Well, I've been an official poker "pro" (and I use that term loosely) for the last 5 months now, and it has not been working out as well as I had hoped. When I started out playing full time this March, I had about $10,000 to work with in my bankroll, and I told myself if it dipped below $4000, then I needed to get back into the corporate world again. So here I am today with a bankroll less than $4000 looking for a job. So what went wrong over the last 5 months? I'll try and break it down for you and describe the things I did poorly as a poker professional, and I attribute it to four things that I did poorly:
1. Poor Bankroll management
2. Avoiding Table Games
3. Handling the Road
4. Make it supplemental income
1. Poor Bankroll Management
I would always talk to my poker friends about my bankroll and the games in which I was partaking, and they would tell me I was playing in too big of games for the amount of cash I had. I, being a young and cocky and confident young man, told them that I was fine and that I could beat this game. I knew I had the "game" to beat these games, but the reality was, I needed to grind in lower games to get my bankroll going on a slow but steady upswing.
Instead of playing in $2-5 NL games, I should have played the smaller $1-2 NL games and the 10-20 limit game that I know I can beat on a consistent basis, At least until I had my BR to higher that $20k. I did not adjust to the fact that I was now playing poker professionally and had no other source of income on which to rely. I know these games can sometimes be as boring as paint dry, but they usually have weaker players who a good player can beat on a consistent basis. Take advantage of this and put your pride aside.
2. Avoiding Table Games
As smart as I am (or at least I think I am), I am pretty dumb when it comes to falling into the casino's trap of table games. I know they are games that cannot be beat on a consistent basis, but I would not hesitate to put $200-$500 of my bankroll at risk at any given time to play some table games. I'd hit up Blackjack every once in awhile, Caribbean Stud (I still need to hit the progressive on this before I die, regardless if the odds are true or not—it's just on my list of lifelong things to cross off), Let It Ride, or any other Carnival game the casino had to offer when I felt like being "in action" while not playing in a poker game.
Bottom Line is this: if you are truly trying to make a living at poker, table games should be avoided at all costs, regardless if you are running good in the poker room and think you are on a hot streak. The only problem is that every poker player, myself included, has a sick, addictive gambler in them that likes to makes bets, regardless if they have the best of it or not. This bizarre character that exists in every poker player needs to be controlled at all cost, because if he or she gets out, you can lose money that is needed to live like and keep your poker bankroll healthy.
3. Handling the Road
I took two big poker road trips this summer, one to the true armpit of America, Tunica, MS and another to Las Vegas during the WSOP. Neither one of these trips were profitable trips for me. In Tunica, there was not much I could do. I played in all the games I thought I could beat, but it was just not meant to be. I played well despite the everyday threat of receiving the West Nile virus from one of the 1 billion larger- than-life mosquitoes that were hanging around the outside and sometimes inside the casino. Vegas was a different story.
In Vegas this year, I lost focus of the true reason I went out there as a poker pro and that was to make some money playing poker. The 4 previous times that I went to Vegas, I was out there as a tourist with a job to fall back on if the gambling did not go well. This time, I was entering the city as a poker pro, but I never adjusted well internally to my new situation. I treated the damn trip like I still had a job with a steady income when that was not the case.
I was playing a little poker, playing some blackjack, flirting, dining at fine restaurants with people I had just met out there, and hanging by the pool. I guess my point of all this is, I was in Vegas this time to make money as a card player, and that is NOT what I put all of my efforts into while I was there. The town just overpowers individuals like me that have "addictive" personalities and who cannot stay disciplined to play the games they have an edge in (poker) for the entire time that they are there.
That being said, I did have a blast while I was in Vegas for my 6-day stint, but I of course lost money on the trip because I was not focused on my true goal for the trip: making some money at poker.
4. Make poker a supplemental income
Poker was a lot of fun when the statistics were holding up for me and the cards were running good, but you sure cannot beat the feeling of a steady income. I know I took it to an extreme and let my solid engineering job get way from me in order to tackle poker full time. Yeah, corporate America sucks at times but its all part of the business, and hell, poker was a lot more relaxing when I knew the money I was playing with was my gambling money that I could afford to lose. It's a lot of pressure for even a single guy like me to take on a mortgage and various other bills with only a low level poker player income, so my advice to everyone else would be to play the game as a way to supplement your income, not as your main source.
Hope this article opened some eyes for you up and coming poker players out there, and you can learn from the mistakes I made over the last 5 months. I gotta go back to the classifieds to find my next engineering job, but I'll be back in the action soon.
This article is dedicated to an old high school English teacher of mine, Brother James Kelly.
Brother Kelly was a great teacher on the subject of writing critical essays, and I hope that teaching is reflected in my writing. Brother James is also battling cancer right now, a disease that is formidable but beatable. Hell, if Lance Armstrong beat it, then I know a stubborn Grammar School teacher with Irish/English roots can beat it too.
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