Nothing worthwhile comes easily in life and becoming a true, professional poker player is no exception.
PokerVIP is dedicated to providing all the tools current full time poker players and aspiring amateurs need to take their game to the next level. This article will give an honest overview of the steps on how to become a professional poker player and link to useful resources.
Dedication, Drive & Discipline
Be it sports, academic or any field in life, dedication and sheer determination is an essential prerequisite. Even the most talented tennis player, will only hit a certain level, if their dedication is lacking.
In poker specifically, dedication and discipline refers to things like:
Study - Being prepared to spend a significant chunk of your time learning and improving your game instead of playing. It may not be as exciting and glamorous, but if you are not prepared to review hands, discuss tricky situations and learn to apply concepts such as implied odds, pot odds and so forth, your game will hit a plateau.
Bankroll management - For most of us it is tempting to take an easy path to double our money overnight. True professional poker players would never dream of such a thing, because the risk of ruin is too high. They view their bankroll as a tool, as their fishing boat and if they destroy it overnight trying to catch a whale, they are wise enough to realise they may not be able to go out to sea tomorrow.
Honesty - Be true to yourself. Is this profession you can truly pursue? Are you prepared for the emotional pain of not enjoying a winning day for a week, without cracking? Are you aware it may not always be glamorous and do you understand that reaching the top of the poker world requires the same dedication as other fields? It’s not a get rich quick scheme, but if you adjust your mindset, it is indeed true that being a professional poker player offers amazing flexibility and perks that other professions cannot.
Pick your Sources
Learning is only as valuable as the sources you learn from. You can be dedicated and do everything correctly, but if your information is coming from an unreliable source, then it may do more harm than good.
Whilst PokerVIP offers hundreds of free coaching videos, poker strategy articles, an active forum and many other useful resources, do not take my word that they are the best in the business. In fact, for multiple specific topics, there might be many other tools that are more rewarding.
Instead, learn to judge the information you find by yourself. Are the poker strategies backed up with real substance and justification? Are they logical?
In fact many of the top poker pros have gone on record stating they do not want to give out too much information regarding their methods. For, if everyone could play like them, their entire livelihood would be at risk. Nobody will give you a magic pill, the most meaningful realisations come from absorbing a significant volume of information, using your intelligence to process it and arriving at your own outcomes.
Never stop learning, but always question what you read and master weeding out the good from the mediocre and bad.
Game & Poker Room Selection
Arguably one of the most important factors for professional poker players. Consider this experiment:
50 of the world’s best No Limit Hold’em Players are placed on an online poker room, each with $100,000
All players must apply basic bankroll management i.e. No crazy $100,000 flips or gambling allowed. They must play as professionals.
No other players are invited or are able to enter the games.
The players play for 12 months and must play a minimum of 100,000 hands per month i.e. A significant volume.
Question: Who would emerge the winner?
No, it is not Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan or your favourite poker pro. Unless there was a serious statistical deviation.
It does not matter how good you are, if you are consistently playing against the best players. Good fisherman do not fish in waters that are saturated with hundreds of fishing boats and few fish - or at least it is unlikely they will achieve exceptional results this way.
Cast a wide net, and search for poker rooms and games with as low a number of professionals or regs as possible.
Remember: In poker, being better than your opponents alone is not enough to make a living. You must have a decent edge on them, so much, that you overcome the rake and the poker room charges and still have profit left for yourself.
Assemble your Weapons
Professional tennis players do not only have a racket and a ball. They have teams around them, and make the most of all the tools available. Professional poker players must do the same.
Specifically this means:
Tracking software - If the poker room you play at permits it. There are trials or free versions for most HUDs.
Table selection software
Discussion groups / forums - to get line checks and stay on top of your game.
Hand sharing software - To share and analyse any hands you play.
Table Mods - Make the tables as easy to keep track of as possible. This might be as simple as ensuring you have ‘4 coloured deck’ turned on, but your tables must be easy on the eyes.
Maybe most importantly, know what you are up against and what tools the best players at your poker room are using to stay ahead of the game. Ensure you are tooled up to the same level and consider how you can counter their edge using these tools should you ever come up against them.
Poker is not a constant. It is constantly changing.
10 years ago it was fashionable for the pros of the day to raise in late positions preflop. This was because they would often take down the blinds preflop, weaker players would call and have to play vs. them out of position and it helped building up an aggressive table image without risking much money.
A few years later, most regular players began to adapt and started re-raising these raises with non-premium hands. This is known today as 3 betting. The idea is that it exploited these constant late position raises and forced these players to adjust their playing style or risk consistently losing money if they could not understand what was going on.
Although there are many specific examples of the game changing over the years, the important point to understand is that it will always continue to change. A strategy that could beat mid stakes games 7 years ago, can no longer be used today. Professional poker players can think for themselves and adapt before the general poker playing population figures it out - This is how they maintain their edge.
Final thoughts - Although this article is general in nature, it represents the initial foundations required in order to have a chance of succeeding in playing poker for a living.
Comment below and let me know any tips you have for aspiring poker pros. Good luck!