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Is poker “just a game” or is “a profession.” How you view the game obviously depends on whether you are playing the game recreationally or professionally. However, even those that try to take up the game professionally miss the point that they should be treating the game as work. If you have any aspirations about turning pro, or even semi-pro, consider some of the following before taking the plunge.

Different Goals as a Pro Versus Recreational Player

When you are playing poker recreationally, the reality of how much money you win or lose becomes immaterial. Your goal is to have fun whether it is at the casino or with your buddies. For most of us, the max we might lose in a single night of poker is $100. Some of us, a $25 win is a “big night at the tables.” But if you lose, no big deal because you were playing to have a good time or to hang out with your friends.

Things change once you take a game you were playing for recreation and make it into something that your livelihood is dependant upon. As a pro, you must provide for your lifestyle from the winnings you make at the poker table.

If you have a family, you have to provide for your family from the profits at the table. When you run into the eventual losing streak that every player will run into, the impact on your quality of life will be much more dramatic than if you just lose your fun money.

I once played with a guy in home games for close to two years and he literally lost money every game he played. His wife was a great player and is the only reason they turned a profit. He was the donation center to the game. However, he still showed up ever week and donated his $20 to $50 depending on whether we were playing a tournament or cash game.

If a pro player was on that type of a losing streak, they would be unable to survive nor would they be able to take care of their family. At some point that player would have to get a job and either walk away from the game or just play the game recreationally.

Poker is a Lonely Game

While it is true that poker is supposed to be a social game, it is also a lonely one. Playing poker will cause a strain on most any relationship and if you have noticed, there aren’t many happily married poker pros unless they are married to other poker pros. Even then, that is not a recipe for success.

The emotional highs and lows as well as the financial highs and lows from being a pro is many times too much for a significant other to handle. If a wife and family are important to you, turning pro may not be the best decision.

What is Your Level of Dedication?

In order to be successful in poker, you have to have the dedication to succeed. You have to be willing to put in the time, the study, and be willing to make changes to your game and even your lifestyle to be successful.

Some players think that turning pro is as simple as quitting your job and devoting more time at the tables. The fact is that you need to be working on your game constantly in order to improve. Also, you need to be flexible in when you play. The best games are seldom from 9 to 5 during weekdays. You will have to play when the games are best in order to stay successful. If you are not willing to dedicate to getting better and providing the best opportunities to succeed, you won’t succeed.

Another factor to consider in the modern age is whether you should move elsewhere in order to play poker, especially online poker. Prior to Black Friday, there were a number of players that made a living or at least supplemented their poker income with online poker.

Nowadays, online poker is only regulated in three states and the games are nowhere near as bountiful as pre-Black Friday. Some players have been forced to move out of the country to continue to play online poker or they have been forced to transition to the live game. Is this a move that you’re willing to make?

Simply put, you need to take time and evaluate if you really have what it takes to become a poker professional. In all honesty, there is a very small percentage of players out there that can ever truly become a professional poker player and succeed at it.

Many do not have what it takes to succeed or are not willing to put in the time. If you find that you are one of those people, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with being a recreational player. Remember, for every Daniel Negreanu there are tens of thousands of players that have tried and failed to turn pro.

Poker is not an ideal profession for most and if you determine that to be the case, you can still enjoy the game and not be bogged down with the burden that comes with being a pro player.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.