Playing Poker for a Living
written by: John
Note: This article assumes that if you are looking to play poker full time, you already have established yourself to be a winning player with a winning track record. This means playing thousands of hands or games, not just a few hundred. Please do not make the mistake of misinterpreting positive variance as you having the skill set to play poker full time.
It would probably be safe to assume that most of you that play poker aspire to eventually make it your full time job. And why wouldn't you? Playing poker full time would be like running your own business and being your own boss. You can wake up when you want, play when you want, as much as you want and quit when you want. The bottom line is that you make and live by your own rules.
I can't think of a better perk of playing full time poker than being my own boss and I'm sure many of you feel the same way. However, what most people fail to realize is that the perk of being your own boss also comes with a lot of responsibility. After all, if you don't take playing (working) for yourself seriously, you'll likely always struggle to become self-sustaining and will risk having to go back to flipping burgers at your local fast food joint.
Before you can consider playing poker full time (assuming you already have a full time job and responsibilities), it's extremely important that you prepare yourself to ensure you give yourself as big a chance to succeed as possible. This means being prepared financially, emotionally and mentally.
Being Prepared Financially
It's a common rule of thumb to have 3 to 6 months of your typical monthly income stashed away when starting a new business in order to survive being new and not having a client base.
Obviously, you don't have to worry about establishing a client base as a poker player. But what you do have to worry about is variance which can lead to days, weeks or even months without making a profit.
Because of this, you should still have at least 3 to 6 months of money that can cover bills and groceries stashed away to ensure you and your family will still be able to survive. If you can put more than 6 months worth of money away, be sure to do it. It's always better to have more than not enough.
Keep in mind that your savings is not the same as your poker bankroll. Be sure to keep these separate.
Being Prepared Emotionally & Mentally
It simply does not matter how good a player you are or how much money you might have saved up, you will not make it as a professional poker player if you cannot get a handle on your emotional and mental state. This includes, but is not limited to, handling bad beats, tilting and dealing with breakeven or losing days.
It's important to really, really understand this before making the leap and playing full time. You cannot afford to spew off your bankroll or replace screen after screen because you can't handle tilt. Additionally, you cannot afford to change your game or lose confidence because you went a couple days or even a week without making any money.
The bottom line is that you need to realize that you will always tilt or feel down on yourself to some extent. It's how you deal with it that will matter the most.
Once You Start Playing Full Time
When you start playing full time, I would suggest treating it like a business. This means that you:
• Play so many hours, hands or games per day, week and month. Set goals for yourself and try to put in more volume in the next month than you did the last. Just be sure not to sacrifice quality for quantity.
• Use your bankroll for poker related business only. This means using it to play, pay for coaching, staking or anything that will help you improve your business one way or another.
• Don't abuse the fact that you choose when you work. This means not taking days off in excess, sleeping or partying all day when you should be playing. I would suggest creating and sticking to some sort of schedule. This schedule would include your time to play as well as allotted time for studying and/or coaching.
• Continue to build your bankroll. If you think about it, a business expands with their budget. As their budget gets bigger, they can hire more employees, buy advertising and can start new stores/companies in new locations. This all leads to making more money. Poker is the same. As your bankroll grows, you can move up in stakes, invest in various aids to help you improve and invest in other poker related ventures such as websites or staking. Never withdrawal all of your profits for the month if you don't have to - be sure to re-invest in your poker business so you can continue to grow.
How to Play Poker for a Living
Whether or not you can play poker for a living and actually continue to do so for as long as you wish really comes down to how serious you take it. Sure, many successful full time players live a "baller" lifestyle by driving fancy cars, partying every night and being able to buy whatever they want, when they want it. There is no reason you can't do this too. However, if you don't take your "business" seriously by planning and making smart decisions, all of these perks and luxuries can easily be lost or taken away. Worse yet, you might also have to start handing out job applications and resumes.