Should I Go Pro? Part 3: The Big Picture

When you decide to make the jump to playing poker full time, you have to realize that you’re making a huge, huge decision.

Not only will you be putting your entire life into the hands of a variance-filled game, you’ll also be creating a large gap in your resume.

Is that really what you want? Do you want to be locked in to playing poker for the rest of your life?

Decide What You Need to Meet Your Life Goals

You need to take some time and really figure out what will make you happy in life.

Is it money? Is it stability? Do you want a family?

There’s more to life than money. Playing poker for a couple years might seem fun, but is it what you want to do when you’re 35? 40? 50?

It’s hard to know what you’ll want in the future.

Matt Hawrilenko
Dropping out shouldn't be taken lightly.
 

It’s easy to get hooked on the “easy” money poker provides but a decision to play poker for a living should not be taken lightly and you might end up actually hurting your long term goals.

Education

If you’re going to college or university and are thinking of dropping out to play poker full time, don’t.

The answer is don’t no matter what. Education is the ultimate back-up plan.

Play poker on the side and finish school, even if that means taking fewer classes to play poker.

If you decide poker isn’t right for you after a few years, you’ll always have your education to fall back on.

You have a plan B -- and something other than a massive gap in your resume.

The Resume Gap

When you’re playing poker for a living, you’re earning money and getting by but you’re really not furthering yourself.

Chances are, unless you’re the .05% who can advance in stakes to the nosebleeds, you’re going to plateau.

You’re going to find a level that you beat and you just might not be able to make that next step.

Mike Matusow
Thinking about his employable skills.
 

It’s inevitable. Not everyone can beat the nosebleeds, and not everyone can even beat $5/$10.

Those years you spend grinding the stake level you can beat, making your living, the rest of your employable skills are diminishing and your resume gap grows.

If after a few years you realize that how much you’re making isn’t enough, or your decide to get a job for other reasons, you’re going to have to explain this large gap in your resume.

Poker Teaches You Skills, But Will An Employer See It The Same Way?

There’s no denying that poker teaches you some very valuable life skills.

It teaches you skills like money management, risk vs reward, fast decision making  and dealing with stress.

However, it’s entirely likely -- even probable -- that an employer won’t see it the same way.

More likely you’ll probably have to get an entry-level job making far less than you currently make in poker.

If you had just kept with your job or gotten a job instead of playing poker, you probably would have risen in the ranks of your current company and built employable job skills.

Poker Income Has a Ceiling

What most poker players don’t talk about is how their income has a ceiling.

Poker players depend on fish, and good games, and out playing their opponents.

Tom Dwan
Your ceiling is not durrrr's ceiling.
 

When they hit that stake level they can’t beat, they’re stuck on the stake below it. There’s really not much room for growth.

Yes, you can spend time and study and get better, but your opponent is always doing the same thing.

Some stake jumps are just impossible and you will be stuck at that ceiling.

A good job, a good education and a serious work ethic gives you a much higher ceiling. You can always be promoted and you can get a new, better job.

Playing poker isn’t just something you do because you can make money at it.

The decision is far reaching and in the future you might not like the fact that you’re stuck playing $1/$2 online with little-to-no better options.

Plan B

It’s always a good idea to have a Plan B.

Poker is great and it allows you much more free time than a regular job. Use it.

Use your time to learn a skill. Learn to build websites, learn to write or volunteer somewhere.

Use your time to start a business. But do something that you can use should you ever re-enter the work force.

In short: Have a back-up plan.

Too many poker players just play poker and do nothing else. After a few years, they don’t enjoy poker anymore and want to do something else but their options are limited.

Don’t limit yourself. And keep working towards goals that are not poker related.

Ashton Griffin
Take your time and really think about it.
 

That way if you do decide poker isn’t for you, you’re not starting back at square one.

Take Your Time and THINK About It

The one bit of advice that everyone should listen to when thinking about going pro:

  • Take your time and THINK about it.

Think about your goals, your wants and your needs in life. Set yourself up for success and work hard towards it.

Poker can be a great sole source of income or a great second source of income.

Don’t limit yourself and make a rash decision that might affect the rest of your life.

Your number one goal in life is happiness and you need to find out what makes you happy.

Just know that what makes you happy now might not be what makes you happy in the future

Only you can truly answer these questions.

Think it through and you’ll know if you’re really ready to go pro.

Previous Articles in the Should I Go Pro? Series:

Follow Dan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/danielskolovy
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About Daniel Skolovy

Daniel Skolovy started out in the gaming industry as a lowly dealer, spending countless graveyard shifts dealing blackjack, pai gow, carribean stud, baccarat, etc. He quickly became bored dealing games that were so obviously weighted in the house's favor.

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Marty 2014-04-25 12:29:05

Overall very good article. Listen to the advice it's very good. The only thing I would add is the living expenses need to be at least 12 months worth in reserve. 3 just isn't enough. If you are a winning player you can make that on the felt.

I play live, mostly $1/$2 nl, which plays like a 5/10 game. Only the games are softer and the variance isn't so much. It's a common thing to see 8 to 10 grand on the table in out $1/$2 games.

Many named pros have been here and surprised to see how they play.

Back in a "real" job for a while though, as I am older and this company had great benefits, 401k,