So, you want to be a professional poker player?

Here’s what it takes to be a professional poker player.

There are many solid players out there who would love to play professionally, and have tried, yet year after year these fundamentally sound players fall flat on their faces. If you find that your degree of success is only at the level of the majority, it is high time to re-examine your priorities. Your goal, as a pro, is to lift your success above the level of the majority and play for a living. It is possible and these priorities will lift you to another level.

In every article that I write you will almost always see 2 words, patience and discipline. I can’t stress enough how important these two attributes are. In order to play professionally you must have an abundance of both, otherwise you are doomed. You must set goals for yourself and stick to them. Set a time limit for yourself and stick to it. The downfall of many poker players in burnout. They continue to play marathon sessions whenever they are stuck. This will take its toll on you and will have an major impact on your play, more then you will ever know.

DESIRE. Passion for the game. Not enough is known about the zeal it takes to succeed at poker. Go into the card room with the exultant feeling that this is where it’s at. Think of Steve Yzerman taking to the ice for the first time in a Red Wings uniform and licking his chops. If you are good enough but just go through the motions you will not succeed.

TIME. Good poker can’t be played on the run. Pressing obligations inevitably get in the way of clear thinking at the table. The gumption to take care of business first sends poker’s pleasure meter into orbit.

FUNDS. Build yourself a healthy bankroll before taking the giant leap to professional. No one can play their A game if they can’t afford to lose. Playing on a limited bankroll will put you in a position that is avoidable. Play part time until you have enough money to sustain some losses. Losing is inevitable and that is something that you must understand. You will not win every day, however in your mind, you must think that you will. A healthy bankroll equals a healthy mind.

RESOLVE. Go for what really counts: to be in the black at the end of the year. That’s the true measure of poker success, not the great pots won here and there. If you find yourself playing out of character, leave, for tomorrow is another day. Too many times I have seen very good players win 5 days in a row with a big profit, only to see them blow it on the 6th day trying to get even in another marathon session. This really defeats the purpose and why it is so important to set time limits and abide by them. Big mistake but a common one.

UNDERSTAND. Read the best of the best, like Slansky. Watch intently from the rail. Watch intently in the game. Analyze. Reread. Poker is as complex in it’s own way as any profession you can find. Poker takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Learn from other players, as good as you think you are, there are better more sophisticated players then you.

PRY. Look inquisitively into the sly nooks and crannies of the greatest poker foe of all—yourself. Be honest in listing the good and the bad. Put blame for failures where blame belongs. Then clean up the yard.

ADVANCE. Set reasonable goals but not limiting ones. A great sports tragedy of yesteryear was the world class high jumper who cleared the bar many times at 6 feet 11 inches. He aspired to be the first 7 foot jumper. To give himself a constant incentive he placed the bar at exactly 7 feet. He never made it, as Charles Dumas did one magic evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Dumas, you see, set the bar at 7 feet 3 inches.

DISCIPLINE. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “How do I know when to leave?” This is a common dilemma for many players. Follow these simple guidelines and you will never have that problem again. First, set a time limit and don’t exceed it, no exceptions. Secondly, if the game is good and you are playing your best, regardless of whether you are winning or losing, keep playing until you’ve reached your time limit. On the other hand, if you are in a bad game, get up and wait for another game or just go home, playing for the sake of playing is foolish. As a pro your goal now is to win, not to play. As soon as you see a deterioration of your game it is time to leave, whether you’ve been there for two hours or two minutes. We are not machines, we are human and we have emotions and moods. Some days we will be much sharper then other days. We will wake up and feel great, both physically and mentally. Some days we will wake up not feeling as good and we know in our minds that a poker room is not the place we should be. Recognize this and act accordingly, it is of the uproots importance. My greatest asset is that I always know where the door is. Other players can’t find it, the door keeps moving around on them. Starting today, always know where that illusive door is and use it.

ATTITUDE. A key component to being a pro. Make poker part of your life and not a way of life. Keep a positive frame of mind at all times regardless of whether you are winning or losing. Too many players are unapproachable when they are losing. You can sense it and see it in their demeanor. Appreciate other things this great world has to offer. Appreciate and respect other people. The individual that just put a bad beat on you may just be a child optometrist who has dedicated his career to helping infants see better. Think about that. There are many dedicated people who are determined to make this world a better place and poker is just a way of relaxing once a week or once a month. Never take your poker hardships out on anyone. Take your kids fishing or to a ball game. Donate money once a year to a charity. Tell your spouse or partner that you love them and make time for other things aside from poker. Poker is part of your life, don’t make it your life. If you do, your attitude and bankroll will suffer. Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.

VISION. Look at the big picture. You can be a pro but it takes much much more then just being a very good player. Being very sound is just not enough. I can’t stress enough how important it is observe and apply the above priorities. To succeed you must have a clear mind otherwise you just won’t last. Before going to your local card room every day make sure that your mind is free of obstructions. Take care of the things that are more important then poker. People take time off work for numerous things and you should too. Don’t play seven days a week. Don’t play 9 hours or more, ever. Take a 7 day break from the game at least 3 times a year. Buy your kids something that they have wanted, or some new clothes. Eat healthy and don’t concern yourself with the price of a meal. Many times you have put $30.00 into a pot before the flop and got nothing. See the big picture.

You may think that some of the above mentioned things have very little to do with poker at all. It has everything to do with being a successful poker player. This is all about succeeding and staying focused. The most successful poker players in the world are the ones that recognize all of the above and do stay focused. In order to play professionally you must take everything in your life into consideration. It all effects your play. Being a great player is not enough. The game will be there tomorrow but your dreams may not.

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