Ask any poker player who is capable of beating their buddies consistently and chances are they will tell you they think they could make it as a professional. Not only this, but given the fact that they have developed a decent set of skills and plenty of confidence, getting into professional poker sounds like something of a dream come true. After all, what could be more epic than making a ton of money doing something you absolutely love?
The only problem being that having these kinds of dreams and actually bringing them to life represents two spectacularly different things. It’s not that it’s impossible to go pro, it’s just that the road to poker superstardom generally doesn’t pan out as expected. Just because certain amateurs have occasionally fallen by accident into world-class poker leagues doesn’t mean this happens for everyone.
So as far as the world’s leading poker professionals are concerned, what exactly do up and coming players need to take into account, if they genuinely intend to make it at the highest levels? Or to put it another way, if they could travel back in time to when they themselves were amateurs, what would they tell themselves?
Well, first of all there’s the way in which the presumption that poker represents an easy approach to making money for those who cannot be bothered doing anything else needs to be thrown entirely out of the window. While poker professionals often come across as the kinds of people who simply fell into what they do, it’s more often than not a case of thousands of hours of research and practice culminating in their current status.
Make no mistake about it, there is an absolutely enormous difference between liking poker and being genuinely passionate about it. And in realistic terms, there’s a strong chance that you do not have even close to the kind of passion for poker it takes to turn pro. The difference being that to be genuinely passionate about poker is to live, breathe and worship everything there is to do with the game. It is to relish the idea of studying up on both the game itself and the world’s most successful players. It is to see yourself doing absolutely nothing in the future other than become a poker professional, regardless of what it may entail.
Much as you may wish it to be the case, it is highly unlikely that you are going to make the transition from enthusiastic amateur to professional poker player status within a year or two. Instead, it is critically important to be realistic when it comes to time and realise that you cannot in fact put a set time frame on your own personal progress.
In exactly the same vein, if you really want to dedicate your life to poker, you need to be able to play to keep yourself going at the same time. One option is of course to continue working 40 hours a week and both play and study in your own time, but chances are this will result in painfully slow progress. Quitting and dedicating yourself to poker full-time can certainly speed things up, but only if you can genuinely afford to do so.
Even with all the practical experience and research in the world, absolutely nothing will prove more valuable on your journey to professional status than having a reliable mentor. In fact, pretty much everything else across the board immediately takes a back seat if you find an individual that has already taken the journey you are looking to take and is willing to guide you, every step of the way. Locating and securing a mentor can be both time-consuming and expensive, but it represents an investment in yourself you will not regret making.
- Play with Pros
Back to the original point raised right at the beginning, one fundamental problem is finding yourself in a position where you can thrash your friends consistently and with ease. That being said, if you are not being challenged, you are never going to get any better. As such, and while it may lead to a certain amount of social awkwardness, it may be in your best interests to think carefully about who you play with and to ‘upgrade’ your current competition for those that pose a genuine challenge to you. If you don’t, you risk staying at the same level permanently.
- Real-Life Play
Contrary to popular belief, investing hundreds of hours every month in online poker play will not necessarily make you a better player. The reason being that there are such enormous differences between online poker and real-life play that it can actually lead you right into any number of bad habits and misconceptions. It’s not to say that online poker should be avoided entirely, but it’s crucial to base your experience on real-life play as much as possible.
As you’re making a serious investment in yourself and your poker playing as a business venture, it only makes sense that you set up a bankroll. Or in other words, you allocate money for poker, you ensure your winnings are kept to one side to cover your losses and you never play with money you cannot afford to lose. If your poker creeps into your personal/family life and you end up losing money you really can’t afford to lose, it’s game over.
One important lesson that must be learned on the road to becoming a poker professional is that of thinking you can get ahead by bluffing on a regular basis. Quite simply, you can’t – and you won’t. Once every now and again, bluffing can certainly prove advantageous. But at the same time, if you base much of your strategy around bluffing, all you will end up doing is bluffing away stack after stack after stack.
Last but not least, over and above memorising the odds, knowing exactly how much to bet, picking up on the tells of those you are playing with and so on, absolutely nothing is more important in the world of professional poker than knowing exactly when and where to fold. Any kind of unwillingness to fold, stubbornness or general lack of judgment when it comes to folding will make it absolutely impossible for you to compete at a high level.
You might also find the following articles interesting:
- Ever Thought of Becoming a Professional Croupier?
- Here’s Why You Really Suck at Poker
- Fast Fold Poker – Should You, Or Shouldn’t You?