Part 1Working Your Way Up
1Start out young. 4 out of the 5 last World Series of Poker champions were 25 or under. It seems as though the younger you start, the better your chances of rising to the top. This is likely because the younger you are, the more fearless and aggressive you are, too.
- It's not enough to know how to play poker. You've got to know strategy, the ins and outs, how to bluff, and how to detect when others are bluffing.
- In many states, you have to be 21 to enter a casino. However, in certain states this is not the case – and sometimes different rules apply to card rooms. If you're under 21, try to find a place in your area where you're allowed to play with others who take it just as seriously as you do.
2Get really, really, ridiculously good at poker. We’re talking ridiculously good. So good you’re profiting more often than not and coming home with significant amounts of change. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the same small casino day in and day out, you’ve gotta be routinely coming out on top.
- Try to play all types of people. Those you can read, those you can't read, those who stick to the same strategy, those who have no strategy at all – have your opponents run the gamut of personalities. When you find a type of person you're weaker against, zero in on them and play them until the weakness goes away.
- Don't just play hold 'em, either. Know how to play Omaha, 5-card draw, and 7-card stud, too. The more variants you know, the better your skills. And you may run into a tournament of this variation someday, too.
3Keep track of at least 1,500 hours worth of play. This is where you’re going to say, “Aww, man, that sounds like work.” And it is – to make this your living, you gotta put in the grunt work. And that means keeping track of every game you play and the results. Here’s three reasons why:
- It forces you to see how much you’re losing. So don’t lie to yourself. If you’re losing, you need to know, so you can jump ship and keep what winnings you can.
- This lets you see how much money you’re actually making. You need to know this to determine how much you should bet and how much you need to play to afford your lifestyle.
- It also lets you see your weaknesses. If you write in a certain amount of detail, you’ll see patterns in where you went wrong.
4Determine your budget. Since you’ve been keeping records, this part is easy. How much money do you need to earn, say, every month to be financially safe? For some people its $5,000 and for some it’s $25,000. Do you make enough right now to do it full time? How much do you average an hour?
- If you determine you need higher stakes to make more money in a smaller amount of time, your competition just got upped. You’ll be playing in the tournaments with the big boys. Or you can stay local and chug away at it slowly. What are you capable of?
5Play under intense pressure. Playing with Jimbo and Bubba from down the street and constantly beating them isn’t exactly the same as constantly beating tables of people in red-carpeted VIP rooms. To be sure you’re made of quality stuff, play when the going gets tough. Can you keep your cool?
- Staying calm and logical is large part of poker. Sometimes even good players get nervous and end up doing something they'd regret. When you're familiar with intense competition, you get used to the anxiety and it (in part, at least) eventually dissipates.
6Figure out your bankroll. Your bankroll is the term used for how much money you need in your pocket to play the game. There are two varieties:
- Limit Poker bankroll. The most common number used for limit poker is 300 big bets. Determine what stakes you need to play to make the amount of money you are aiming for. Once that is done, anticipate an earn rate of one big bet an hour. Then, multiply the big bet times 300. If you are playing $10-$20, with a big bet of $40, it would result in an earn rate of (at 40 hours per week) $1,600, and you would need a bankroll of $12,000.
- No-limit Poker bankroll. No-limit has no set standard. Let's start with a good rule of thumb, which is 20 to 25 maximum buy-ins. If you've decided you need to play in a $500 max buy-in game to profit, then you should have a $12,500 bankroll.
Part 2Honing Your Craft
1Find a place you can reliably make money. Being a professional poker player doesn’t mean having your name in lights: it means playing poker as your job. You don’t need to travel circuits around the world to be a professional poker player – you just need to make it your main source of income. If you find a place or two you jive with, stick with those places. It’s your bread and butter.
- You will likely develop a reputation for yourself if you stick to one or two places. People may start not wanting to play with you, or worse, recognizing your habits and strategy. If you sense this coming, you may have to widen your circuit and play unsuspecting strangers.
2If you live outside the USA, play online poker. If you’re lucky enough to be an amazing poker player who resides out of the USA, you can play online poker to pad your bankroll. Lots of people find this easier – it’s often quicker, pain-free, and, quite frankly, it’s easier to take money from the faceless.
- If you do live in the USA, it’s possible, but it may not be legal. The US decreed a law recently banning banks from dealing with online poker companies. However, you can play for free online to practice – or you could hack into the system and get a foreign IP address, though that’s not at all recommended.
3Start building up your bankroll. That huge number you came up with in the last section? You need that to play seriously. You need that for buy-ins and betting, and for when lady luck isn’t on your side. Every time you win a game, have half of your hand go directly to your bankroll. If you’re playing often, you should have it in a few months’ time.
- Don't be tempted to get into intense tournaments when you don't have it just yet. You may end up losing your earnings and having to start all the way back over. Be patient.
4Have an emergency life fund, too. Some people are just not smart about playing games of skill. They end up losing all their money on a hand they swore was going to be the big winner. They go home penniless, having to beg their friends for favors. Don’t let that be you! Have some money saved up for a rainy day in case you become a little too addicted to the game and happen upon an unfortunate losing streak.
- If you sense this happening, get help immediately. A gambling addiction can ruin your life, in addition to family members' and loved ones'. Talk about your problem or call a help hotline if need be.
5Don’t be ashamed to drop down a tier. So you’ve graduated from Jimbo and Bubba, you played in the big tournaments in a few of your local casinos and did well, but then you went off to Vegas and got your shirt handed to you? Swallow your pride and back up. Hone your game, and then try again. There's no shame in it.
- Think of this as an opportunity to grow. Where did you mess up? What could you have done better in? Instead of letting this damage your ego, take it as a sign showing you how you can improve.
Part 3Rising to the Top
1Participate in cash games and tournaments. A regular poker game at your local casino is all well and good, but to make some serous dough, you need large cash games and tournaments. Visit a few of the biggest regional casinos in your area and hit up local poker organizations for money-making opportunities.
- Big tournaments (like World Poker Tour) have $10,000 buy-ins. This kind of step is reserved for those with a chunk of change to spare. Make sure you're financially stable before you take a leap like this.
2Learn from the greats. Poker has a long history of greats and experts whose combined knowledge is just waiting to be tapped into. Read books, watch videos, take classes. Find inspiration in those who have done it to show you that you can do it, too.
- Start out with Phil Gordon's 'Little Green Book' or 'Super System II' by Doyle Brunson. You find that there's aspects of the game you haven't even thought about.
- Some poker websites are scams, trying to take your money to give you material that you won't find helpful, especially if you're already quite good. Do your research before purchasing anything to know if you're getting something legitimate.
- If you know a few poker players who could teach you something, tap into your resources. Having a poker coach (even when you're quite good) can drastically change your game for the better. You'll get the benefit of learning something and they'll get the benefit of teaching someone something they care so much about. It's a win-win.
3Move onto bigger and better casinos and tournaments. As you start schooling at your local casinos and card rooms, seek out bigger and bigger tournaments to be a part of. Always take baby steps, though, and be realistic about your money situation and your skill. In this realm, slow and steady wins the race.
- By now you likely have hundreds of connections that can keep you filled in on the poker world. Do research online, sign up for newsletters, and keep in contact with people who are often part of tournaments and games you're interested in.
4Quit your day job! Once you make enough to live on and know that you can keep it up, it's time to quit that 9-5. But remember: now you have to play poker. It's your sole means. The stakes for you are higher than ever. Hey, maybe it'll improve your game.
- Try to take other opportunities that come with being a pro, like teaching, writing a book, or starting a website. This way poker is your life, but it doesn't depend on you playing 40 hours a week and always winning. Life, even as a professional poker player, can be stressful.
Can I spend the money I win in poker on coke and hookers?
You can spend your money however you wish.
Will I still go to hell for this when I go pro even though I'll turn it into a game of skill rather than gambling?
Playing poker isn't a sin. Gambling isn't good because it's not a very responsible way to spend money. If you just want to play to test your mental capacities and have some fun with friends and family, don't feel guilty about it at all!
Ask a Question
- When bluffing, try not to use it repeatedly. If you do, other players will know what you're up to and see through your bluff, and you may lose chips.
- You could purchase a poker game for your game console which will allow you to play by yourself and practice.
- If you know somebody who is good at poker, ask them to lend you a hand and teach you what they know.
- Do not bet any money you don't have. Always walk away when you need.
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