7 Signs You Should Start a Poker Career

Poker Professional Juan Juanda, Colored Casino Chips Stacked
If you’ve been watching poker on television, or if you’ve been playing in a local home game and winning a lot of money, you might think it’s time to start a career as a US poker pro.

Playing serious poker isn’t for everyone. The personal characteristics that make someone good at the game are well-known, though.

Here are seven signs that you might want to think about starting a poker career.

1 – People Describe You as Patient

Impatient poker players are losing poker players. If you’re unable to wait for the right cards in the right position, you won’t be able to win at poker.

Playing Texas holdem or any other kind of poker game involves picking your spots and situations. If you’re getting involved in hands just because you’re bored or just because you feel like you’ve been waiting too long to get a hand already, serious poker probably isn’t for you.

It’s counterintuitive, but much of your success in poker will come from what you don’t do rather than from what you do.

Folding a lot is essential. You won’t fold a lot if you’re impatient to get into action. And if you can’t get comfortable folding bad hands longer than you think you “should,” you can’t win at poker in the long run.

2 – You’re Good at Math

Many people underestimate how much math is involved in playing good poker. I don’t think you need the equivalent of a college math degree to win, but you should be better than average at basic arithmetic. Winning at poker involves putting yourself into positive expectation situations on a repeated basis.

You can’t do that if you’re not good enough at math to recognize the mathematical expectation in specific situations.

Two Poker Cards Floating Above Poker Table, Calculator

Here’s an example:

A flush draw can be a profitable hand or an unprofitable hand, depending on the situation. If you have four cards to a flush, there are always nine cards left in the deck that can complete your hand.

If you’re playing Texas holdem and have four cards to a flush as of the flop, you have a roughly 1 in 3 probability of making your flush.

Is it profitable to stay in that hand? It depends on how much money you’re going to win. You’re going to lose with this hand two out of three times, everything else being equal.

So, you need to be able to win enough money in that 1/3 of the time to make it worthwhile the rest of the time. This requires some simple math and some estimating. And that’s just one example of a common situation, and I’ve made the math simplified just to give you an idea.

For real serious USA poker players, there’s even more to calculate and consider.

3 – You Stick With a Gambling Budget

Do you know what your monthly expenses are? Do you have estimates for how much you spend on groceries every week or every month? Do you have an amount allocated for entertainment over a specific period of time?

People who budget their money tend to do better at poker. real money bankroll management is one of the most critical skills a poker player can have. If you can’t manage your personal finances in a sensible way, you’ll have a hard time managing a poker bankroll sensibly.

You need to be the type of person who takes money off the top of his bankroll to pay bills only when you can afford to. You also need to be the type of person who can save a big enough bankroll to play poker to begin with.

And a poker bankroll should consist of money you don’t need for any other reason.

You should have six months’ of living expenses saved. You should have car insurance, health insurance, and life insurance. Your bills should be paid, and you shouldn’t have much debt other than a car payment and a mortgage.

Money management is SO much more important to a poker player than knowing when to call someone’s bluff.

4 – You Have Plenty of Self Discipline and Self Control

This, of course, relates to being patient. But it’s more than that.

Disciplined players avoid getting angry and acting on that anger. That’s more than just being willing to wait. That’s being able to control your tendency to react to the inevitable perceived slights you’ll suffer at the hands of the poker gods.

What are some signs you have self-discipline and self-control? Do you go to bed at the same time every night? Do you get up at the same time every morning, even when you’re more tired than usual?

Guy Lifting Weights at Gym, Poker Cards

Do you keep a food diary? Are you at a healthy weight? Maintaining a healthy weight requires self-discipline and self-control. Do you exercise several times a week, usually at the same time?

If you have good, healthy habits that you maintain in your life, you probably have an appropriate amount of discipline. It’s a matter of whether you keep the promises you make to yourself and others.

5 – You Like People

It’s hard to play a game with people for a living if you don’t enjoy being around people. Extroverts often do better at poker. Introverts, on the other hand, might find poker tedious.

Of course, if you play poker online, you can get away with being an introvert.

But if you’re going to play real money live poker, and most pros do, you should enjoy being around and talking to a wide variety of people.

I don’t play a lot poker through live dealer online casinos — not as much as I would like to, anyway—but when I do, I encounter people from all walks of life. I’ve played poker with rich people and poor people, young people and old people, talkative people and quiet people.

I enjoy being around all of them. And one of the advantages of being a “people person” is that games where people are enjoying themselves tend to be looser and more profitable. If you can convince your opponents they’re having fun, they’ll stay and gamble with you.

Most of them won’t even mind losing some of their money to you. They’ll even convince themselves that it was more luck than anything else.

6 – You’re Persistent

You’ll face a certain amount of failure in your journey from talented amateur to professional poker player. Do you have what it takes to keep trying even if you fail and fail again?

How do you know if you’re persistent? It’s just a matter of knowing whether you’re likely to give up on something. If you never give up, you’re persistent.

Professional Poker Player Adam Levitan, Ace of Hearts, King of Hearts

I read an interesting business article recently. The idea had something to do with the best answer to the job interview question, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

The interviewee in this situation replied, “I’ve climbed Mount Everest and the highest mountains on all of the continents.” That tells me everything I need to know about a job prospect.

That’s also someone I’d rather not face at the poker table.

7 – You’re Goal-Oriented

What does it meant to be goal-oriented? It means that you have a tendency to set specific targets in your life’s endeavors, and then you set up plans to achieve those targets.

You usually write these goals down on paper and set deadlines for achieving them. You’re also willing to change your plans as the situations change and as you learn new information.

Someone who “just wants to play poker professionally” isn’t goal-oriented enough. Someone who wants to earn $100,000 a year playing real money poker over the next 12 months is goal-oriented. Someone who’s really good at setting and achieving goals will break that down, too.

For example, you might know that you’re going to play poker for 20 hours a week, 50 weeks out of the year. That’s 1000 hours at the tables.

To earn $100,000 a year playing US poker 20 hours a week, you need to average $100 per hour in winnings. You also need to realize that this is an average.

Some hours, you’ll break even. Other hours, you’ll win $300. And sometimes, you’ll lose $100 in an hour. You won’t know how you’re doing if you’re not keeping records, but effective goal-setters always keep records.


There’s no guarantee that if you meet all seven of those criteria that you’ll be a winning US poker player. But I’d be more willing to stake a poker player who meets those criteria than one who is missing some of these qualities.

What about you? Do you possess these qualities? Are you thinking about going pro?