Professional Poker: What You Need to Know

Good at cards? If you clean up every time you have a poker night with friends, you may occasionally think about what life would be like as a professional player. But the pro game requires a lot more than you might think. Professional poker players need more than just luck and a straight face – a level of skill, concentration and commitment is required to make it to the top. Playing for money with friends or in casinos is fun, but playing for your livelihood is a different matter entirely. If you think you have what it takes to go pro, there are many factors to take into account and weeks and months of preparation and practice. If you fancy your chances, read on for some tips and advice.

Understand the Game

It goes without saying that anyone aiming to make a career in poker needs to understand the game properly. Knowing the rules and terminology is essential when it comes to poker, and understanding hand rankings, blinds and positional play thoroughly will enable you to relax when you play. Being relaxed is a very important part of a professional player’s make up. Study and research will help you no end, so pick up some basic (and more advanced) poker books – there are many available. Research will show you that while casual play is fun and easy, beneath the surface there are many more parts of the game to learn and master. There are plenty of online resources to help you, including whole game playthroughs on YouTube, and countless websites offering advice with examples. Knowledge is power, so get studying!

Variants and Strategy

Most professional poker players tend to concentrate on one particular variant, and you should do the same. At first, try to master one of the major variants played throughout casinos worldwide – Texas Hold ‘Em, Pot Limit Omaha or Seven Card Stud are good starting points. Strategies for each of these variants differ, so spend time studying and practicing. Once you feel comfortable with one, be sure to learn the others – even if you end up playing Texas Hold ‘Em most of the time it is useful to have the others up your sleeve, so to speak.


They say practice makes perfect – well, poker isn’t always perfect, but it is still worth practicing. Whether you play with friends or in low stakes games on a proven casino website, playing for money will teach you what the books you’ve read can’t. The pressure, the patience, knowing when to stay in a hand or fold to fight another time. And when you’re done playing, review each hand to see where you went wrong or right. Analyse what you could do better next time – all time consuming, but dedicating yourself to practicing and breaking it down is all part of the work a budding pro needs to put in. Time is, eventually, money.

Stick to Poker!

It should be obvious to anyone serious about turning professional, but the level of focus and commitment you need to earn a living as a poker player precludes all other games. That means, ignore the blackjack and baccarat tables, forget the roulette wheel, shun the slots. You are a poker player now, so concentrate all your energies on that. While playing professional poker can be fun, exhilarating and similar to the kind of excitement a casual player gets, ultimately it is a job. Without wanting to sound like a killjoy, you are not in the casino to enjoy yourself.

Money Management

Knowing how to effectively manage a bankroll is essential for a professional poker player. Awareness of your bigger financial picture is also important. A general rule of thumb is to have at least six months worth of living expenses in the bank to cover you, and keep your gambling money separate from that. Knowing when to walk away is extremely important, and not being too proud to lower the stakes if things aren’t going well.

Gamble aware

Playing poker regularly requires strict self-discipline, as gambling habits can be expensive and extremely destructive. Always make sure you are calm, sober, healthy and alert whenever you play. Sadness, anxiety or drunkenness can lead to terrible misjudgements at the table, so never play under those conditions. And on the other side, euphoria and excitement can lead to reckless gambling. Keep your emotions away from the table as much as possible.

Poker is an exciting profession, but not one to be taken lightly. If you value regular workdays, holidays and a steady paycheck you should stay away. But if you fancy your chances, be sure to research and prepare properly, and hopefully, luck will be on your side!