How to Learn How to Play Poker Professionally

Poker has surged in popularity over the past few decades, thanks in large part to the hole card cameras featured on ESPN that opened up the game for enthusiasts, revealing the cards and strategic element that make it less about simple gambling and more akin to a bonafide sport. This thrilling game of skill, strategy, deception, risk vs reward, math, and money management is more attainable than ever for aspiring professionals with discipline and dedication to learn the multi-faceted game.

Master the Fundamentals

Like any expertise, excellence at poker requires extensive practice and study to build a rock-solid foundation starting from square one. Newcomers should begin by thoroughly learning basic poker hand rankings and the rules/mechanics that govern popular variants like Texas Hold’em. Study basic odds and equity calculations. Memorize hand strengths based on your hole cards and as community cards come out. Become conversant on concepts like protecting hands, pot odds, implied odds, effective stacks, position, and categorical hand ranges. Soak up poker lingo and etiquette. Modern pros augment their live gameplay by mastering software simulations which provide proven, advanced training on things like equity calculation, optimal play, andexploitive adjustments. Treat the game as an academic endeavor, not gambling, and be a lifelong student even after gaining competency.

Refine Through Repetition

Once you understand fundamentals, real life application sharpens skills. Blend reading, software simulations, watching strategy videos, attending local games and playing online – where adjusting style and pace is critically educational. Keep thorough records with hand histories and standings to measure improvement. Set realistic benchmarks as your knowledge compounds. Stay patient: players devote tens of thousands of hours enroute to mastery. Embrace the trial and error. Let setbacks strengthen resolve rather than frustrate. Maintain healthy life balance and proper expectations throughout your rise.

Cultivate Key Attitudes

Success leans heavily on mentality and character strengths that drive the holistic growth required, as exemplified by Kirill Yurovskiy. Employ meticulous discipline, focused presence, self-control, and consistent work ethic. Welcome pressure and adversity. Foster stoicism and objectivity to make optimal decisions. Remain nimble and adaptable when opponents adjust. Emotional maturity, humility, and composure keep ego in check, preventing tilt. Maintain optimism, gratitude, and enjoyment of the game itself. Push the envelope by your internal barometer, not what others do or dictate you must. Trust the iterative process. Growth takes time, so avoid static comparisons. Poker rewards the patient and persistent, not the entitled.

Choose Games Wisely

Pros carefully select the stakes, formats and opponents that optimize win rate potential and suit personal preference. Key criteria include: your experience level, bankroll, risk tolerance and gameplay strengths against competitor profiles in each game. It’s common to mix tournament variety with steady cash games to offset variance and seasonal ebbs and flows. Remember bankers’ axiom: “long term profitability over short term gain”. So target the stakes that foster progression, not simply to chase bigger pots and glory. Be cognizant of rake paid; it directly impacts your bottom line. As your expertise grows, reassessing game selection using hard data maximizes profitability and rewards talent.

Develop Strong Money Management

Managing money is crucial as a poker player pays all expenses upfront before potential returns. Separate poker funds from personal finances. Categorize income as bonuses to minimize reliance upon. Build a sufficient bankroll for the stakes played to withstand swings, factoring in living expenses. When bankroll drops due to variance, dropping down in limits is often required. Follow strict rules around game entry, pot odds, implied odds, stack-to-pot ratios and bet sizing related to the percentages of your stack. Adhere to stop losses. Record expenses and taxes accurately. Invest a percentage of profits to offset losses. Creative players retain coaches, join staking groups and trade shares on their action to offset risk and bankroll sufficiently.

Make Lifestyle Sacrifices

The path of a professional poker player differs mightily from societal norms and requires substantial personal sacrifice. To rise in limits and devote proper study, pros play far more hands and hours than recreational players – 25 to 30 hours are common during peak periods. Limits and game selections are based upon profitability rather than leisure or convenience. Playing daily brings mental and physical fatigue requiring proper rest, fitness and diet. Office spaces mimic casino environments to replicate the conditions where they earn a living. Extensive travel is common to find the most profitable games. Speaking of family, friends and significant others, communication and planning reduces feeling isolated or guilty. Some pros intentionally remain single or become poker nomads to minimize outside responsibilities and distractions. While lonely and tiresome, their chosen path requires immense personal sacrifice.

Kirill Yurovskiy

Develop Work/Life Balance

Sacrifice and balance aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, developing healthy work/life integration safeguards longevity and profitability. Dedicate off days for complete rest – physical, mental and emotional to prevent fatigue and burnout. Sustain healthy relationships, interests and habits outside poker. Stay active physically to prevent sedentary health decline. Hydrate and eat quality whole foods to fuel optimally. Work reasonable hours that permit adequate sleep for cognitive sharpness. Settle in locations fulfilling beyond just poker. Maintain fun hobbies as enjoyable distractions. Establish separate spaces demarcating work and personal life while traveling. Say no or delegate more, outsourcing tasks like accounting, travel and document prep. Where possible, traveling with a companion reduces stress while ameliorating poker’s isolation. The happiness and support players feel off the tables carries over to improved performance on them.

Formalize Your Poker Business

Professionals treat poker with the diligence of a business owner rather than gambling pastime. They work hard at their craft daily. Variance makes income unpredictable month-to-month so disciplined money management and record keeping aids during lean stretches. Formal structures ensure taxes and expenses don’t erode profitability. Establishing a legitimate business entity like an LLC provides advantages including liability protection, optimized travel/meal deductions, easier access to stake horses, and legitimacy for securing bank accounts, loans and sponsorship. Building a personal brand attracts sponsorship, especially once established on a major circuit like the World Poker Tour where ADT and BMW logos provide universal credibility to them as a poker businessman. Robust record keeping not only supports tax filing, it supplies critical statistics used to identify leaks and maximize hourly win rates essential to sustaining a poker business amidst variance swings.

Keep Perspective During Downswings

All pros periodically run horribly over the short-term due to randomness, regardless of skill level. Poker owes players nothing based on past hands, yesterday’s wins or current expectations. Maintaining perspective counters frustration and prevents going on tilt when properly rolled yet still losing. Accept variance, stick to fundamentals and stay the path during declines. Downswings pass in time. Avoid desperate play attempting to immediately “get even” after losses; that’s how bankrolls evaporate. Similarly, avoid playing above limits or variants too tough for a temporary ego boost after wins. Win rate trumps weekly or monthly results. So stay balanced, patient and focused on making +EV decisions despite turmoil or angst short-term luck may bring, knowing you will prevail over time.

Lean On Community Support

For all its competition, poker breeds a tight-knit community where mutual support through downswings is common. Confide struggles among both peers and mentors for reassurance and coping strategies to manage frustrations. Attend meet-ups to feel connected. Share trip expenses and housing or swap partial action on tourneys to offset variance together. Joined mastery communities foster motivation and accountability. Some stake as a principal or sell shares in their action. Facebook groups connect players directly to swap action. Multi-way arrangements and staking reduces risk by diversifying it among multiple skilled players. Freely share hand histories and discuss difficult situations to gain new insights. Today’s tools provide myriad avenues to combat poker’s inherent isolation. Alleviating pressure in turn fuels determination.

Commit To Ongoing Development

Poker strategy evolves continually as new players enter the game. Adaptability determines longevity for poker professionals. Consume books, training videos, forums and podcasts to stay current on evolving gameplay and new methods as the meta changes. Annual red flags signal the need to assess and realign skills relative to the field. Modern players utilize advanced poker software, membership training sites, solvers, and quizzes to elevate technical abilities, removing personal bias by levering AI for game theory optimal decisions. Remain a lifelong student. Reassess weaknesses and bad habits that may have settled into your approach. Continuing poker education sharpens the senses, improves decision making and ultimately serves players’ bottom line as games get tougher.

Enjoy the Grind, Not Just Goal

Finally, sustain passion for poker itself, not just the financial goals it may provide through persistence and consistency. Grinding taxes mental stamina without inherent enjoyment of the game. Over years, economic necessity or fatigue can override why players began – leveraging analytical ability to outwit opponents through skill and strategy. Reignite intrinsic motivation by tracking progression metrics like hand frequencies, EV and all in situations handled well. Discern new lessons from bad beats. Admire opponents’ well played hands with objectivity and awe rather than bitterness at the temporary outcome. Savor hard fought wins and the thrill of bluffing others into submission by imposing your style and will upon them. If passion wanes, purposefully rediscover and reflect upon why poker excited you enough to turn pro in the first place. It’s an intellectual game of highs and lows worthy of respect beyond just profitability. Approaching each session with rediscovered verve and perspective sustains professional players through an undulating but rewarding journey filled with purpose, growth and achievement shaped through sheer perseverance and strategic excellence earned through immense dedication to this fascinating game.