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The life of a Professional Poker Player

The Trials and Tribulations of Grinding Day in, Day out

by Jimmy "wu_affiliate" Cook on Augusth 1st, 2011 11:42 AM

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Playing poker for a living is an exciting experience but it does take work. If I can do it, I believe anyone can make it as a professional poker player.

There will be hard times and set backs on your journey. Just remember poker is a long run game. You will be rewarded if you don't give up and continue to work hard.

I've been on both sides. I have worked very hard and seen the fruits of my labor. I have also had lazy stretches and been punished for it. There is no such thing as overworked and underpaid in the professional poker world. That's the beauty of poker, you get out what you put into it.

Everyone needs motivation

Back when poker was just a fun hobby to me I took a 2 month sabbatical from my job traveling all over the east coast of the United States. Visiting family and friends along the way.

It was a great experience. Sleeping in everyday, hanging with friends at night; just doing whatever I wanted. There was a thought that ran through my head the entire trip.

If I played poker for a living this could be my life everyday. That trip was the inspiration I needed to take poker from just a hobby to a profession. Poker for me was never about being rich it was about the freedom that the lifestyle brought.

When I got back home I was so excited to start my new poker journey. I bought PokerTracker, got my computer set up, and read every poker book I could get my hands on.

I mentioned before that it takes work to make money in poker but it doesn't feel like work when you enjoy what you are doing.

On every lunch break at work I would go to my car and read whatever poker book I had at the time. When I got home from work I would play for a few hours then review the hands from that session. I loved it. Even though I wasn't making any money yet that feeling of actually working towards something great kept the motivation up.


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Moving up and down stakes

Like many people I started playing online poker at the microstakes. Starting at $.05/.10 blinds $10 max buy in cash game tables. I spun my wheels there for a while but continued to work on my game. Studying hands, reading poker books, posting on poker forums, and watching cardrunners videos everyday.

I started to make a small consistent profit, it felt great. Then I found some players that were all serious about getting good too. We would bounce strategy ideas off each other and enjoy working towards our goals together. That really helped a lot.

Things went pretty smooth from $.05/.10 up to $.25/.50. Shots at $.50/1 is where I first had trouble. $100 was a lot to lose in one hand. I would move up lose 3-4 hundred and move back down to .25/.50. Moving up and down between levels is a skill in itself. There are multiple things to factor in when deciding to move up and more importantly back down in stakes.

Bankroll and confidence hold the most weight.

There are also things unique to each individual that often get over looked when deciding what to do. One of those is how often moving up and down stakes wears your down. Moving up and down stakes often adds extra stress and frustration.

Those things drop your motivation to continue playing and working on your game. Once you lose that motivation playing winning poker becomes increasingly more difficult. This is why you see so many people take breaks from poker for extended amounts of time or indefinitely. Make sure you are aware of the amount of stress and frustration YOU can handle without losing your motivation.

Putting in the time

There is a whole other world to poker. The daily grind.

For most people if you want to make consistent money in poker eventually you will find stakes you are comfortable at and grind away. For me it was $1/$2 $200 max buy in 6-max cash game tables.

It takes a completely different skill set to play almost everyday and continue to play your best. It is important to keep setting goals for yourself. For most players that is plugging leaks in your game. At this point you will have less obvious solutions to the leaks in your game.

This is where it helps being objective in the skills you have and where you are lacking. In addition to that it is good to have friends that know your game fairly well for another set of eyes on your leaks.

Your friends can give you better advice about specific hands when they know how it relates to your overall playing style.

Emotional control

Emotional control is an essential skill to master when playing daily.

One bad tilt session a week or month can ruin all your profits. We have all been there, everything is going wrong. Your bluffs get called. Everyone folds when you have aces. You feel helpless. What do you do?


Just end your session for the day. You can keep playing if you still feel in control but if there is any doubt just walk away. Later, when you feel level-headed try to pinpoint the exact reason you lost your composure.

Knowing your trigger points is essential to controlling those blow-ups where you dump all your profits. Emotional control to me is not being a never-tilting zen poker player, because that is impossible. It is recognizing my trigger points and stepping away as soon as they hit. Not 5 hands later. Now!

Rage on a video game, rage on a punching bag, but never rage at the poker table. When you master quitting at the correct times you will be miles ahead of the competition.

It seems simple but it does take control and self-awareness to do this every time. Remember just one blow-up can have disastrous consequences.

Some of you reading this are looking to play poker professionally. I hope you take away some insight from these words. Keep plugging away, I know all of you can make it as poker players with enough time and effort. For those of you not looking to play poker for a living I hope you enjoy a glimpse behind the curtain in the life of a professional poker player.


If you are serious about professional poker you need a home where you will be playing the majority of time. PokerStars is by far and away the best poker room available as they have something for every player no matter of ability, bankroll or age.


Not all poker rooms are made equal and the pros know it. There are more pros playing regularly at pokerstars than any other room because PokerStars is the online poker room with the best selection of tournaments and ring games and the widest choice of stake levels.


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