Being a professional is not as glamorous as it may seem. You are responsible for earning your own money and that at times can be tough. Emotionally it can be a roller coaster with many highs and many bitter lows. I spend hours every day staring at my laptop screen and that is never great fun. I often work hard all week and end up making no money or even losing money. Not many jobs allow you to do that.
However, there are many upsides to the lifestyle of being a professional poker player. Primarily, I can take time off when I want because Im my own boss. I can get up when I want and start work at times that suit me. There are also lucrative rewards financially which enable me to travel and see the world. I travel often as I can take my work with me (as long as I have my laptop).
If you are thinking about becoming a professional then bear this in mind. What I have discovered is that the most important factor to being a professional poker player is not how good you are at poker. As mad as that may sound there are more important skills and nearly all of them can be put under a general heading of discipline:
Financial Discipline – Perhaps the most important skill. Many great poker players are unable to manage their own bankroll. They continually go bust. You need to avoid this.
Work Discipline – You are your own boss but you still need to work. You will not receive a pay check at the end of the month.
Mental Discipline – You need to accept that you will be subject to even more bad luck as you are playing so much more poker. You need to handle this and avoid going on tilt (playing recklessly because you are upset).
So what should you do?
Firstly you need to decide on what type of game you are best at. Are you a cash game player or a tournament player? Do you play large tournaments or sit n gos?
I soon discovered that sit n gos were where I could make money. The short tournament structure suited my game and I found myself consistently making money. With 30%-33% of the players getting paid I found that there were less swings in my bankroll as opposed to larger multi table tournaments where you can go for long times without winning money (although the rewards are larger).
I have become a sit n go specialist and although I am great at this format of poker I have weaknesses elsewhere and avoid playing those games.
How much money do you need?
To start with make sure you have enough money to live off for at least 6 months. I call this my living money. Keep this separate from your poker bankroll as it is not the same thing. Your poker bankroll should allow you to take fairly large swings in fortune without ever going broke. Never risk a substantial amount of your bankroll at any one time.
I have never risked more than 2% of my bankroll to enter a Sit n go and the reality is that even 2% is too much. I like to have a minimum of 100 buy-ins in my bankroll and often have up to 200 buy-ins.
How should you pay yourself?
To begin with you need to make sure that you keep topping up your living money. You need to ensure that you always have enough to live for 6 months. That is vitally important.
Allow your poker bankroll to grow to a level that you feel very comfortable with. At that point you can start taking money out of your poker account and spending it as you see fit. I suggest investing it and perhaps even topping up your living money to 9 months or perhaps even a year. But hey its your money.
Another option is to play at a higher level as your bankroll grows.
Where should you play?
You need an area where you feel comfortable to play in, although not too comfortable. Basically you need a desk and a working area. Make sure you dont have too many distractions although you may need music or the radio to keep you sane.
I always make sure I turn off Skype and Microsoft Messenger as I dont want any distractions. I also avoid surfing the web whilst playing.
How long should I play for?
I recommend splitting the day up into 2 hour sessions, if possible. Avoid playing for longer than 3 hours without a break. I like to take a minimum of ten minutes between sessions and I make sure I get away from my computer.
At most I play 3 or 4 sessions a day. I avoid playing extra sessions to chase losses. From time to time I reward myself by stopping after the first couple of sessions if I do particularly well but I don’t always do this. If Im winning Im perhaps in a great frame of mind or particularly on my game. By continuing to play I am exploiting this and may continue to make even more money.
Never set yourself a daily win limit. You’ll be frustrated if you don’t make it and chasing it may affect the standard of your play. Once you become a professional you are judging your results over months and years not over days. Some days youll make a small fortune and other days you may lose one. All that’s important is whether you make money in the long run.
What equipment do I need?
Well you’ll need a computer or a laptop and perhaps youll need both. Spending money on good equipment is necessary – theyre your tools after all. Perhaps most essential is a good monitor or even two if youre going to be multi-tabling.
Do I need to study?
Even though you’ll be a professional you need to keep learning. Its more important that you continue to learn than it is for a casual player. Buy the books, read the forums, watch tutorials – improve your game!