Stud: Playing as a professional

stud-thumbnail-v1.jpgby Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

Last week, I began a discussion with regards to the different types of poker players, and what their goals are. I broke that down into three categories. They are:

1) Recreational players
2) Players who use poker to try and earn some extra money
3) Professionals, or people who aspire to being professional

I already covered the first two; they were relatively easy to explain. The third one, is quite a different matter altogether. I will begin to address that this week.

It is virtually impossible to be a professional poker player, long-term. Numerous guidelines (which I will cover here in depth) must be followed, to be successful. Among those are:

  • Sufficient bankroll, and knowing how it should be used and split up
  • Game and limit selection
  • Time management, both on and off the tables; knowing when to stay and when to quit
  • Avoiding money traps away from the tables
  • Staying clear of vices
  • Staying in good mental and physical condition
  • When I use the word “professional”, I am strictly referring to where your poker earnings independently cover your expenses.

    Now, everybody’s expenses are different. A single person in his/her 30’s might only need to earn $60K or less (net), to live reasonably. A family person, who is the sole supporter of his/her brood, will have to earn much more. Regardless of what your expenses are, for you to be considered a pro, you will have to make that amount solely from your poker earnings.

    Bankroll is a much underrated concern for most poker players, professional or otherwise. Whether or not you are a pro, the large fluctuations of results, in all games and limits of poker, necessitate a large bankroll (relative to the limits you’re playing) to enable you to achieve success.

    As a pro, this amount must be substantially higher than if you fall into one of the other two aforementioned categories of player. This is because going broke is cataclysmic to a professional, since he has no other source of income. If a professional does not have a sufficient bankroll, one bad run can put them out of business.

    After many years of competing professionally, I can assure you that 2000 hours will be the minimum amount of time that has to be played (in the same limit, game, and against most of the same players) to determine your accurate anticipated hourly earning rate.

    Since the games online not only “play bigger” than when played live (i.e., 30-60 online probably translates to 60-120 live), they also play much faster (in a time sense – more hands per hour). In games like Stud/8, where the pots are split by computer as opposed to manually (by the human dealer in a casino), you can have as much as 4-5 times as many hands dealt out per hour online.

    You can also factor in that there usually is the option to play concurrently in multiple games online, which will considerably shrink the actual “real hours” needed to get to the 2000-hour target to accurately evaluate you results. Playing online can take you less than half the calendar time to reach the 2000 hours, than if you played live. If you are attempting to play professionally and full-time, that should translate into no more than one year of online playing.

    Keep in mind that you will not only need a sufficient playing bankroll, but also a personal bankroll to pay your day-to-day expenses during your 2000-hour assessment. That translates into one full year of expense money that must be put aside for use only to pay your bills, and never tapped into for poker bankroll. The main purpose of this assessment is to establish that you can win consistently over time. Possibly the biggest mistake that players make is to overvalue a good run. While doing well may be the result of skill, and may be consistently reproducible, it also might just be an instance of “running well.” It’s usually a mistake to go pro as a result of one big tournament win or a good month at the tables.

    This assessment period is also your opportunity to decide if you *really* want to play poker for a living. While it may seem glamorous from afar, it’s very true, as the adage goes, that poker is “a hard way to make an easy living.” Something that’s fun and completely enjoyable as a hobby may not be as enjoyable as a way of life.

    And even if you can accomplish your goal of playing professionally, no matter how long you have been playing you still should put aside one year’s expense money to sustain you when the inevitable extended “bad run” hits you at the poker tables.

    Next week, I will cover the different amounts of money needed for the recreational players, the players who are looking to make extra money at poker while earning their main income doing something else, as well as what bankroll is necessary for your games and limits of choice, regardless of which category you fall into.
    I would again like to remind you that you can generally find me in either the 10-20 or 30-60 limit games in the stud high, stud 8 or better, or razz games on our site, as well as the $215 buy-in weekly stud 8 or better tournament (with a 10k guarantee)that we offer every Saturday at 1:45 pm PDT.

    If you are interested in reading any of my past blogs, or would like to contact me further with any questions or suggestions, please do so at Thank you.

    Brad Willis
    @BradWillis in Strategy