Life Story of a Professional Card PlayerBeing a professional card player is more of a calling than a vocation. It’s one of those things that so many men dream of – getting paid for your hobby, and living it up. What could be better?
Of course, the novelty of the lifestyle can wear off. Just ask Mike. Mike asked not to be named for professional reasons – he’s now a corporate manager, but he was happy to tell us a little about his time as a professional Poker player, the ups as well as the downs.
The life of a Poker pro can be as alluring as the clichés suggest – the glamour of casinos, the thrill of big wins – but it can also have its drawbacks. A lot of people are attracted by some romantic idea of what it is to make a living from gambling, but the reality is, it’s a lot of hard work and stress.
I started playing out of necessity –I was self-employed, but the economy was in the doldrums, and I needed a way to make better money. I’d been a good Poker player at college, and thought why not try to make a living from it?
People often ask me about strategies, how to tell when somebody’s bluffing, card counting etc – but the most important thing is to find the right game – a “live” game, where people are serious, and willing to bet decent money. The key is judgement of the other players – you want the majority of the players at your table to be below your level – but still with the wherewithal and the inclination to bet big enough that it’ll be worth your while.
Another thing to consider for the would-be pro is the Poker maxim: “stay out of the pit” – because that’s where you’ll blow your bankroll. Why pay the casino, after all? A professional gambler is always alive to where the odds are best – which is why, although I don’t play anything but “live” poker, I can see the attraction of online casinos – if they offer better odds than Vegas, even a small margin in your favor can make a big difference.
I’m from Connecticut, so most of my Poker has been played on the East Coast – I was one of the first to play poker in Atlantic City, just after it became legal there. Nowadays, it’s too hard to make a living there – the competition from other pros is just too fierce.
My favorite game was Texas Hold ‘Em – a game with 10 players. The pots were in the hundreds, if not the thousands of dollars, and I would consider a win of $500 to be a good session - in my best session I turned a profit of around $2,000, but I also had days when I would lose up to $1,600.
I didn’t have limits on how much I would gamble. I just went with my instincts – I’d only think about limits when I was in a position to win or lose more than I had before. Nor did I have a regular “day at the office”. The working day of a pro poker player can be summed up by the gag in which one poker player asks the other what the time is. “Six o clock” is the reply. “A.M or P.M?”
However, there was one guy I knew who treated it exactly like a 9 to 5 job – win or lose, every day he’d put in eight hours, then leave. I, and most players, could never do that. After all, that was part of the attraction – If I had a good week, I could just take off to Vegas for a holiday. The independence, and the thrill of making a living pitting your wits against other players were the main attractions for me.
It wasn’t the money that made my mind up to quit – it was the hours, and the toll that playing for long hours, often all night, can take on you. Some players would play for 72 hours straight, and I can tell you, they weren’t the most fragrant company by the end of that kind of session.
I look back with fondness on my spell as a Poker pro – but for all the thrills and the glamour, I can tell you, after a year of that, all I wanted in life was a good night’s sleep! Gambling is a calling, not a vocation. And to make it in this game, endurance is key. Good luck!