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OTB #024: How to Know You're Ready to Become A Professional Poker Player

Updated: Jan 25

"Run the numbers before you make the biggest decision of your life..."

- Ramit Sethi, author of 'I Will Teach You To Be Rich'

So, you're interested in becoming a poker pro one day or maybe you're just about to make the switch.

But how do you know you're ready to take the plunge?

Here's a very simple formula, broken down into 5 actionable steps so you can run the numbers yourself.

Quick note: all of these steps assume you're a winning player who has a solid idea of their actual ROI over a large sample size.

Step 1: Work out your enough amount

How much money do you actually need each month to pay your mortgage/rent and bills, and give you enough left over to be happy and comfortable?

With this figure in mind you'll be able to work out how much you need saved up for a 6-9 month emergency fund and how much you need to earn each month so you don't have to dip into that fund or your bankroll.

To work out your living expenses, or as Ramit Sethi calls 'fixed costs', total up how much you currently spend on the following:

  • housing

  • utilities

  • food

  • transport

Of course if you no longer need to commute, you won't need to spend as much on petrol or train fares, but you might still have costs associated with running a car like petrol, insurance and maintenance.

I don't think it makes sense to downgrade the quality of your lifestyle just to pursue the dream of being a poker pro so make sure you add enough each month on top of your fixed costs to live comfortably and enjoy the things you currently enjoy.

Remember, as well, that if your current job gives you added benefits like pension contributions and health insurance, you need to factor those in when working out your enough amount.

What is your enough amount?

Step 2: Save a big enough emergency fund

I recommend having at least 6-9 months saved up before you consider going pro.

You want to be able to make clear, strategic decisions that are not impacted by the emotion of losing an all-in and/or going on a downswing.

Let's say you've worked out that your enough amount is $5,000. 6-9 months of that is $30k-$45k.

If you know you need to save $30k, you can break that down by months or years and know how much to set aside each month on the way to having enough in your emergency fund.

How much do you need saved up?

Step 3: Grow a big enough bankroll

How are you going to make $5,000 each month?

If you want to grind out the profit each month, I recommend playing small field games where the achievable ROIs are much lower, but the variance is also lower and they require a smaller bankroll.

Let's say you play $100 small field MTTs and you can make 10% ROI.

Every time you play a $100 tournament with a 10% ROI you expect to make $10.

To make $5,000 a month you need to play 500 games. And that's if your plan is to just cash out the profit and not aim to grow your bankroll so you can move up in stakes and aim to make more money per month in the future.

Number of buy-ins by field size based on the Kelly Criterion:

To play $100 MTTs with 180 entrants you need ~$23,000.

If you don't want to grow your roll, then you don't need to worry about any kind of cashout strategy.

But what if you do want to grow your roll over time?

Quite a few years ago, a poster on PocketFives called Jennifear came up with a bankroll management and cashout strategy.

For MTTs, they recommended cashing out 8% of your buy-in as soon as you can. The idea was that you could guarantee an income and it would encourage you to put volume in.

And it would give you the opportunity to grow your bankroll and play higher leading to more profit in the future.

Here are Jennifear's cashout and bankroll requirements:

For every game with 180 players or more, you would cashout 8% of your buy-in as soon as you could.

So some questions to ask yourself at this stage:

  • What's the end goal?

  • Why do you want to be a professional poker player in the first place?

  • Do you want to grow your bankroll or do you just want to cashout all your profit each month?

How big a bankroll do you need?

Step 4: Turn up the volume

If you're playing a max of $100 buy-ins, then your average buy-in (ABI) will be much lower.

Let's say instead that your ABI is $66 and you're cashing out 8% of those because they're all around 200 players, or more.

Suddenly you're cashing out $5.28 per game that you play, and you have to play almost 1,000 games to hit your $5,000 target.

If you want to continue to play 500 games per month and use the 8% cashout strategy, you actually need a $125 ABI to hit $5,000 per month.

Just running the numbers in this way will show you how big your bankroll needs to be and what kinds of buy-ins and games you need to play to hit your enough amount.

If you've never played 500 games per month because you have a full time job, dependents and other responsibilities, then making this jump can be tough.

How many games do you normally play in a session?

Let's say it's 25 - that means you need to play 20 sessions per month to hit 500 games.

Can you do that consistently, every month, even when things aren't going well?

How many games do you need to play each month?

Step 5: Create the ultimate weekly schedule for life as a poker pro

A lot of recreational poker players dream of being a poker pro, but have never thought about what that actually looks like for them.

Think about your whole week and how you will schedule time for things like studying, working on your mindset, working out, date nights, relaxation, spending time with friends and loved ones and meal prep.

Go back to the question "why do you want to be a poker pro?" and think about all the benefits.

When you have a boss, you generally know what you need to do and when.

When you become a poker pro you will have to manage your time effectively and treat your poker like a business. You suddenly have to manage your own time and set your own schedule.

And you will have to be disciplined enough to stick to getting everything done now that you are the boss.

Are you ready for that responsiblity?

What does your week look like as a professional poker player?


Becoming a poker pro is the dream of many.

It can give you more time to spend on the things you love, like your hobbies or your children, and more opportunities to see the world.

But you need to run the numbers first to know if you're ready to take the plunge.

If you're a winning poker player, here are the 5 steps I recommend to do that:

Step 1: Work out your enough amount

Step 2: Save a big enough emergency fund

Step 3: Grow a big enough bankroll

Step 4: Turn up the volume

Step 5: Create the ultimate weekly schedule for life as a poker pro

Good luck!


Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

The Final Table: Play your best poker when the most is at stake. Detailed analysis of over 100 hand examples at different stages of play. Learn how to make great decisions every time and set yourself up for daily progress.

Poker On The Mind: Listen to my podcast with Dr Tricia Cardner as we discuss peak poker performance and tournament poker strategy.

Train & Play Like The Pros: Join the next cohort of my flagship program that will take you from amateur to training and playing like the pros in the next 8 weeks. There are only 12 spots for each cohort, and when they're gone, they're gone and I close enrolment until the next one.

Purposeful Practice for Poker: Gain a clear theoretical understanding of the science of purposeful practice and how you can apply it to your poker study & training. Includes specific exercises designed to create an infallible plan for poker improvement.

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