Poker Pro Basics
As an actual former professional poker player of over five years consistently earning six-figure annual incomes from the game, I have genuine insight into what it takes to be successful and to make it out there in the wild and I hope to impart some of this knowledge onto you. It can be a very fun and relaxing lifestyle in some respects but it also requires a lot of self-control, self-discipline, ongoing education and other such measures. If you are willing to continuously study, improve and work on your game, you may have what it takes to become a professional gambler. But if you require consistency, stability, predictability, reliability and other such traits in your day to day life, avoid this game professionally like the plague (casual play is always welcome!)
To start with, there are many variants of poker. You may already have an idea of what you'd like to be doing, but if not, it's important to specialize in an area, at least to start with. And this can take shape in many different game types:
- Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs)
- Cash Games
- Sit-N-Gos (SNGs)
- Omaha & Mixed Games
- Live or Online play
By picking out a specific game type, you can then begin to study that specific game type in depth. By having more strategic depth by specializing in a specific area than your opponents, by understand hand ranges better than they do, you will start to make money over time. As you climb in stakes from play money to micro stakes all the way up to nosebleed high stakes poker games, all that effectively ends up happening is that your opponents will play their hand ranges more efficiently as the money increases. And the efficiency of hand ranges is ultimately what will determine how far you will make it at the game. This hand range efficiency will come from countless hours of practice, study, hard work and dedication.
Each of these game types have their advantages and disadvantages. With tournaments, broadly speaking, one of the major disadvantages is that once you start playing them you are committed to playing them for as many hours, or in some cases days, as it takes until they are finished. This can mean having weird and unpredictable schedules. Additionally, the money that you make from tournaments will be subjected to very large amounts of variance. By needing to win in very large fields, this may not happen for a long time and can put you on a very long and extended downswing. The good thing about tournaments is that the game play tends to be relatively easier to win at than it does for cash games because you often end up dealing with shorter stack sizes in effective big blinds (BBs). And deeper stack size tends to correlate to more strategic depth and difficulty. This makes learning and mastering poker tournament games in some ways easier. Additionally, there are poker tournaments that run all the way from near $0 buy-ins to buy-ins up to $100,000 and beyond giving you the ability to play as high as you need to without worry about scaling as can be an issue with cash games.
With cash games, meanwhile, this tends to be a harder game type with a lot more mastery. There are different types of cash games which tend to involve the number of players per table. You can learn Heads-Up (1 vs 1 poker, which tends to be the most difficult game type), 6-handed or 9-handed poker often called "full ring" which tends to be the easiest variant of cash games. The advantage of cash games is that you can start and stop whenever you want for the most part and the income generated, while swingy, still is prone to less downswings than tournaments. I'd also argue that learning cash games makes you a more solid all around player which allows you to learn and approach other games with a better strategy and understanding of poker itself.
Interestingly with cash games, unlike tournaments, all that ultimately matters is that you are stronger than the people you are sitting down with. You could be a truly awful poker player, but if all of your opponents are even worse than you are, you can make a lot of money from them. While this isn't much of an issue at lower stakes cash games, as you climb the ranks in cash games you'll need to find "softer" (easier) tables preferably to maximize your profit. Networking, if you have an outgoing personality, can also be exceedingly important in the poker economy of 2020-2021 and moving forward. Who you know and what games you can get into may actually determine who some of the best poker players are today in terms of money won rather than raw skill if an extremely talented player can't get any action at high enough stakes.
Keep in mind from all of the above, however, how one actually plays any of these games well enough to make money is the most critical part of becoming a successful poker player but that is well beyond the scope of this article since that is an extremely complicated question. But we will give some overview tips in the next section.
Bankroll Management (BRM) & Studying
Once you know exactly what game type it is that you plan on playing, the next steps start to involve serious commitment. You first need to know what stakes you are winning at over a reasonable sample size. If you have no history of winning at any poker games, you will want to start at the very cheapest micro stakes offered on any poker site and begin with a proof of winning over thousands of hands at cash games or 100s of tournaments as you start to move up. While this is an over simplification and you may want to read a guide specific to bankroll management, you will typically want about 50-100 buy-ins for cash games on hand for any particular limits or 300-500 buy-ins for tournaments. This means that if you intend to play $0.50-$1 cash, you'll want at least $5,000-$10,000 in your poker bankroll to play these limits comfortably and if you were to play $30 average buy-in (ABI) tournaments, that you'd want at least $9,000-15,000 on hand to play those limits to overcome the swings brought on by variance.
In each of these game types, there are metrics to quantify how much you are winning or losing. In cash games, these are often known has BB/100 or big blinds per 100 hands, and with tournaments, this is often measured as ROI or return on investment per tournament played. By then measuring your expected return on the stakes that you intend to play, you can then start to estimate just how much money per hour or even per annum that you will make on average. This will, of course, depend on what stakes you play over time as you may increase in limits if you are winning by too much at smaller stakes or decrease in limits if you feel that your present games are too difficult. It's very important to be very honest with yourself to determine what games you are truly winning at or not winning at. And sometimes this can be very hard to tell. I'd recommend always being on the conservative side of the equation; if you aren't sure if you are winning at games, just move down in limits until you are sure that you are winning.
Poker Training Website Example
Very much in line with bankroll management and choosing which stakes to play is ongoing poker studying. Poker is a very serious job, no different than any other profession despite it's fancy sounding job title. And as with any serious profession, on the job training is important to maintain that edge over the field. There are many ways to do this between poker training websites or what are known as poker solvers which can mathematically help you deduce correct logic in certain aspects of game play. You should always dedicate some number of hours each week to playing poker professionally but also some number of hours each week to ongoing studying. This may be something on the order of say 30 to 50 hours of poker play per week followed up with 5 to 10 hours of study per week depending on how seriously you commit yourself. The ongoing study you commit to for poker will pay for itself with dividends as your current win rate can increase and allow you to move up in stakes. So don't view that by any means as an unnecessary unpaid workload, it is very necessary and has huge long-term potential gains for you down the road.
The Poker Player Lifestyle
Gambling with an edge is what poker is all about. You may be an online or a live player and they each have their own pros and cons. Live poker tends to be a much easier game as the competitions tends to be weaker. That said, the efficiency of playing online poker with more tables and easier access tends to both make you a stronger player over time and also gets you to a better hourly wage even for similar limit equivalents than live poker. The important thing, though, is that you are constantly playing to increase your bankroll and knowledge of the game. It can be easy to get caught up in distractions, get on bad sleep schedules or do many other unhealthy habits that are constantly associated with poker players. Don't be the negative stereotype. Eat healthy, maintain a balanced schedule, get a lot of sleep, study a lot and take both the game and life very seriously. The more serious your approach, the more positive your results are likely to become.
All of that said, as a poker player, you are afforded many freedoms that are simply not available to many other people on the planet. You can choose exactly when to give yourself a raise (by moving up in stakes when you have earned it), you can choose exactly how many hours you want to work per day, per week or per month. You also get to choose any vacation days you want or don't want. You can also choose exactly where you want to live. And the choice of where to live is one of the more interesting decision points. If you live in a higher cost of living country, you may want to consider moving to a lower cost of living country. This will afford you many great services at a bargain which could be better food, a better place to live and more money saved for your bankroll for you to play higher stakes faster. And by being afforded better services on the cheap, you can then devote even more time to studying and performing at a higher level on the poker felt. And while what I wrote mostly refers to online poker, so long as the limits you play live are spread at a near by casino, you can also apply this same logic to live poker if there are casinos spreading the games you play in the country(s) of your choosing.
There are so many other things to think about, such as the where in the world to live question, than just simply how to play poker. The best poker players are always maximizing decisions across a broad array of considerations. They may want to hold part of their gambling bankroll in Bitcoin for a whole variety of reasons which can include easy fund transfers to websites and a universal currency across borders. Bitcoin gambling has been one of the more popular options among poker players in the past few years for a whole host of reasons.
Some poker players also enjoy to partake in other games of skill aside from just poker. Most notably this can come in the form of sports betting where the top sports bettors can make returns of 3-5% per game they bet on. Other games also exist on the internet such as the BitRocket Bitcoin crash game offered by MintDice and other skill game offerings to be released such as Castle Royale and Pyramid over the coming months that have similar appeal to the poker player spirit of intense strategic depth.
By applying a good and honest work ethic, thinking about your situation holistically to include how you are going to approach poker from what game, to what stakes, to day to day lifestyle, when it's all mapped out, you can start to break free from the chains of society and chase the dream that thousands already do on a day to day basis. While it may seem like it's an impossible reach, many ordinary individuals can become modest poker players by simply playing low stakes games and earning modest salaries and being comfortable with their situation.
Take everything into account, study hard, and you very well might have a chance to become a professional poker player with near limitless potential.