Deciding to play poker for a living is a big decision.
What kinds of things should you think about? Is it even a valid option for you?
In this three part series we’re going to take a look at these questions and more.
Before You Even Think About Thinking About Going Pro
First and foremost, you’d better be a winning poker player over a significant sample size.
Note: A significant sample - not a three-week heater or a couple of winning months.
You need a very large sample size to know whether you’re a winning player and what your win rate is.
If poker's your living, downswings take their toll.
Think 200,000 hands online minimum or at least a year’s worth of serious live play.
Swings are Inevitable
Poker is a swingy, variance-filled game. You can win for months without actually being a winning player.
Conversely you can be an awesome player yet still lose for a month or more. It’s just part of the game.
These swings are inevitable. You might think that you can handle downswings well, but when poker is your only source of income downswings can take an especially hard mental toll.
You need to have the bankroll to be able to pay your bills even when you’re losing money at poker.
This isn’t the kind of decision you make instantly
They Call it a Grind for a Reason
Think about it. The game is fun and can be an excellent source of income.
But sometimes poker is best left as a side income. They call it a grind for a reason.
Be honest with yourself. You need to have the results first before anything.
Don’t ever leave a good job to play poker for a living.
Make it a serious part-time job first. If after a year or two you’re making more from your poker job than your “real” job, then start thinking about going pro.
Don’t ever leave a good job to play poker for a living.
Remember that if you ever stop playing for a living you’re to have to explain that massive gap in your resume. It might be fun for a few years, but is it really what you want long term?
Poker will always be there. You can always play seriously on the side. Really stop and think about it.
A Hard Way to Make an Easy Living
“A hard way to make an easy living” might be the best quote ever made on playing poker for a living.
It has its advantages, for sure. You make your own hours. You have free time. You’re your own boss.
But playing poker for a living has it’s downsides. Most prominently, sometimes you go to “work” and lose a whole shit ton of money.
To succeed as a poker player you have to have an excellent work ethic. You’re not going to get fired for coming in late and you’re not going to get fired for leaving early.
You play when you want. But you have to treat it as a job and take it seriously.
Make daily hand goals, or hours-played goals, or tournament-volume goals for the day, week, month and stick to them.
To succeed as a poker player, you have to have a work ethic.
You can take time off if something fun is happening but you have to make up that time somewhere. If you can’t put in the volume you’re never going to have success.
With all that said, people do play poker for a living and it’s completely possible that you’re ready to do it.
But make sure you take the time, weigh all the options, and really think the decision out.
What Size Bankroll Do I Need?
IF you're going to make the leap to professional poker player, this is the main question and it depends on a variety of factors.
What game are you going to play? Tournaments? Cash? What stakes? What’s your monthly nut?
The Monthly Nut
Your monthly nut is your total monthly expenses. That’s the roof over your head, food, car payments, electricity, water, spending money.
It’s everything. How much do you need to live comfortably every month?
Calculate this and then add 15 to 20% and you get a good idea of how much you’re going to need to make every month.
Now compare that to your win rate. You want to live comfortably, and scraping by while playing for a living is not anyone’s idea of fun.
If you’re playing cash games you’ll want at least 100 buy-ins for your stake level. That’s the minimum.
Make sure you're comfortably rolled.
You want to be comfortably rolled. You don’t want to go on a 25BI downer and have to dip into your reserve fund to keep playing.
This is your playing bankroll. Don’t touch it for anything but poker.
On top of your playing roll you need to have at least three months living expenses saved up just in case.
Who knows what can happen? You could get in a car accident. You could get sick. You could go on a really sick downswing.
So be prepared. This is your reserve fund, and you shouldn't don’t touch it for anything.
If you’re playing poker full time, then have this reserve fund at all times. This isn’t money you’ve saved that you can go spend on shoes or a vacation.
This is the reserve fund in case of emergencies.
If you end up making more money than your monthly nut and you have your reserve squirrelled away, then sure. Spend it.
But the reserve fund and your bankroll are not for spending; they are the tools of your trade and must be treated as such.
It’s Your Business
Poker is now your business so treat it as such.
Playing poker allows for a ton of freedom but you have to remember this is your job. You can’t half ass it. You have to put in your volume and you have to be nitty about bankroll management and your reserve management.
If poker's your business, treat it as such.
If you spend money as quick as you make it, you’re never going to have enough for when that inevitable downswing comes.
You really can’t be too careful. If you plan correctly and are a good enough player, playing poker can be an awesome and very lucrative job.
But it’s just that -- a job. And if you don’t treat it like a job you’re doomed to fail before you even start.
Next in the Series:
Should I Go Pro? Part 2: Online vs Live
Should I Go Pro? Part 3: The Big Picture
Follow Dan on Twitter @DanielSkolovy