19 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Professional Poker Player (Part 2)December 13th, 2013
Will family and friends support me?Once you have figured out how to balance poker with your real-life, there is potentially another hurdle to overcome; will your family and friends support what you are doing? Although poker continually has less of a stigma attached to it, the first reaction of some people to the news that you are going to play poker full-time will be one of abject horror. Although my family and friends were supportive, I’ve lost count of the number of negative reactions I’ve had over the years when I told people that I played poker for a living. “What if you lose?” and “are you addicted?” are two reactions I would often get, and if these are the reactions you are getting from those close to you then it can be difficult to play with freedom and confidence. It’s not just those close to you at the time of going pro that you have to consider, I’ve even had partners who have lied to their parents about what I did for a living due to their own misconceptions about online poker. Things like Black Friday don’t help when trying to give a good account of this profession, but it’s vitally important that you find a positive way of explaining your choice to those close to you. Poker can be stressful, and if you have the added stress of negativity from those around you then the odds may already be stacked against you.
What do I want from poker?
There are a number of reasons people choose to become full-time poker players, but the most obvious in my mind is simple; who wouldn’t love to play a game for a living? Aside from the obvious, there are a number of other benefits. As a full-time poker player you are your own boss and get to choose your own hours. One of the nicest things for me was being able to take time off whenever I felt like it, and not having to clear it with anyone else or feel bad about it. Most people have to wake up and go to work everyday regardless of how they feel, as a poker player you can judge which days are best for you to work and which days you feel like just blowing everything off.
One of the added benefits that most people don’t consider when first starting out is that poker teaches you so many things which are useful in other areas in life. I would go as far as to say that playing poker full-time will make you far more rounded than the average person. This is because poker requires you to be introspective; first and foremost you have to continuously evaluate yourself and correct anything holding you back. I’m 30 years old and poker has been a huge part of my life since I started playing full-time at the age of 18. Thanks to poker, over those 12 years I have had a continuous form of self-therapy going on, seeking out my weaknesses and ironing them out. As a result, when I look at the world around me and people of a similar age, I feel like I have experienced more life lessons and have the benefit of feeling “wise” for my age. Poker isn’t a job which allows you to simply clock on and clock off; it is something which requires you to engage at a deep level and constantly self-critique. If you’re going to play poker full-time then you should accept beforehand that it will demand a lot of your brainpower, but in exchange it will help your brain to grow and develop. Poker really can be a hard way to make an easy living at times, and if you are thinking about going pro then you should go into it with your eyes wide open and accept that there will likely be just as many ups as downs.
Am I giving anything up in the pursuit of poker?
Although it shouldn’t be the case, it may be that poker causes you to make sacrifices. Playing poker full-time means that you don’t have a guaranteed income and no-one is going to be paying you a salary at the end of each month. There will be times when you have more money than you need, and likely there will be times when you don’t have any at all. How do you juggle this with your other goals in life? Most people would like to own a house, have children, etc, and some people are happier in a career which doesn’t offer any scope for significant financial success but does offer them the security which allows them to fulfil those basic goals. When I was young I imagined that I would like to have children and own a house at some point in my twenties. As it happened, by the time I was 26 years old I had no financial stability and having children or buying a house simply wasn’t an option for me. That’s not to say that I regret any of my choices, but simply that you should consider the fact that as a professional poker player the likelihood is that you will be “broke” at random points when things go against you (I use inverted commas as you may be “poker broke”; ie. You have a bankroll but no disposable income for anything else during periods of re-building). Unless you have a big score and put aside some money to pay for something in particular, you will probably find that significant financial decisions in your life will be at the mercy of your ongoing results at the table.
It would also be wise to have some sort of contingency plan. Although not entirely appealing to everyone, this may involve studying for a qualification or performing voluntary work in your spare time. It’s no fun waking up after playing poker through your twenties and deciding you would like to start a new career. Unless you catch a lucky break somewhere, a CV with 10 years of nothing but poker playing on it won’t look too attractive to prospective employers.