What it Takes to Become a Poker Professional

The World Series of Poker is currently underway in Las Vegas, running through to the end of November. It is the main event on the poker calendar, the pinnacle of the poker-playing world. If you have a seat at the WSOP, you’ve likely qualified through a satellite tournament and play professionally. Chris Moneymaker, who won the WSOP in 2003, was an amateur playing from home when he won, but he’s very much the exception to the rule. Sports.yahoo.com explains how even players with the means to buy-in, such as former NBA star Tony Parker, have to qualify for the event, whether online or at a physical tournament.

Going from an amateur rank to someone who plays poker professionally takes training, careful planning, and experience. Many beginners struggle with finding the approach and style that works for them in the earlier stages. However, getting past rookie mistakes is part of getting better at the game. This includes understanding how to manage your winnings once you start to improve. Our post on ‘The Easiest Ways to Save Money in 2021’ talks about managing money, so you can be a smart poker player on and off the table. These elements come together for someone to really call poker their job. If you’re hoping to pursue it as a career, then here are a few handy tips:

Learn the Basics

Succeeding in poker requires a mastery of the basics. Without these, you won’t be able to navigate more complex plays between everybody at the table. Poker is a game that requires planning and discipline, so having the right tools in your arsenal is a must. This includes knowing the basic terminology. Lists the key poker terms, including simples ones like “call,” “fold,” and “bet,” which even non-players have come to understand. But there are also other, more specific ones like “effective stack” (the stack representing the maximum either player can win in a shared pot) and “gutshot” (a straight draw with four outs). Understanding each term is crucial to a winning poker strategy, whether you’re playing a friendly practice game or at a high-stakes tournament.

Have Patience

Just like any new business, you have to be patient and wait for success in poker. You’ll work the circuits and may only make small amounts of cash. Remember that for every Chris Moneymaker, there are a thousand average Joes who have tried and failed. Don’t expect overnight success; in fact, don’t expect success at all. Play the odds, be patient and understand that you’re not going to spark another poker boom in your first six months on the circuit. If it were that easy, then everybody would do it. 

Keep Improving

You must always be willing to hone your craft. If you do make it to a big-money table and pull off a win, you haven’t made it; if anything, that’s where the journey starts. A win is validation you’re on the right track, and time to go all-in on your new career. Talk to other professionals as much as you can so that you understand the lifestyle as well as the game. Studying poker odds or game theory will also help you. Many poker players are now the younger generation who practice these skills, rather than the old-school heroes who relied on bluffs, misdirection, and showmanship than anything else.


If you want to become a poker professional and are attracted purely by the high-life, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. There’s more to poker than just that. CNBC.com explains how those who are successful in poker have learned the art of decision-making, especially when it comes to knowing when to quit. If you have the patience, desire, and are willing to embrace the analytical side of the game, then you might have that je ne sais quoi that separates the amateur, part-time player from the likes of Dan Negreanu and Phil Ivey. That’s what might separate you from the rest and help you stand a chance.