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Anyone can learn to play poker, but people trained in select professions often have an easier time learning to play and refining their game. The skills necessary in some careers help many players transition to becoming a winning poker player due to the straightforward way in which skills can be converted and used at the tables.

While this is not an inclusive list by any means, these professions have produced some of the top poker players in the world to date.


A practicing psychologist has obtained degrees – in some cases a doctorate – in the evaluation and study of human behavior. They often diagnose and treat mental processes, and some conduct research and offer applications for their studies.

The ability to assess human behavior is a vitally important quality in a successful poker player. In live poker, players have to evaluate their opponents through actions, words, and movements in order to read them, detect bluffs, and identify hand holdings. Even in online poker, it is helpful to be able to analyze another player’s behavior based on factors like timing and bet sizing in order to devise strategies.

Players with a background in psychology often keep notes on opponents and study other players intensely in order to play optimally against them.


Stockbrokers, as well as traders, investment and financial advisors, usually possess degrees in business and or finance. They buy and sell stocks and securities for clients, either individually or through a brokerage form or dealer.

People who use brokers and traders for their investments put a great deal of trust into those individuals, who are tasked with watching trends and taking calculated risks. Poker players must also pay attention to trends in the game and at their individual tables, as well as plan calculated moves according to what they know and what they believe their opponents will do. The calculation of odds and using math to make fairly quick decisions are qualities that stockbrokers can easily shift from the trading floor to the poker room.


A person with a math degree can go into a number of fields. While some go into teaching, most mathematicians become scientists, engineers, navigation, economics, or even the field of technology. Whether practicing applied or abstract mathematics, the concepts make them valuable in many professions.

Poker players with a math background often learn the basics of poker very quickly and move forward to analyzing odds and devising winning strategies based on mathematics. Entire poker books have been written based on math, and it has been the key to the success of many professional players. The ability to calculate pot odds or implied odds is essential for most players, especially when playing online and multi-tabling. Remembering hands and moves, as well as quickly planning moves based on seconds worth of information, is important for rising quickly up the ladder of success.


An attorney possesses an undergraduate degree and a doctorate in law. He or she can then practice law as attorneys or judges and work to find practical applications for legal theories and situations.

A good poker player is able to analyze a situation, look at possible outcomes and solutions within the confines of the game, and apply all of the information into a strategy. Lawyers who become poker players are adept at watching their opponents carefully, determining truths or bluffs, and making reasonable decisions about how to act. These players typically have a good deal of patience and can remember past situations that may factor into the current one in order to play the cards accordingly.


People who work in sales have varying levels of education but are skilled at selling items or services based on customer needs. A salesperson often climbs the ladder of success based on his or her ability to read customers, identify with them, decipher their needs, and urge the purchase of goods or services best suited to that person.

Poker players with backgrounds in sales have the ability to sell themselves at the table. A skilled player can pretend to be an amateur, a bluffer can convey honesty, and a person unsure of their abilities can come across as a self-assured, confident player. Salespeople are often able to take a situation and shape it into what they want it to be in order to play their ideal poker game.

Table Game Players

Poker is known for its professional players who succeeded at other games, whether backgammon or chess, or Counter-Strike or Magic: The Gathering. Many played those games professionally before making the fairly easy transition to the world of poker.

Card-based games like Magic: The Gathering are multi-player contests based on analysis and risk-taking, and they can be played live or online. This gave many players the inspiration to move into poker during the “poker boom,” when countless college students and young adults made their way from MTG to online poker. Counter-Strike is a team game but requires strategy and even introduces players to HUDs and other analytic tools, each of which comes into play with poker.

Chess and backgammon are mostly analysis-based games that require patience, study of the game and one’s opponents, and the reliance on an end-goal. Players with experience in backgammon and chess find the transition to poker rather smooth, especially if they had played tournaments with those other games.

Credit: PokerStars

Poker Dealer

This is perhaps the most obvious of the professions that build great poker players. The experience as a poker dealer is invaluable for becoming a good player.

Numerous poker dealers eventually transition to the other side of the table. By observing the players and their strategies from the dealer box, they can see results over time. They also become skilled at reading the cards and players quickly, learning odds and betting tactics, and the importance of money management. Poker dealers learn the ways of the game, from the perspective of everyone involved, and apply those lessons to poker when they eventually put their own money down to play.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.