How Can I Become A Professional Poker Player?

Published on October 30th, 2003, 4:54 pm EST

The most common question that I am asked is: how does one become a professional poker player? We have invited a widely known pro poker player, who wishes to remain anonymous, to pen a 4 part article that deals with getting into the game, and most importantly, staying there.

The first part of the series deals with the preparations involved in making the leap to playing poker professionally. There are a thousand questions to ask yourself before attempting to make the leap. Everyone has dreamt of a life working for yourself, playing poker, staying up late, flying all over the place playing tournaments, playing online, etc. But you have to ask yourself: is this life for me? Am I financially ready for such a leap? Do I have a back-up plan if this doesn't work out?

Let's take this one step at a time. First off, I should start by saying that if you have a family, you should probably stick to just playing part time and keep your job. Not to discourage anyone, but be realistic. You've got mouths to feed.

First step - you NEED to build your bankroll by taking advantage of as many initial deposit bonus offers as possible. Poker Rooms offer up free money to people who make initial real money deposits on their site. You need to build your bankroll by taking advantage of as many of these offers as possible.

Remember - there is nothing stopping you from taking advantage of bonus offers on multiple sites.

If you want to play professionally, take the Chris Moneymaker route. Keep your job, and play at night, at a place like Party Poker. Read as much as you can about the game of poker. The idea is to build up enough of a stack from playing so that you could stop working, but have enough money to fall back on if things went awry. Saving up $10,000 of your own money working overtime at your job so that you can quit your job and play poker full time is not a smart idea. Practising for years online and at face to face tournaments, building up a stake and deciding that playing poker full time is more financially rewarding is another thing.

You should have two piles of money saved up if you are thinking of taking this leap; your expense money, which can never be touched except to pay expenses, and your stack, which is used for playing and entering tournaments. You should have at least a year's worth of expenses saved up before taking the leap (just being realistic.) If your expenses get down to 3-4 months worth left, it's time to head back to your job.

Now that the financial stuff is taken care of, you need to ask yourself what kind of a person you are, and if poker is suited to your personality. Do you have a big temper? Could you deal with the swings? Could you deal with having a full house, going all in and losing the hand? If you answered no to any of these, you should probably think twice.

Do you have a gambler's mentality, or a poker player's mentality? There is a big difference. Poker is a game of skill, where proper money management is key to success. There is a big difference between playing slots and playing poker.

Are you a big reader? Because you need to be to be a successful poker player. You need to read everything regarding the game of poker; odds, articles on money management, articles on past World Series of Poker's, player biographies, etc.

In the next article we discuss: how to prepare yourself for the world of professional poker.