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From Hobby to Career: What Sets Professional Poker Players Apart?

Last week I worked with a professional Swiss player and he asked me a question to which I did not have the answer. I did, however, know how to find out the answer and so I was relieved when he said that this way of coaching was much better than just giving me the answer anyway. My main goal with coaching is to help a student/client set up their training and studying in the most effective way so they can make progress every single day. I believe this is what separates my coaching from that of many others out there. The ‘‘answers at the back of the Maths text book’ approach might be what some of you are looking for, but it’s not something I would ever give you or encourage.

All this got me thinking about the difference between an amateur and a professional when it comes to their approach to studying and training.

When it comes to any field or activity, there is always a difference between a professional and an amateur. While the terms "professional" and "amateur" may seem straightforward, the difference between the two can be quite significant.

In general, a professional is someone who has a high level of expertise, experience, and training in a particular field, and they earn their living from their work. On the other hand, an amateur is someone who engages in an activity for pleasure or personal interest, without any financial gain. The line between amateur and professional can be somewhat blurred in poker because many amateur players will be looking to play for fun, but also to make some money from it if they can.

“Amateurs practise until they get it right; professionals practise until they can’t get it wrong.”

My flagship program, ‘Train & Play Like The Pros’ is designed to show amateur/recreational poker players exactly how to train and play in the right way, just like the pros. This professional approach is often very different from what they are used to and as such can take some adjustment.

Here are some key differences between professionals and amateurs in all walks of life, with some focus on poker players. Think about how your own training and approach could change given these ideas…

Skill level

Professionals have usually undergone extensive training and education in their field and have a high level of expertise, while amateurs may not have the same level of training or experience. Professional poker players have spent years studying the game, learning advanced strategies, and honing their skills through experience and they are experts at making strategic decisions. Amateur players, on the other hand, may not have the same level of skill or experience, and probably haven’t undergone as extensive training.


Professionals are often motivated by the financial rewards that come with their work, as well as their desire to excel in their field. Amateurs, on the other hand, are typically motivated by their passion for the activity or hobby. Having said that, professionals are aware that luck plays a role in short-term success so they are more motivated by process-orientated goals rather than outcome-orientated goals. And, as I mentioned above, amateurs can still be motivated by the financial rewards, but don’t rely on them to make a living.


Professionals are generally committed to their work, and they take it seriously. They have a strong work ethic and are dedicated to improving their skills and knowledge. Amateurs, on the other hand, may not be as committed, and their level of dedication can vary, something I witness first hand when new members join my Train & Play Like The Pros program.


Professionals are accountable for their work, and they are responsible for meeting deadlines and delivering results. They are also subject to professional standards and codes of ethics. Amateurs, on the other hand, are not typically held to the same level of accountability.


Professionals are often recognised for their work, and they may receive awards or accolades for their achievements. Amateurs may not receive the same level of recognition, although they may still be respected and appreciated by their peers. And amateur players can still win bracelets, SCOOPs and their local tournament.

Bankroll management

A professional player understands the importance of managing their money wisely and is careful not to risk too much of their bankroll on any given hand. They have the discipline to stick to their bankroll management strategy, even during times of volatility. Amateur players may not have the same level of discipline and may be more likely to make impulsive decisions that can result in the loss of their bankroll. They may also have a budget rather than a bankroll.

Emotional control

Professional players understand that emotions can affect their decision-making ability and are careful to manage their emotions while playing. They have learned to control their emotions and remain calm and focused even in high-pressure situations. Amateur players, on the other hand, may be more prone to tilt, or emotional outbursts that can lead to poor decision-making. Because of this, professionals are more likely to work with a mindset/performance coach than amateurs.

Dedication and discipline

Professionals are willing to put in long hours of study and practice to improve their skills and stay at the top of their game. They are disciplined in their approach to the game, and they have the mental fortitude to persevere through losing streaks and setbacks. Amateurs may not have the same level of dedication or discipline and may be more likely to give up after a few losses.

Career versus hobby

Finally, professional players have made poker their career and rely on their winnings to support themselves financially. They have a long-term approach to the game and are constantly looking for ways to improve their earnings. Amateurs, on the other hand, may play poker as a hobby and do not rely on their winnings to support themselves.

In summary, professional players have spent years honing their skills, managing their bankroll, controlling their emotions, and staying disciplined and dedicated to the game. Amateurs may enjoy playing poker as a hobby, but they may not have the same level of expertise, discipline, and commitment as professionals.

If you're an amateur player, looking to take a more professional approach to your training, send me a DM on FB here: or on Instagram here:

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