Many people see betting as a pastime–and a losing pastime at that–but the reality is that there are players in the poker realm that win for a living. The challenge is that this is a very select few who manage to make it work and the vast majority of players do the opposite: they lose for a living.
Of course, it’s a sexy profession if you can pull it off–but how challenging is it? If you plan to make a living as a poker player online, here’s what you need to do to get there:
Hone Your Skill
If you’re planning to make a living playing poker, that means you’ve got to hone your skill. Many of us have different entry points but all of us need to get better. What that means is whether you’re new to the game or have played casually with some friends over the years, you are going to have to take your game to the next level–if you’re really serious about becoming a pro.
While that might seem daunting, be aware that you have more help nowadays than ever before. Decades ago, you’d be stuck as you’d only be able to learn from a random course or if a poker pro wanted to show you the ropes.
Nowadays, you can watch endless YouTube videos on how to win or thrive in different scenarios, you can take online courses or you can watch Twitch streams from pros to see exactly what their mindset is as they play. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
At any rate, you have to really become a student of the game and soak in as much as you can as often as you can. That’s the first step to becoming a poker pro and really making this work.
Manage Your Money
One of the most important characteristics of successful gamblers is they manage their money. Whether you’re talking about poker pros, professional sports bettors or those who win in the casino, one of the commonalities between those types will that they pay close attention to their funds.
If you’re playing poker and you’re trying to see if you’re good enough to win for a living, you have to track the amount of money you’re spending. That means getting together a little Excel sheet, an online budgeting tool of some kind or some other method where you are recording what your costs are. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to also track the time you’ve invested (because your time is also money).
What you need to see here is what is the pattern? For the first six month, maybe you’re a steady loser but in the second six months, you are breaking even. That would show that you’re trending towards success. Or if you started off fine but now you’re losing bigger and bigger sums, that’s a problem.
If this is going to be a business, you have to treat it as such and do book keeping to make sure that the math makes sense. If you’re a losing player and you’re not seeing it, that’s when you really get into trouble.
Make A Personal Budget
Stacking on top of the last point, you have to figure out what your personal monthly budget it. While most people just kind of ‘guest-imate’, this number becomes important as you have to figure out how much you need to live off of. Once you do a simple calculation to see what you spend on gas, groceries, bills, debt, health insurance and various other things, then you’ll be able to come up with what number you need to make in poker to be a pro.
Absent of that, how do you know if you’re “making a living” or not? Learn how much you need for your day-to-day life and then you’ll know.
Play, Play, Play
The biggest key to success with online poker–or pretty much any skill that you want to master–is experience. The more you play, the better you’ll get. It’s as simple as that. Some experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft, so keep that in mind if you’re just getting started; it might take that long to get good at it.
The good news? If you play online, you can rapidly get through these hours. For example, if you’re playing in person, you are limited to playing at one game at a time at a land-based casino.
Of course, it wouldn’t make sense if you got up and walked around and committed yourself to multiple in-person tournaments.
However, when you play online, it’s very simply to have multiple windows open at once–especially since you can pick up extra monitors on the cheap these days–and then you can play multiple hands and multiple tournaments at the same time.
By the way, the reason this works is you typically don’t have great hands at the same time in various tournaments (you will at some points), but of the most part, you might be throwing away cards here and there, so if you play four games at once, you might only have to really focus in on one or two at any given point.
At any rate, play online and play plenty. Start with the small buy-ins and the better you get, start ramping up. Practice is what will really make perfect in this game.
Know The Odds Of Success
The best poker players know the odds of each hand–after all, poker is largely a game of math and probabilities–but you also want to think about the chances of success in terms of making it. Very few poker players actually do what is necessary to become professionals and some even do what it takes, but simply aren’t good enough.
One sample survey found that after 10,000 hands of action, only 30% of players were profitable while only 18% were what we would call solid winners. That left 49% of players who were moderate to significant losers. In other words, only 18% even came out comfortably ahead. What does this mean? Well, if you’re trying to set yourself up financially so that you can have a steady income, can support a family and put away money for retirement, then you have to be pretty good.
The flip side of it too is that if you’re just not there–if you’re not good enough–then you have to recognize it.
There’s nothing wrong with getting in on some games with friends from time-to-time or relaxing with a game online here and there, but if you aren’t good enough to be a pro, don’t give up your life for it.
Try it out, see if you can cut it but if not, just go back and live the traditional way. Not all of us are cut out to be poker pros.
Hear from the pros themselves—hear why Phil Hellmuth’s poker skills shouldn’t go unnoticed, or discover a new type of poker game.