There can’t be many poker players, no matter how inexperienced, who haven’t dreamt of one day being able to give up the day job and living on their wits as a professional like the nine players who will be battling it out in November for the first prize of $8 million dollars in the final of the World Series of Poker’s Main Event.
But to reach those dizzy heights you need luck, perseverance and, above all, a real talent for poker.
So how do you start climbing up the ranks to where you can feel confident that you’ll be able to make a living out of the game?
Like everything, it’s best to start small. Enter a range of tournaments with relatively low buy-ins and gradually go for bigger and bigger ones where the prizes start to be more significant.
And, even at this stage of your fledgling career, it’s important that you remember one principle that even the biggest and most successful players follow. That’s to always keep your “everyday” money and your poker money separate, because once you start using the rent money to finance your play it’s increasingly difficult to stay ahead.
It’s also a good idea to start by dipping your toe in the water by trying life as a semi-professional. Maybe work part time to make sure there’s some guaranteed money coming in each month while your poker confidence, and earnings, grow.
Of course, this all assumes that everything goes to plan, the winnings start rolling in and you’ve happily slotted into this alternative lifestyle. But before you try there are a number of realities that you need to consider.
The first is that being a professional poker player may end up being much harder work than you ever anticipated. One Australian player, who prefers just to be known as “Dave” claims that when things aren’t going so well he has to put in a 400-hour month – anti-social hours as well.
This means that being a poker pro is also going to have a big impact on personal relationships and your social life in general. That’s why players will tell you that you need to be quite single-minded in your approach to the game treating like a job, not a pastime. If you want to play the big casino tournaments there’s also going to be a considerable amount of travel involved so if living out of a suitcase isn’t your thing than professional poker probably isn’t either.
But, on the other hand, there are lots of benefits to the lifestyle. You’re the boss and no-one tells you what to do. Plus, while the hours might be long, at least it’s you who decides what those hours are going to be.
So, like most things in life, it’s a balance of pros and cons. But one thing’s for sure – if it all works out for you the benefits will greatly outweigh the drawbacks.