Should You Play Poker Professionally?

Becoming a professional poker player is a decision that most successful players wrestle with during their career. I spent six years as a professional player where playing was my only source of income. I hope to make your decision a little easier by highlighting some pros and cons and describing my experience.

Pro: You can be your own boss. Here’s a popular reason for turning pro. You can quit your job, stop dealing with clients, stop dealing with managers, and set your own hours. If you want to take a week off for a vacation, you’ve got that option. What most people don’t understand about being your own boss is the responsibility that goes along with it. You’ve got to set your own hours and stick to them. This was always difficult for me because I always seemed to find something better to do than play poker. Living with my girlfriend, who was in college, presented a challenge. Instead of working, we would go out or watch a movie. Since my hours were different every day, I had a hard time maintaining a sleep schedule, which led to playing worse and playing fewer hours than I would have liked.

Con: You have to play long hours. Can you play forty hours a week? In the poker world, this is considered quite a feat, though I’m not entirely sure why. Can you still play forty hours a week, without tilting, during a downswing? If you’re not sure, before you quit your job, set a poker schedule for yourself and stick to it religiously. If you can maintain this schedule for a month, you’ve probably got what it takes to play professionally.

Pro: You can make more money than at any other job. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, poker players never actually achieve their expectation. Ego causes us to over-estimate our expectation, we play fewer hours, or we run poorly. For all of these reasons, there will be many, many months where you make less money than you anticipated. Make sure you’ve got room to make less money than you’ve anticipated. If your expectation is only $30,000 a year, can you survive on $15,000? If not, you’re not ready for poker as a career until your earning potential goes up pretty significantly.

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