online MTT players can get anywhere from 10% to 60%+ ROI. It means that for every $1 they put in towards buy-ins, they will earn $0.10 – $0.60+ on top of that.
You need to have in mind, that tournaments with higher buy-ins have tougher competition, which equals lower ROI. Thus, you will not have the same return on your investment in $100+ buy-in MTTs as in lower ones.
So, if you’re playing tournaments with an average buy-in of $20 with 35% ROI, which is quite solid, you’ll be making about $7 per tournament.
Let’s assume you play around 300 MTTs per month. This way, you make around $2,100 (before any rakeback). It doesn’t sound too bad, but to have that 35% ROI, you’ll need to be pretty good.
Online Cash Games
First of all, if you want to play professionally and make a living out of cash games, you will have to play at NL50 at the very least – and this is only if you do not have many expenses.
More likely, you’ll need to be able to beat NL100 to make decent money.
These days, an average online player is quite good, so even if you are a solid player yourself, you can’t expect to crush it.
A realistic win-rate at NL50 these days is just around 5bb/100 (without rakeback). So, every 100 hands you play, you’ll make around $2,50.
If you put your mind to it and play around 50,000 hands every month, you’re looking at around $1,250 in profit plus a few more hundred from rakeback, depending on the particular deal you have.
The only way to make more is to either play even more (but there goes your freedom that you wanted so much) or apply yourself to studying the game and move up the stakes. I highly recommend the second option.