Pros vs. Recs

Professional players like Daniel Negreanu have a big edge over recreational poker players, and it’s not skill. It’s the size of their bankroll. Pros can afford to lose a lot more than recreational players, which allow them to play more aggressively.

Are pros better than rec players, or just have deeper pockets?

More money does not mean more skill.

Whenever friends find out that I play poker and have won some cash in a few tournaments, they invariably ask me, “Are you thinking about going pro?”

Of course not, I say. The life of a poker pro is not for me, a father of four children ranging in age from 10-16. I’m not going to miss out on ballet recitals or soccer games or Carolina Hurricanes hockey games to grind away in a dark, smoke-filled casino that reeks of equal parts alcohol and desperation. Poker is just a hobby. It’s my golf.

I also don’t have the bankroll to think about it. Outside of winning the lottery, I probably don’t have a realistic shot to get the bankroll necessary, either. And to me, that’s the biggest advantage poker pros have over recreational players.

It’s the Bankroll, Stupid

Most pros will tell you the biggest edge they have is skill, but I don’t buy that. For one thing, poker is really not that complicated. A flush beats a straight, three of a kind is better than two pair, etc. It’s pretty cut and dried. It doesn’t take long to figure out the basics, and online poker gives players the chance to play tens of thousands of hands in a short time. Numerous training videos, books and websites help novice players hasten their learning curve and learn how to bluff, jam, fold and call with the best of them.

In my opinion, the biggest advantage pros have over Recreational players is the luxury of losing.

Daniel Negreanu recently played the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio Casino. He paid the $10,400 buy-in six times! He paid $62,400 to enter the tournament, which meant he would have to finish in the top 12 just to break even. And he didn’t even finish in the money!

Negreanu is one of just a handful of poker pros who could be that crazy, and a recreational player would never dream of playing in that event any way. To Negreanu, who has recorded wins of more than $30 million in his career and has earned millions more from endorsements and book sales, the $62,400 was just play money. That gives him a big edge over almost everybody else, and is what gives pros an advantage over recreational players, on a somewhat smaller scale.

Whenever I scrape up the money to drive five hours to Cherokee and play in a WSOP Circuit event, it’s a big deal for me. I use my hotel points to get a free room in a nearby hotel and I pack a breakfast or lunch to eat in the car on the way up to save time and money. If it’s a one-day tourney, I wake up at 4 o’clock and come back that night – 10 hours in the car in one day. And I bring enough for one bullet. That’s it. I am scraping pennies together to make this happen.

That, understandably, impacts my play. I tend not to be aggressive early and try to chip up slowly. I didn’t drive five hours to last 30 minutes in a tournament. I am not just paying an entry fee, I’m paying for an experience, and I want that experience to last as long as possible. If I can come out with some money at the other end, that’s great!

Pros have a decidedly different approach. They can be aggressive early and not worry about their entry fee. So what if they bust out in 30 minutes? They can just re-enter, find a cash table, or sign up for the next event.

The entry fee is a business expense, and they (presumably) have a bankroll that can withstand losing many of those fees.

Recreational players don’t have that luxury, and that, more than anything, is the biggest difference between the pros and the average Joes.

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