After playing poker professionally for 3 years I feel like I have a good idea exactly what it takes to play poker for a living. The bad news is that its tough, its not easy, some people don’t have the personality to do it, others lack the heart and commitment, below is my list of exactly what you need to become a successful professional online poker player.
Successful poker players look at everything from the process point of view. Every action has an expected value against a range of hands. Poker does a very good job of tricking the mind, its only natural for people to associate winning with playing well and losing with playing bad. Good poker players recognise that winning and playing well are not mutually exclusive. Excellent players look at every action or decision independently from results and try to figure out the best or “most +EV” play.
You to really enjoy playing poker online. If you don’t enjoy learning about poker you will not spend enough time studying poker and consequently never be educated enough to win at a high level. Poker learning can be done on and off the table. To start off I would advise you to do the vast majority of your poker learning off the table by reading books, watching training videos and analysing your past hands. Then when you get good and have the fundamentals down, more of your advances will come from playing. Poker is both and art form and a science, you need to study the science and practice the art.
I kind of joke when I say this but I think its right to a certain degree. A lot of the time I make what I know is the correct play but often find it hard to reason exactly why I did it at the moment in time. My brain is the most complex range calculator known to man and I’m constantly weighting peoples ranges and frequencies in my head. Sometimes I will be mentally aware of exactly what I’m doing, other times I will have an almost “6th sense” and know what to do because I’m drawing on some bizarre hand that happened 6months ago the same way but cant mentally recall it in the moment. There is no way to develop this kind of knowledge except to gain experience, the 2 million+ hands I have played have given me experience that no training video can teach you.
In order to improve you need to be highly critical of your own ideas. Some very good winning players have some opposing ideas on various topics. To improve my game I try to absorb as much knowledge from as many successful professionals as possible, retain the information that makes sense to me, sits well with my overall philosophy of poker and reject the information that doesn’t make sense to me.
In my earlier days of playing professionally I became pretty stubborn, many of my friends can attest to this due to the insane long arguments we have had about various topics on AIM. Whats the takeaway from this, always keep your brain open to new information and constantly question what you think is correct. There are several things I believed 2 years ago which I know for a fact are now wrong. As you get better you will eliminate more and more of these “leaks” and become a better player because of it.
I guess this last point is kind of cheesy but its true. You 100% must have a ton of heart and love for poker. I remember in my first year of playing I had a few months where I thought I ran bad. Little did I know, I had barely scratched the surface when it came to running bad and variance. Its not a question of if a huge downswing will come its a question of when. As the saying goes, at some point you will run worse than you ever thought was imaginable. These downswings break many men, only the people with the heart and the bankroll to suck it up survive.