Blog Post

How To Develop A Career Playing Poker

Have ever watched a WSOP finale, witnessed eye-watering pots move around the table and wondered “how hard could it be?” If so, the below will tell you how to play your cards right and build a poker career that’s aces!

Realise That Your Game is Your Life(style)

When starting out on your poker journey you might have the urge to stick your finger in a lot of pies. This is fine…to a point! In your early career, you may want to try a variety of games to ensure you have a level of proficiency across the board. Eventually, however, you should single out one game to focus your attention on. If you neglect this step you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin early on. While you’ll become a fine player in several games, you most likely won’t become a master of any. Early in your career, one thing to consider is which game and style of playing fit your needs. 

If this is going to be a long-term career, it also needs to suit your lifestyle. Thus, if you’re daily routine doesn’t allow for hours making your way through an MTT, then take your career in a different direction. Also, consider where you plan to base yourself. If cash games are what you love then obviously it’s not helpful to move to Mars. Just like a regular job commute, how far you have to travel will play into how happy you are in your long-term career. Given that you want access to as many opportunities to win as possible, it’s best to move somewhere close to cash games. If you’re current;y unsure of where you want to base yourself, you can remove this element by focusing on online poker as an alternative to cash games. Not only can the pots be just as lucrative but online poker allows for generous flexibility. Players can log on anywhere and anytime! Yet, if you enjoy the in-person interaction and psychology of reading other players, this option may not be for you. Every medium for playing has its drawbacks so choose your game and how you play carefully - keeping in mind the lifestyle that accompanies it. 

Master Your Game & Never Stop Improving

Once you’re resolved on which variation you’re focusing on, it’s time to perfect your game. Thankfully, the age of the internet has provided poker enthusiasts with a wealth of resources. With a swift Google search, a player can find the answer to any of their queries, from odds to playing styles or game strategy. Of course, if you’re old school, you can check out our previous post here [hyperlink to post about poker books], outlining some of the best poker books available. With these fascinating reads in your arsenal, you’ll be one step closer to mastering the game. 

You’ll notice from our collection of book recommendations that one of the pillars of poker is mathematics. No matter which version of poker you aim to conquer, you must first master the art of playing the odds. Poker odds can be described as the probability that you can expect to win or lose. Poker odds can also help determine how often you need to have the best hand to call a bet. With any gameyou choose, it’s useful to be aware of the odds of securing a winning hand. 

Beyond these efforts, it’s useful to learn how to think in ranges, frequencies and implied odds. You can check out our extensive blog library for more information on these topics. Alternatively, to master these elements, many aspiring professionals seek out a poker coach. With young professionals starting their careers, mentors and coaches are commonplace. The same is true in poker circles. As with any career, you can’t expect to reach the top of your industry without giving yourself wholeheartedly to the process of being great. This means investing both time and money into being the best! If you’re having doubts about the cost attached to hiring a coach or committing to schooling, just think of the cost of not hiring one. Your losses at the table may easily cover the price tag of this venture with infinitely more wisdom gained.

While this advice is chiefly aimed at those starting their career, there should never be a point where you feel your education is over. Poker greats like Daniel Negreanu pour over research into poker odds, ranges and psychology on a regular basis with the aim of keeping their skills sharp. 

Sharpen Your Soft Skills

Moving past the pillars of mathematics and psychology, there are additional soft skills to maintain if a long career is to be achieved. These include a player's social, mental and physical capabilities. High social functioning can be one of a player’s greatest assets during a long tournament. Sit at any poker table and you’ll recognise the most experienced players by their self-assured interpersonal skills. Career players use their casual chit chat to diffuse tense situations or cooly mislead or befuddle rivals into making a dud move. These skills are helpful to all but crucial to any hoping to make a career out of the game. 

Sharp social skills go hand-in-hand with possessing a sound mind. Cash tournaments with lucrative pots are nothing short of gruelling. This stress is prolonged over hours of intense gameplay and even the slightest crack will show rivals that you’re playing on tilt. To withstand this stress throughout a career and ensure others don’t regularly walk away with your pot, you’ll need to build up your mental toughness. Some players resort to breathing or visualisation exercises or even meditation to combat these scenarios. Accept that this scenario isn’t a matter of if but when! The real key to walking away a winner is to identify what triggers you to play on tilt and have a plan to respond more effectively. 

It’s worth mentioning that these gruelling tournaments can also leave a physical toll on a player’s body. Top tournaments like WSOP can last approximately 16 hours in one session. It’s not uncommon for players to time out of a tournament because of fatigue or poor physical health. Professional players need to develop a system for fuelling their pre-tournament bodies through physical exercise and balanced nutrition. 

Make it Your Business

Your poker career is your income and should be taken as seriously as any other business. Effective bookkeeping is a necessity if you want to maximise your profits. It’s vital to keep strict records of all your incoming funds and outgoing expenditures. While you can never be confident of how much you’ll win, managing your funds will ensure you don’t overextend your finances. You should always ensure you have enough budgetted to cover multiple upcoming buy-ins. Thus, giving you the best chance possible to build up or replenish your bankroll. In terms of finances, perhaps the most important piece of advice is to treat your professional and personal finances as separate. This will allow you to approach your business finances with greater objectivity, and reduce the chance of betting money you can’t afford to lose.