Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Good Read for you Aspiring Poker Professionals

Here is an article written by Thunder Keller on reasons not to turn pro. Now I don't think he's saying this because he's afraid of the competition but rather he is looking out for your best interests. Enjoy!

Thanks to
Cardplayer for this article
by. Thomas "Thunder" Keller

The intent of this column is not to dissuade everyone who aspires to be a professional poker player from becoming one. However, with the recent influx of new players, especially the younger ones, more and more players seem to be contemplating a professional poker career. I think a lot of these new players who are aspiring to be pros have not carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of making poker a career, to pursuing a more traditional job. So, without further delay, here are my top 10 reasons not to go pro, and I hope I make David Letterman proud, although my list is serious in nature. Also, please note that the reasons are not listed in any particular order of importance, as I view all of them to be extremely important and worthy of very serious consideration by anyone thinking of becoming a pro poker player.

10. Poker does not provide a stable income. Some people will find this to be a much more serious problem than others, especially players with a big monthly overhead and a smaller initial starting bankroll.

9. You must save a portion of your total net worth as a bankroll to withstand the inevitable swings in poker. Great players will often go on hot streaks, during which they win consistently for months or even years at a time, but even the best players in the world will inevitably run bad. This means that you can’t spend all of the money that you make playing poker (if you are fortunate enough to actually make any money), since you must prepare yourself financially for that inevitable bad streak. Also, if you intend on stepping up the limits that you play, you will have to proportionally increase your bankroll, which means saving more money and spending even less of what you make.

8. The huge financial swings can cause many people great mental anguish.

7. The choice to become a professional poker player can greatly affect all of your personal relationships — most importantly, those with your spouse or significant other, relatives, and close friends.

6. It can be impossible or very expensive to get health insurance as a poker player. As a result, many serious poker players I know work a full-time or part-time traditional job primarily for the health benefits.

5. Getting loans or credit can be very difficult as a professional poker player. There are few things that a mortgage company likes to see less than “professional gambler” listed as one’s primary source of income on a tax return. Also, as a professional poker player, expect to be targeted more by the IRS; it just goes with the territory of playing cards for a living.

4. Once you go pro, it can be very hard to go back and get a more traditional job. I personally have never had a traditional job, but I know many players who have gone back and forth between playing poker and working a traditional job, and they all seem to have a lot of difficulty with each transition. I could list millions of reasons why such transitions are difficult, but the main reasons are that playing poker allows people to have an incredible amount of freedom in determining when they work (play poker), and most people find giving up this freedom very difficult to do. Likewise, many players find giving up all the benefits of a traditional job, such as a stable income, consistent schedule, and health benefits, very difficult to do.

3. It can be very hard to make new friends and get involved in new intimate relationships outside of poker once you start playing professionally. Lots of people still attach a negative stigma to gambling and will be hesitant to get involved with a professional gambler, especially on a serious, intimate level. Luckily for me, my wife is comfortable with me being a professional gambler; otherwise, I would have had to change careers years ago. Money comes and goes, but a good woman is hard to find, and if you are lucky enough to find one, poker isn’t worth letting her get away (this also may be true for female poker players looking for a good man, but I personally don’t have any experience in that arena).

2. Playing poker professionally desensitizes you to the value of money. In order to play poker properly, you must desensitize yourself at least partially from the value of money, or you simply will not be a very good poker player. Being desensitized to the value of money can contribute to a host of problems, such as devastating gambling leaks in such areas as sports betting, table games, and slot machines. This desensitization also can contribute to poor money management and irresponsible spending habits. All of these problems can be quite damaging to a person with a traditional job, but are especially devastating to a poker player, who requires a substantial bankroll to play poker. If you have any gambling leaks or bad spending habits, you must address them before becoming a professional poker player, because this desensitization to the value of money will worsen these problems and often generate new ones.

1. If you truly love playing poker, you may not want to play professionally, because that may take the fun out of playing. I am a gamer at heart, and when I first started playing poker seriously I loved to play. I loved actually playing the game. I still enjoy playing the game (more so when I win), but I definitely get different things out of the game now than I did before I played professionally. Now, I thrive on the competition, on playing toe-to-toe with the best players in the world, and on trying to constantly improve my game and keep it on a world-class level. However, the day-to-day playing isn’t nearly as fun to me as it was when I first started and played poker for fun, and not for a living.
I hope that everyone has gotten something out of this column, and that those players who are thinking about playing professionally at least consider these 10 major points before they take the leap.

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