Life of a Professional Poker Player: The Lifestyle Off the Table

Whenever there is an appearance or reference to a stereotypical poker player, they’re mostly portrayed as a retro-fitted Dan Bilzerian macho type, playing cards in cigar smoke-filled rooms, making huge wagers on high-value cards. This consensus is not completely removed from the real-world and is grounded in the decades-old legacy of a poker player. The modern life of a professional poker player in contemporary times has radically changed from its smoky beginnings. The professional game is now populated with players who adopt a quantitative rather than instinct-fueled approach to risk, and those that prefer applying game theory principles to betting decisions rather than character traits of their opponents.
A woman holding two playing cards.
Published on: 30 September 2020

It’s true that poker requires an element of luck, as nobody can predict with precision when and where specific cards in the deck will appear. Luck, though, is not nearly as important as the trained skill of a professional poker player who has mastered the mathematics of the game, leveraging this knowledge to shift the odds in their favor with each hand that passes by.

Of course, it takes years of practice to master the subtleties of poker. The professional poker lifestyle nowadays is one of complete focus, dedication, and perseverance to continue to grow their knowledge and experience at the poker table. So now that we’ve emphasized just how tricky this game is and the skill it takes to reach the top, let’s look deeper into the poker players lifestyle.  

Poker Professionals Demonstrate Incredible Dedication

The natural ability only goes a very short way in poker, to get to the top of this game a strong work ethic is required. There is no escaping from the fact that top players will need to put in huge amounts of time to experience the varieties of possible hands in poker, many pros claim to have played several hundreds of thousands of poker hands in their lifetimes. As you can imagine a big portion of the day of a professional player will be sat in front of the computer playing online poker, many pros play at least 200 hours a month just to maintain sharpness required for big-money competition.

As with any individual who is self-employed, professional poker players lifestyle enables them to be their own boss. This comes with many advantages including freedom, time to engage in other pursuits, and being paid to do something you love. But there are negatives, not every poker players life is filled with jackpot wins and constant highs from winning. There are many moments when you feel like nothing is working, a few big losses and bad luck come all at once and it can be enough to finish those that don’t have the strength of character and determination to continue.

Ultimately, successful players are those that tend to treat their professional poker lifestyle with the same seriousness as an employee working in a high-pressure and demanding environment. Time at the table is a huge factor, not only for developing a mastery for handling all variety of in-game situations but for building a reputation as a player and forming connections that can lead to further business opportunities.

A poker table, with players sitting around it.

Poker Professionals Continue Studying the Game

Making time to study new strategies in poker is another prerequisite for an aspiring professional player. Younger players in the professional circuit during the late ’90s and early ’00s were known to completely clean out older generation players who had not adapted their game to reflect the new mathematical innovations that were being made in poker.

There is no doubt that the poker lifestyle of the world’s best players involves a high proportion of time spent dedicated to quantitative, statistical and data-driven pursuits. These are the hallmarks of the modern game, and besides playing copious amounts of multi-table poker online for hundreds of hours each month, a fundamental part of poker is being able to balance and comprehend in-game probabilities.

Studying the game of poker is not easy by any means. If you’re on the lookout for some assistance to improve your game have a read of our review of top poker training courses. For a more lighthearted look at the magical intersecting space where poker and high-academia come together, read our guide to poker universities.

Pro Poker Players Keep Fit & Healthy

The professional poker players life depends on their success at the table, the only metric that matters is their net income. Following on from this, each day brings a new opportunity to make big gains in their bankroll, and also the looming possibility or making severe and rapid losses. This delicate equilibrium requires an aptitude for detail and unrelenting focus on the end goal. Mentally, this can be very taxing – and in order to ensure that their mind is working to full capacity, poker players playing at the very top of the game need to take care of their physical health and keep fit.

To maintain the sharpness required to prevail at professional poker, players integrate into their lifestyle plenty of activities designed to stimulate and take care of their mind and body. This area of the game has been neglected in the past, (think back to the stereotype of poker mentioned at the beginning) but nowadays any serious online poker player who spends hours a day grinding on tables understands the need to decompress, get a good night’s sleep as often as possible, participate in regular exercise and maintain a healthy diet.

Staying fit is an important part of the poker lifestyle, and it doesn’t require hours a day on a treadmill. Most pro players will exercise daily, as a way to release stress, maintain core physiological strength, and spend time engaging in an activity completely removed from the poker table. Sleep and recovery are equally as important, and being able to switch off from the mental pressures of high-stakes poker can be one of the most problematic aspects of the poker players life.

Poker Players Lifestyle: Both Precarious and Exhilarating

The famous axiom of something taking a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master is certainly true with poker. It is a game that plenty of professional players make a living from, providing freedom and a sense of satisfaction – but the heavy psychological toll can become overwhelming for some. There are plenty of highs and lows in the professional poker lifestyle, and pros treat the game like a business by putting in a lot of hard work and making sacrifices. Those that can successfully employ all the points made throughout this guide often enjoy the fruits of their labor, as the famous saying goes, “poker is a difficult way to earn an easy income”.

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