Are you ready to turn pro? Probably not

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You’ve been asking yourself, “Should I quit my day job and become a low-stakes pro?” That’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s important to be able to at least make an informed decision.

For the purposes of this series, we’re focusing on cash-game play and using tournaments sparingly.

Tournaments, especially low stakes with poor structures, are extremely high in variance and aren’t suited for being a low-stakes professional. We’ll discuss pitfalls, strategies and the benefits of being a low-stakes cash-game grinder in future issues.

The answer to the question, “Should I turn pro?” is probably “Not yet.” There are probably many of you who have chosen to make the leap to cash-game pro that should have the same answer. I encourage you to read this series to make adjustments to your game and methods. Turning pro is significantly more difficult than most realize.

The first thing we need to do is determine if we’re a winning player. Many players will win a tournament, win a bad-beat jackpot or have a week of amazing cash-game sessions and cling to that cash influx as their mental basis for being a winning player. The only real way to determine if you’re a winning player is hours, and meticulously tracking the hours. So here’s what you need to do:

TRACK YOUR PLAY: Poker Income Pro is an example of a tracking program. I find it much easier to track my sessions on my phone. If you use a spreadsheet, make sure it has dates, locations, hours played, and the results of the sessions.

SET TIME-LIMIT GOALS: During your time as a pro, it’s going to be important to meet or exceed hourly goals each week and have the discipline to consistently go play without a boss telling you that you need to do so. Each person has a unique situation with jobs and responsibilities, but set this goal while keeping in mind that the bare minimum number of hours you’ll need to determine whether you’re a winning player is around 500.

SET ASIDE A BANKROLL: You still have your day job, so bankroll management isn’t as important now as it will be in the future, but learning proper bankroll management is probably the biggest key to becoming a pro and staying that way.

Make sure you have set aside money that you can afford to lose and that it meets the minimal bankroll requirements for the game you’re playing. Assuming you can replenish your bankroll should it begin to drop, then 1,000 big blinds should be sufficient. If you can’t replenish the bankroll, the requirements go up dramatically and our bankroll should start around 2,500 big blinds.

ANALYZE YOUR HOURLY RATE EVERY 100 HOURS: This is extremely important. Hours upon hours are the only way to accurately know if you’re a winner. From a random sample of 500 hours of my results, the confidence of being a winning player was only 23.9 percent. Using those numbers and running a simulation, someone with my skill spent almost a year making less than $20 per hour. Those results should be scary and illustrate the importance of keeping accurate records and analyzing them.

Once you’ve completed these steps and are reasonably certain you’re a winning player with a bankroll that gives you a small risk of ruin, you’re ready to start treating your poker game like a new business. Now, go find some fish.

— Brent Philbin is a poker pro who lives in South Florida. You can reach him at Brent.Philbin@gmail.com.