When is the right time to turn poker pro?

In the beginning of this article I’d like to point out a few aspects in the thinking of many people that I have found to be flawed. In the end I will come up with some practical advice with a few cliché cases. Like most of the time, the article is not only about the headline. So even if you are already a professional poker player, odds are that this article will provide you with some insight.


You can also add this topic to “questions that have been asked a million times in forums, always creating the same discussion with 43252 cliché answers”.

Like in my post about bankroll managment I’d like to introduce an idea that is often overlooked. Overlooked because at first glance it might resemble the attitude of a gambler. The gambler who has no discipline and blindly follows his urge to play as fast and as high as possible.

Let me warn you straight off the bat. My answer is going to be rather simple. I’m a big fan of simplifying in order to cut it down to see the core concepts behind things.

I don’t know who has poisoned our minds with the idea of  “you need an education these days”, before you go pro “make sure you have 6 months of survival income”. Whenever advice has the pure impetus of “you need xyxyxyx” and then a reference pointing to some kind of socially accepted good sounding fluff, I’d just  – depending on my mood – give a polite head nod or if you feel like having hour long endless discussions, then feel free to throw in a few “why’s” 8)

Now, let me first point out the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. I believe people often confuse the two of them as the same and therefore often mistake my lines of reasoning.

A necessary condition for an event is something which is absolutely required to exist or happen if the event is to occur. An example of this would be the existence of oxygen for human life – without oxygen, we could not live. Therefore, the existence of oxygen is a necessary condition for human life.

A sufficient condition for an event, on the other hand, does not have to exist for the event to occur, but if it exists, then the event will occur. To continue with our above example, the absence of oxygen is a sufficient condition for human death. Human death can happen without the absence of oxygen and does not require the absence of oxygen. However, if oxygen disappears, then people die. Thus, an absence of oxygen is a sufficient condition for human death.

Knowing this, let’s evaluate the statement “you need an education these days”. The content of the message claims to be a necessary condition (for earning a good income), while in reality it is at best a sufficient condition and only increases your odds to somebody equally skilled without an education.

I am not saying it is a BAD idea to have an education, nor does it hurt you to have 6 months of saved income. But the only thing that is necessary for you to become a poker pro is to know the rules and have one minimum buy-in for the game you want to play.

My opinion on “playing it safe”

Most people play it way too safe. Most of us poker players are considered to be completely crazy. And among those poker players, people call me completely crazy. This might sound like a compliment to some, but I honestly believe that I’ve played it way too safe. WAY TOO SAFE. No reason to pat myself on the back for being one-eyed among the blind.
You only live once and even those who believe in an afterlife, live only once.
I’m a strong believer in the power of will. Albert Einstein is quoted to have said that people only use 10% of their mind(power). I’d like to add that I believe people only use 10% of their will(power).

What happens if a person with a strong will goes broke? They recover and come back stronger than before. Have you ever fought against somebody who stands up every time you punch him down? Have you ever played soccer against that bastard who you outplay every time, but 1 second later he gets ready for the next tackle (Gennaro Gattuso from AC Milan)? Do people get unlucky? Hell, yes! There is variance in life and it goes both ways. Tough luck if it hits you. Complaining isn’t going to do the job though. But with the right mindset, you will stand up and learn from your experiences.

“Vor lauter Angst vor dem Tod brachte er sich um”  (because of great fear of death, he ended up killing himself) is a German saying. I love proverbs. Completely love the irony and content of this one. It’s like with those parents who lock up their children at home out of “fear something bad will happen to them”. Ironically, those are the most likely to have something bad happen to them.

Similar is the issue with “playing it safe”. Simply accept that you can’t play it safe anyways. If you wanna rest and be average, become a bureaucrat or civil servant and play Mikado with your colleagues – the one who moves first at “work” loses.
For some people that’s the way to go. I don’t believe in it and since you’re reading my blog, chances are you don’t either. Let your actions reflect your mind and don’t let anybody stop you. Being scared is not an attribute of a successful person, and for sure not of a successful poker player.

Thinking in dynamic rather than static terms

Instead of thinking too much in static terms like “education/degrees” or “income” let us think in dynamic terms like “skill set / skills ” and  “potential”.
I am fat and you are stupid, I can go to a gym, what about you? This joke perfectly illustrates the difference between the static and dynamic mindset.  A static mindset would say “I’ve got a degree in math and literature, I earn 30k “. A dynamic mindset would state “I know how to understand complicated logical problems involving numbers and learned a lot about the culture and language of Germany in the late 1800’s. I can use my skills to offer other people good services in the area of xz “. To get a bit more on-topic, being a good pro poker player and broke is better than being mediocre and semi-wealthy.

This does not mean that I am advocating to bust your roll playing high stakes just to gain that extra bit of experience or so you only get better by risking your life. The point I am trying to get across is that there is more than possessing a piece of paper that attest you certain skills. Possessing and knowing how to use those skills is not only equally, but in my opinion even more important. A thief can steal all your money, but he can never steal your skill/brain. Your money can change in value… deflation/inflation. Once acquired, nobody can take your skills away. If you’re planning on becoming a corporate slave, forget about what I am saying. Good paperwork, good looks and some social skills is what it takes (simplified). If you’re becoming your own boss, you need to be able to really know what you’re doing, otherwise you better live in Norway and have a welfare system to be abused.

What it comes down to

In the last paragraphs I was taking big loops. And there’s lots more to say about this topic. Like always, I think it’s important and necessary to understand how I arrive at my conclusions, otherwise you’ll end up face palming yourself and thinking which drug I’ve eaten today.

– It’s NOT about having a formal education
– It’s NOT about having a sizable emergency roll
– It’s NOT about any of the other fluff that high school teachers preach

—-> It’s all about YOUR WILL to do it
—-> It’s all about WHAT AND HOW exactly you want it

Again, see how often sufficient (I’ll call them) odds increasers gets mixed up with  necessary ones (your will, what and how you want)? This fallacy leads to a lot of misguided advice in my opinion, because at first glance it sounds completely reasonable.

Lots of theory. Let’s get down to some practical examples.

I assume that you either love poker or think it’s a great chance to make lots of money (or both). If you only wanna do it for the money, think twice about it. It’s a topic for another post and I’m not quite sure about my stance on this topic. Mainly because it’s something that is still an issue in my own life. Also, I don’t care which limit you play. It’s all about your devotion. But you should be able to support yourself without needing money from others. Doesn’t even have to be poker, but in my opinion it’s very healthy to have very strong principles in that regard.

Generally speaking my advice is:

—-> Go for it, you only live once
—-> If it doesn’t work out, you gained some great experience and have some cool stories to tell your grandchildren
—-> However, if your alternative dream is to have a career as a politician or anything else where you are dependent on what “the mass” thinks about you, make a value judgment and see what’s has more worth to you
—->If you want to play poker only for 3-5 years, is playing poker gaining you enough to make up for the some disadvantages you might have later (depends what you wanna do). Is it worth it to go after the fast glory (poker) instead of your dream life (eg. becoming a doctor)?
—-> If you combine poker & education, make sure one has a way bigger priority than the other (no matter which one). Doing two things half heartedly is like doing nothing at all

I had already written out some other examples, but I don’t feel like I’m in the position to give real advice to anybody who is married or working a 9-5 job.
Both are situations I have never been in myself and have no idea what it means to be responsible to support wife & kids, nor to work 9-5.

Very very generally I would say:

If you have to ask the question “should I become pro”, most likely my answer would be NO. If you are doubting, think about WHY you are doubting. Is the concern valid or just based on social conditioning or fear about the future? Is it necessary or just sufficient?

I can only talk for myself, but for me there was never a doubt IF I would become a poker pro (after learning the rules). It was only a question of HOW. I’d already decided that it was going to happen no matter what. And the similar mindset/attitude is imo very important to have. You have to WANT it. After you know that you want to do it, we can talk about studying on the side (via online course) or getting other education certificates to keep your options open for the future and feed your intellectual hunger.

—-> If you feel the fire to do it, then go for it. You only live once

—-> If you have any doubts, find out what the reasons are. Are they fear based, or based on alternative views of your life/future?

That’s all there is to it. We can talk another couple hours about this topic. But I’m all for getting ones hands wet. So yeah, that’s my simple answer that I’ve warned you about beforehand. Don’t be one of those people who talk about what they want to do all their life and what they think they are going to do.

Grow some balls and walk your talk!

p.s.: I’m trying hard to do this myself at the moment. Quitting poker was hard for me because it’s a long term decision I have made for myself and not based on the short term. I want to become more comfortable with who I really am. Playing poker has been a bigger part of me than it should be.  Part of me loves the bling blang blow, the degenerate stuff and mindlessly throwing around money. It’s awesome and lots of fun! But there’s more to discover…

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4 Responses to When is the right time to turn poker pro?

  1. ka kei says:

    Solid, sir.

  2. Gordon says:

    Ty, sir … cya in a few days ;)

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  4. Pavel says:

    I really like the way you think about poker

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