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Whether to turn pro in poker – the big decision, pros and cons!

Whether to quit your day job and go professional as a poker player is probably one of the toughest decisions you can make. Both the downsides and upsides are potentially huge. However, if you have a plan and execute it with discipline, then there is a good chance you will succeed in your goals.

Let’s first look at the main advantages of going pro:

Advantages:Green light

  • No taxes (but depending on where you live you may have to pay)
  • Working from home or anywhere in the world where online poker is available. Considering there isn’t too much glare on your monitor, you can sit at a beach or park and play poker!
  • Choose your own hours and get to sleep in whenever you want
  • No annoying boss or colleagues/clients to answer to or silly office politics
  • Holidays when you choose, can mix holiday and poker as well. Better yet, your life can be one big holiday!
  • You pursue a career that you actually enjoy and gives you ultimate freedom
  • Can meet like-minded people both online and at the casino
  • Something you get better at with time, game becomes second nature and win rate may increase
  • Can get staked which reduces your own risk and stress
  • There are always new players trying out the game, even at the higher stakes
  • Learn some valuable life skills such as patience, discipline and money management


Disadvantages:Red light

  • No guarantee of steady income and stress of failing to pay expenses
  • Have to put in the hours, day in and day out, almost like a normal job and this can be tedious
  • Requires extreme discipline not to tilt or chase when losing
  • Tournament circuit is expensive and never guaranteed (can go months/years without getting to final table)
  • Can be lonely if you’re playing online
  • Meet like-minded people online and at the casino (in a bad way if you are looking for positive role models!)
  • Mood swings and stress which can affect the relationship with your close ones
  • Getting burnt out if you play too much, then you will have no other source of income
  • No career progression, very difficult to go back to 9-5 job routine as most employers just do not understand poker and it isn’t something you can put on your resume / CV
  • Negative stigma for people who don’t understand that poker is a game of skill
  • Non-productive job which doesn’t contribute to society (unless you pay taxes)
  • Games are  tougher and need to be the very best to win consistently (strong evidence that popularity of game has peaked)
  • The game stops becoming fun and just one big grind

I would have to say that there are definitely more pros (excuse the pun), particularly regarding being your own boss, financial benefits (including generally not paying taxes) and choosing your hours. That is considering you are good enough to win in the first place, which let’s face it, most people aren’t!

However, the truth is that very few people have what it takes to be pro and the reasons why can be broken down into four categories:

  • Just not having a plan: Such as how many hours to play in a certain time period, how much to expect to win and in turn withdraw to pay for expenses.
  • Just not being good enough skill-wise: It’s one thing to crush the home games or micro limits but once you move up into the middle/higher limits, the games are completely different and you’re going to have to play against some tough regulars every day. There will be fish of course but they are few and far in between. Can you handle it? Do you have the discipline not to play and wait for the fish? Just because you win 20 big bets an hour for 2000 hands, doesn’t mean that you will win it after 30,000 hands! You need a big sample of hands to see if you are good enough, at least 200,000 with a good steady win rate of $60 an hour.
  • Tilt-prone: Tilt is a leak for many players. After playing for 6 days straight, 8 hours a day, it’s very easy to lose focus and lose all your profits and more in such a short amount of time. Pros know when to step out of a game if they feel they aren’t playing their best, even if they are winning but especially if they are losing.
  • Bad money management: Playing too high for the bankroll and not moving down when losing a significant portion of the bankroll. Or worse, having to pay your rent out of your poker bankroll. It is recommended that you have at least 25-35 buy-ins for the limit you intend to play for cash games.

At the end of the day, it’s important to be completely honest with yourself, as you need a plan to give yourself the best possible chance to succeed after all!

Here are some important questions to ask you when making such a plan:

  • Have I done an honest evaluation of my living expenses (including retirement and health insurance if you live in the US)? Recommended to have at least six months living expenses saved up which is separate from your bankroll.
  • Does anybody else rely on you to make money?
  • How much do I expect to withdraw and when (and contingencies should I don’t win as expected)?
  • How will I be viewed by friends and family or even by future potential employers?
  • If things don’t work out as planned, how long before I quit? What other job will I do to make ends meet?

Hope this article didn’t sound too negative, it was not my intention. I have many friends who have turned pro and are doing excellent for themselves and others who have quit or are contemplating quitting.

The ones that are winning regularly are glad that they turned pro.  The ones that tried and failed don’t have many regrets.

At the end of the day, anyone can turn pro in poker – if you have the right poker skills, the right attitude, a plan and a bit of luck, you stand a reasonable chance to succeed. Nothing or nobody should stand in the way of you achieving your dreams!

Cycle routes, Netherlands

Decisions, decisions

Good luck on your choice, hope you’re happy with it!

Alexandre Rotenberg

Alex is a keen poker player, writer and amateur photographer. Check out his photography website at www.arotenberg.photoshelter.com

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  • Ivan Y

    Best Advantage: Being your own boss! Waking up whenever.Worst Disadvantage: Downswings in poker… and telling non-poker players what you do.

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