How To Make a Living Playing Poker

Table of Contents

You’re not alone in pondering this question—it resonates with a vast community comprising hundreds and thousands who share your curiosity about the prospect of making a living through poker. It’s almost as if they’re searching for a café on Google Maps after relocating or visiting their grandma. 

Why do people keep searching for the phrase? Perhaps, for you, it was a casual afternoon in your living room when the tale of Daniel Colman’s staggering $15,306,668 victory at the 2014 Big One for One Drop event unfolded on ESPN, and you got your spark or simply fueled by a genuine passion for poker—your answer is probably evident by now, and your secret is safe, haha. However, that doesn’t halt your quest for answers. This could be the definitive stop for the insights you seek, and you won’t be “running bad” excessively on your poker journey. Time to shuffle those cards!

Skills Needed to Excel in Poker

Sometimes, luck may smile upon you in poker, as the game predominantly revolves around strategic decision-making. Luck is not the primary determining factor. There’s no need to go shopping for a talisman; what you truly require are well-thought-out plans, knowledge, and a virtuous approach. Chief among these virtues is patience, an attribute whose significance cannot be overstated. Waiting for a favorable hand rather than impulsively discarding your current hand can yield positive results, even if it means enduring moments of anticipation.

On top of understanding when to play your hand and when to fold, channel the Archimedes in you. Hone your mathematical skills. A grasp of probabilities, such as calculating “pot odds”, becomes essential—helping you assess whether a potential win justifies the risk of your wager. The psychological aspect of the game is equally crucial. Mastering the art of reading your opponent’s body language provides valuable insights into their strategies, enabling you to plan your moves accordingly. Moreover, be prepared to adapt your strategy mid-game while still wearing your Stone Cold face; flexibility is a key asset in navigating the dynamic landscape of poker.

What is the Reality of Playing Poker for a Living?

Poker is this, poker is that. People portray it as this perfect endeavor. But the reality isn’t always as flawless as it may seem. Similar to any pursuit, poker has its merits, but it also comes with a peculiar mix of difficulties and complications.

Pros of professional poker

Even though some people might find it strange, you have some freedom as a businessman of the card. You can work from places including Macau and Hawaii and travel at will. Anywhere is acceptable! Anytime! 

Furthermore, poker can go more smoothly for you, and you may be able to make more money if you have an intrinsic drive to play the game rather than if you are under external pressure from peers, “John plays poker, why can’t I as well?”

Cons of professional poker

Now, onto the aspects that might bring a frown to your face. In poker, the demand for a multitude of skills, as you might have noticed earlier in this post, necessitates a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the game. 

Financial instability will become your companion in poker, and the toll of the game on your sleep can be significant. And in some cases, there’s a high “odd” for addiction to creep in. What are your thoughts on this challenging aspect?

Stories of Professional Poker Players

Apologies for frightening you with the horror of professional poker playing earlier. It's time to shift gears and begin jumping as you hear the inspiring stories of some professional poker players.

Andrew Badecker

Meet Andrew Badecker, who faced the challenge of being kicked out by his parents when he opted for a poker career. 

Confronting the conventional mindset of parents fixated on traditional professions, including Medicine, Law, or Engineering, Andrew’s story took a turn when he transitioned from playing with friends to conquering online tournaments. He secured an impressive $70,000 in 2010 across seven tournaments, and in the following year, 2011, he won over $800,000. Now, who do you think might be having second thoughts?

Annette Obrestad

Annette Obrestad is another successful online poker player. She never stopped learning and triumphed in several freeroll tournaments, which helped her build a sturdy bankroll foundation. She was just fifteen when all of this began! 

Between September 2006 and February 2007, her prowess shone brightly as she accumulated an impressive total of $836,000 in winnings.

Oh, a quick one. If you’re not aware, freeroll tournaments are a particular kind of poker competition where participants can participate for FREE and win real money rewards.

How can I Become a Professional Poker Player?

Congratulations on making it this far in the post with your spirits still intact despite any unsettling moments along the way (sorry for that). For successfully passing the vibe check, here are the key steps to smoothly transition from playing poker as a hobby to pursuing it professionally:

Step 1: Improve Your Skills

Given your familiarity with Annette’s story, you’re well aware of the importance of this step—even if she is not a motivation, her winnings surely are. 

Learn the tricks of the trade and become an expert in bluffing and other strategies. You cannot stop learning in poker. Engage in more hands and face diverse opponents, plus regularly analyze your performance to track your progress.

Step 2: Join Professional Networks

Can you mention a career in which professional networks are not important? Even in selling ice cream, a professional network can provide valuable insights, such as new cream mixture techniques, recipes, or marketing strategies. Poker is more complex than the ice cream business. Imagine the immense benefits from professional networks that await you. 

Participate in tournaments in your area and those online to broaden your knowledge and connect with fellow players. Seek out poker communities online, whether on social media or forums, and you might even find your mentor from there.

Step 3: Building a Bankroll and Managing Finances

With the term “Bankroll” constantly popping up in this post, it’s time to dissect it. Your dedicated poker-playing funds constitute your bankroll. It’s a crucial ability that can prevent you from playing carelessly at the poker table and losing all of your rent money

The strength of your bankroll significantly influences your success in poker. Stick to your bankroll, resist the temptation of imprudent actions, and avoid games and stakes beyond your current skill level.

It should be common knowledge that a lot of poker sites provide bonuses. Make good use of these to increase your bankroll and try out other game varieties, for example, Pai Gow and Chinese poker, to broaden your poker experience. When you begin implementing what you learn and your expertise and success grow—brands will definitely come after you—make informed decisions about potential partnerships or sponsorships. You might even consider charging and coaching other players, adding another layer to your poker career.

Tips for Aspiring Professional Poker Players

This is the start of your journey; refrain from pressuring yourself with unrealistic expectations. They won’t help you at all, and your best bet is to do it step by step. Kick off with the basics and gradually level up. Remember, you’re not a machine—you need to prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Again, engage in a constant quest for learning and improvement while actively building connections within the dynamic poker community. 

Last but not least, diversify your risk by not putting all your eggs on the poker table; having a backup plan or exploring alternative career paths adds a layer of resilience. It does not kill to have a backup plan. The poker industry is unpredictable, and being adaptable could be your greatest strength.

Other Considerations

You already feel as though you know everything, but before you say goodbye to this post, pause to think about the following additional points:

Legal and ethical aspects of professional poker

You should be as familiar with poker rules as you are with your name, regardless of whether you are the father, godfather, grandfather, or mother of poker. They will assist you in playing sensibly and being polite to other players. What will lead to all of this is your thorough comprehension of the ethical and legal ramifications of poker. Don’t suffer the repercussions of not understanding ’em.

Longevity and sustainability in the poker industry

In the poker industry, you can’t expect to succeed by sticking to one technique or doing other boring things. To maintain your career in poker means adapting to changes in the market, finding a healthy balance between your poker time and other responsibilities, and never stopping learning and development. Your continual growth will make you a hot cake.

Balancing poker with other life priorities

Although it is not simple to accomplish, it is possible. You can manage both your life and poker. The first step in balancing poker with other responsibilities in life is setting aside time for family, friends, and other commitments, which translates to your effective time management skills. It also involves effectively establishing boundaries. The worst thing that can happen to you is to let poker take up all of your time.

Recommended Reading and Educational Materials

This post has highlighted the terms “Skills” and “Skill improvement,” yet not a single resource or piece of information was offered to you for skill advancement. And you must have been thinking, “How do they expect me to go about the ‘upskilling’ they speak about?” Don’t worry too much. 

Here are some recommended resources to support your journey with valuable insights to give your poker skills a big boost: books such as Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments by Jonathan Little, Play Optimal Poker by Andrew Brokos, and Excelling at No-Limit Hold ’Em by Jonathan Little; and YouTube channels including PokerGO, World Poker Tour, CrushlivePoker, and Raise Your Edge.

To wrap things up

The truth is that being a professional poker player is, in the end, a difficult but potentially rewarding career decision. But really, is there a career choice that does not involve work? Well, no, all career choices do involve work. However, you can look at poker differently because it requires an in-depth knowledge of the game, ongoing learning and development, and a strong network within the poker community. 

For this stormy reason, you should carefully consider your options before deciding how to enter the world of professional poker. The reflection process is not that hard. You can set the ball rolling by asking yourself these questions: 

  1. “How interested am I in the game?” 
  2. “Am I willing to invest the time and energy required to succeed?” 
  3. “Can I contend with the fact that financial instability can be a significant problem in poker and that success in poker is not guaranteed?” 

Remember that playing poker is about more than just winning and losing. It’s about making the best decisions you can with the wealth of information at your disposal. Don’t go yet. Are you ready to go all-in on a poker career?

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