Playing poker for a living can seem like a dream come true for many people. The ability to set your own hours, almost unlimited prospects of moving up in your career, and no boss to tell you what to do and when to do it all come with a lot of promise. And, in many respects, all of the above is quite true.

However, when considering playing poker professionally, there are also quite a few things you must consider before making the move. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so if you jump into a life of playing poker professionally without being sufficiently prepared, you could be in for a rough ride.

professional1. Professional poker is hard work

It isn’t until you make the plunge that you realize that all the freedom you’ve been dreaming about isn’t quite there. Sure, you get a lot of flexibility as a professional poker player in terms of when you’ll play, but you still need to actually sit down and play.

Whether you play live or online, you’ll need to put in the hours required to make enough money to pay your bills, cover your living expenses, and continue to grow your bankroll. Overall, you’ll probably put in just as many hours as you used to put in working your 9-5 job, especially when adding the time you’ll spend studying poker to the equation. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t go for it, but you definitely need to consider how much time are you going to devote for playing and learning.

2. You’re probably not good enough just yet

We all have a fairly high opinion of our own game, but the reality of the situation is that poker keeps getting tougher and tougher. For that reason, odds are that you probably aren’t good enough to turn to poker full-time yet. If you’re planning to play online, be ready to learn a lot about various poker tools and software that are an absolute must in order to beat the games these days.

Take it from Poker Hall of Famer Todd Brunson:

In addition to this, once you reach any respectable level, you can fully expect some of your opponents to adjust to your game and try to take advantage of your leaks. So, you need to be aware that you’ll have to constantly learn, adjust, and improve if you want to continue making money from poker well into the future.

3. Use your bankroll only for poker

When you’re a recreational player or at least someone not depending on poker to make ends meet, regardless of your skill level, you don’t necessarily need to have a separate bankroll. In fact, you might just have a budget.

bankroll builder

If you want to be a professional poker player, however, you’ll need to have a certain amount of money set aside to be used only for playing poker. Your bankroll is your main tool, and you need it to support and advance your poker career. You should probably not consider a move to professional poker until you have a big enough bankroll that you can set aside exclusively for playing while leaving a reasonable amount of money to cover your everyday expenses at least few months in advance.

4. Don’t let your ego get in a way

If you’re not careful and honest with yourself, your ego can easily get in the way of building a successful professional poker career. As a professional, you need to be sensible about your game selection and your bankroll management and not let emotions get in a way.

Your main goal as a professional player is to make as much money as possible every time you sit down to play. Ideally, you’d like a table full of players who don’t even know basic poker odds and outs every time you sit down. Don’t get into grudge matches with other good players to try and outplay them at all costs, as the cost is likely to be very high.

5. Not everyone will understand and/or like your choice

One final thing you need to be prepared for if you’ve decided to make the move is that not everyone around you will understand your decision to play poker professionally. To many people, poker is just gambling, and no amount of rationalization or explanation will change that.

I felt this myself with full force when I started playing years ago. Most of my friends and family saw me as a pure gambler chasing money, and their opinion did not change for years until I proved that I could make a steady income from this source and that the role luck plays in poker is reduced in the long run if you’re a skilled player.

Being a professional poker player means deviating from the norms and, depending on where you live, people might misunderstand you or even judge you for your choices. If you don’t think you can deal with that type of pressure, you should stop and think long and hard about whether this career path is for you. At the tables and away from them, a good poker player must always be confident of his or her decisions and stick to their guns despite anyone else’s (misinformed) opinion.

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