Ask the Pro (Ep. 1): Poker as virtue, not vice

PokerStars Women readers have questions - lots of them - about what a professional poker player's life is like. They wonder if the jet-set life of a PokerStars Team Pro is as glamorous as it seems and how they manage to carve out time with family, friends, and lovers. They also wonder about things like lucky hands, how to deal with sexism at the table, how to keep emotions in check after a bad beat, and much more.

So we at PokerStars Women, being the ever-faithful public servants that we are, thought it would be a good idea to ask our pros the questions that came from you on our Facebook page and Twitter. Thankfully, they are very generous and have given significant amounts of their time to answer the questions you posed to them.

Panel - Rousso, Boeree.jpg

What follows is the first installment of our new series called Ask the Pros. The first question is a very interesting one, and one that most of us have had to deal with somewhere along the way in our poker lives. The pros who answered here apparently have, too, and they give some very enlightening and practical answers from experience. PokerStars Team Pros Liv Boeree, Celina Lin, Vicky Coren, Vivian Im, and Leo Margets, provide the answers, along with PokerStars SportStar Fatima Moreira de Melo, and Friend of PokerStars Natalie Hof.

Question from Johanna Andrea Orjuela: "Society often sees poker as a vice, so what is the best way for my family to see it as a profession?"

Liv Boeree: I ran into this issue a bit when I first started playing, despite having a very open-minded family. I encouraged my parents to watch the game on TV, and I also taught them how to play so they could see the complexity and mental challenges that our game presents, which made them also be able to appreciate it.

You could always explain/show them the complex bankroll management that you (hopefully) employ! The key is to show and explain the game whenever they show an interest. However, the most important thing to remember is that if you enjoy a hobby that is teaching you new things and helping you develop, then don't give too much concern to what another person thinks!

Celina Lin: This is a good question that's really dependent on your relationship with your family. Success commonly legitimizes uncommon professions like poker. For my family, I don't think they fully embraced me as a poker player until they saw the physical trophies and pictures of me in magazines.

But I think for most people it's a matter of coping, and not convincing. Look at it from the parent's perspective. Whether you're playing poker, trying to become a movie star, or anything that's not a 9-to-5 job, your parents will always worry until you reach a certain level of success that says, "I can take care of myself."

Celina Lin speaking.jpg

I think all successful poker players need a certain degree of stubbornness and will to keep working on their craft even when it's not the most popular decision. You need to be headstrong and dedicated to reach your goals. When you get there, they'll see it more like a job and not gambling. One way to do it is half and half. Work a job while playing poker for supplemental income. Show your family a long history of sustainable profitability before going full-time in poker. They'll likely still be uneasy when you decide to go full-time, but this would ease them into it.

Victoria Coren: Do you need them to see it as a profession? If so, the obvious answer is to show them you're turning a regular profit, making an income, and not putting yourself at any financial risk. But I would say that showing people it isn't a vice doesn't require you to show it's a profession.

There's nothing wrong with a hobby. Even if you lose money playing poker, that's fine as long as you can afford it--you lose a bit of money every time you buy clothes or go to the cinema, but they're still harmless and enjoyable activities.

If your family can see that you enjoy it, that you have it well in your control and there's not chance you're in any danger of losing more than you can afford, they'll stop worrying. All I ever showed my family was that for me, poker is fun and rewarding and not dangerous. The professional part grew gradually from that.

Fatima Moreira de Melo: Just tell them that the game has developed a lot, since the Internet generation is able to practice/analyze way more intensively than in the old days. They're like pro athletes. I usually compare it to the stock exchange, collecting as much info as possible to make the right decisions on investing in a hand/stock.

Fatima de Melo sports.JPG

Vivian Im: It's hard to explain; I think showing is the best way. By showing how hard work and passion make a successful player, I believe your family will understand and respect poker as a profession.

Leo Margets: People's preconceptions are sometimes difficult to change, but if you are patient and put time in to prove to them how skill is really what matters long term to win at poker, they won't be able to refute this argument. Focus on the mathematical side of the game and how the best are always there. In the long run, the more skilled players recurrently win, and that clearly makes it possible to dedicate your career to be a professional poker player.

Natalie Hof: The best way is explaining poker to your family. Why is it strategy? How can it be a profession? That's what I did, and my parents are supporting me a lot. I know it takes a lot of your time, but it will be worth it.


Thanks so much to all our pros for answering this first question in such detail and with so much insight.

Next time, we'll tackle the topic of how to take a serious approach to poker while keeping love alive.

For more information on the female members of Team PokerStars, their bios are here. And for all the news about women in poker and upcoming promotions and events, see our home page.

Rebekah Mercer
@PokerStars in PS Women