Moving from Casual to Pro Poker Play

Once you go pro, it all changes


Moving from Casual to Pro Play is not something to be taken lightly. To most of us, poker is a hobby at best. It's a game we enjoy playing, which sometimes turns into a bit of cash too. It's fun, it's a challenge, but it's not a job.


Once you go pro, that all changes. Now your livelihood depends on your winning as many games as possible. You must seek out the soft rooms. You must go fishing and reel in the idiots. Above all, you must not lose.


You need to disabuse yourself of the impression that this is a glamorous lifestyle. Watching players like Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan on ESPN gives you a skewed impression of the profession, because you need to understand that, while it's totally possible to rise to that level of play, it's neither easy nor common.


Don't go into it thinking you'll be massively rich overnight. Playing poker professionally takes not only skill, but an inordinate amount of patience, and more than a little bit of wisdom, too.

Start Small


What you absolutely do not want to do is build up a bankroll of $10,000 and then blow it all on a seat to the World Series of Poker. It's true that the potential pay-off of a WSOP is insane, in the millions of dollars, completely life changing. But the competition is going to be really hard. If you're not careful, you could decimate your bankroll in a very small amount of time.


For this reason, start small. At least initially, look for tournament play rather than heads up or ring games. The reason for this is simple: you're limiting your exposure. Playing professionally requires a different mindset, and here's how you go at it.


When you play in a poker tournament, you're only risking what it costs you to buy in. You could potentially win a lot more than that, but you can only lose that amount. This is crucial, particularly in the early stages of your career.


Secondly, you don't have to win a poker tournament in order for it to have been professionally worthwhile. The lions share of the prize pool will always go to the top couple of finishers, but usually, depending on the size of the tournament, the top 20 finishers might see a slice too.


You're aiming to at least make back your stake. Anything else you make is profit. As much as you're aiming to win, you're really just aiming to play consistently in such a way that you make it to the paying positions, as often as possible.

Do the math


Here's an easy way to work out whether you're ready for professional poker. Presumably you have some sort of day job, right? Work out what you're earning per hour. To make it fair, throw in the cost of all the benefits you're receiving, because once you dedicate yourself to professional poker playing, you're going to have to provide all those things for yourself.


Right, so, total monthly income divided by the number of hours a month you work. That's what you're pulling doing your day job.


Now, continue playing poker as you have always done. But now, start keeping a fastidious log. You want to keep track of your total earnings (from which you have to subtract what it cost you to make), and the number of hours of play it took you to earn that money.


This will give you an idea of what your hourly rate of earning is as a professional poker player versus what you're making doing your 9 to 5 grind. Until they're consistently similar, or you're in fact pulling down more than your day job, you shouldn't kid yourself about this.

Living on the Edge


Most professional poker players make their money at tournament play, for the reasons stated above. But there is serious cash to be made at ring games. It's far more dangerous, however.


The difference is that you play with your actual bankroll. You could potentially destroy yourself. So the trick here is to play where the green kids are. Find yourself either a casino loaded with noobs who watch too much poker TV, or a poker room that isn't famous yet. Should be enough inexperienced players that you can make a killing.


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