Poker Players that Actually Make a Living - Their Stories
It begins with winning a few poker tournaments at home with your friends and some drinks. You realize you might actually have some skill at this game and think it would be fun to explore it as a profession. Making a living from poker? Why Not?
It would be a live full of excitement, Vegas trips, touring around the world, not having to open spreadsheets or boring office hours. This might even pay college or be the perfect excuse to quit that once and for all.
But what is the reality for poker pros? What is their life really like? Turns out a few professionals got engaged in a Quora thread a few time back and shared their experiences. Not everything is so wonderful, but not too bad actually.
One of the things mentioned the most by the pros is the high level of risk and variance. You might make a lot of money in an hour or take a few months with losses. The pros all have experienced both scenarios constantly.
Shinzaki - “A beginning poker player is terrible for a long, long time (sometimes, forever) before seeing any progress. The difficulty level of poker oscillates too, and not always as a function of time. It can run the gamut from `seemingly impossible` to `Midas Touch.` You can make a year`s worth of rent in a few hours (I`ve done this many times), or you can go months of full-time play and break even, or even lose (I`ve done this many times as well)."
“I have seen people go from the verge of homelessness to paying six figures in taxes per annum. I have seen people crash and burn, crumble in defeat, go into debt, and look back on the whole thing as an ephemeral dream.”
Ting - “Mental resilience was a byproduct of playing poker. Can you imagine working hard for hours on end for negative income? My worst run was breaking even over a period of 3 weeks / 40k hands.”
The other aspect that is always present is the level of mental work required. Poker is a sport, a mental sport, and just like any other sport it requires extreme constant workout. The mind is a muscle that grows and becomes more skillful with constant hours of training. You must read, practice what you read and record your progress. Maintain strict emotional control in extremely stressful situations for hours. The WSOP app is a good place to start. The app simulates how it is to participate in one of their tournaments with play money.
Ting - “You grind, you review your play, you study other people`s hands day in and day out. At a typical job your concentration ebbs and flows throughout the day. Poker requires intense concentration for hours on end simply because a single bad decision could wipe out hours of work or more. I was always mentally drained after a day of playing. Afterwards I studied my hands for the day like football players studying film."
Also take into consideration how changing the game of poker is, specially online poker. Strategies, tactics and software come and go each year. The players that adapt the faster can survive, so don`t think that by dominating at one point you have mastered everything there is to master.
Shinzaki - “Unlike a game such as checkers, trends and tactics fluctuate fast. One must constantly adapt. You can`t just get it down pat one day and profit off your knowledge ad infinitum. Best believe that when money is at stake, your opponents will be evolving rapidly."
You might have guessed all of the above, Shinzaki also talks about how many poker pros are not really into the game itself, just winning money, and that is a major life destroyer. If you want to be good at something you have to love it, if not how are you going to go through days of training before even making a dime?
Shinzaki - “The largest downside to poker that I can vouch for is a lack of fulfillment when it comes to feeling constructive and productive. Some people gain fulfillment from the inherent challenge of playing the game, others not so much.”
The fruits of poker success include all of the glory you might have thought about. Job flexibility, lots of free time, six-figure earnings and the rush of winning. You might even become a poker celebrity like so many other players out there. But the cons are huge and most players fall into the realms of emotional distress and money problems.
There is still is a middle-line though. There are many more players that do not live from poker professionally but can still produce a profit on a constant basis, a side income. This is a more moderate plan for those who which to follow another professional while still enjoying the game of poker. There is less stress and more happiness, it all falls down into how much you are willing to dig into.