Professional poker player is a career choice that not everyone would make, but one that has worked out for hundreds of young people who have decided to go off the beaten path and pursue their dream.
The number of poker pros rose significantly after the introduction of legal online poker options worldwide, and the increase in game’s popularity that was driven by the so-called “Poker Boom” of the early 2000s.
Today, there are more professional poker players than ever, but many of them struggle to balance a healthy life with a career that can be both physically and psychologically demanding in so many ways.
So what are the main challenges of a professional poker career and what solutions have the pros found to counter them? We decided to find out and looked into the lives of some of the most famous poker pros for answers.
Importance of Physical Fitness
Poker is a game of wits and patience, and while it does not require too much physical exertion in a classical sense, the long hours at the tables, late night sessions, and non-stop grind can take a toll on both the physical and mental shape of a player.
Forced to sit for many hours on end of their job, poker professionals have discovered that engaging in physical activities on a regular basis has greatly helped them perform better in-game as well.
None have taken their physical well-being more seriously than Daniel Negreanu, one of the most decorated poker players, who has made fitness one of the key components of his life.
Daniel, like many of his peers, regularly works out at the gym, and maintains a balanced diet throughout the year, in order to be well nourished and prepared for the big moments. In his mind, the importance of living a healthy lifestyle away from poker is undisputable.
Negreanu has admitted time and time again that he often lets these habits go during the summer, when he plays in the World Series of Poker, the biggest festival in the game, but he always makes sure to get right back in the groove as soon as the Series is over.
The Latin phrase “a healthy mind in a healthy body” definitely comes to mind when talking about poker pros, and the importance of keeping one’s body fit and working out on a regular basis cannot be overstated.
Strong Bonds with Family and Friends
It is not at all uncommon for young and aspiring poker pros to become obsessed with the game, in a similar way that chess players often see their whole lives taken over by the game.
However, this kind of obsession can only be maintained for a while, at which point most people either quit the game altogether or find ways to balance their poker careers with their daily lives.
Well-known poker professionals like Shaun Deeb, Antonio Esfandiari, and Jeremy Ausmus, have all come to this realization as they entered their 30s, and have all started families of their own.
While once they led lives that were mainly focused on poker and enjoying the lifestyle, they have now transitioned into a new phase of their lives where family time is valued over other things.
Their poker careers still require them to travel and play poker quite a bit, but they also make sure to find time away from the tables to spend with their loved ones.
Finding a balance between poker and personal relationships is a key component in a life of any poker professional, and another one of the key factors for long-term success.
Managing Expectations and Treating It like a Business
Poker is a game filled with mental traps that many aspiring pros fall into, and that often end their careers before they have even fully begun.
A good run in a single poker tournament can win you millions of dollars in just a few days, which can make other subsequent success seem insignificant.
Managing your expectations is one of the big parts of a poker career, and another key to leading a balanced and happy life as a poker player.
Today’s modern poker players see every entry into a poker game as a business investment, calculate their return on investment, and treat the game like a job in every way.
This is in great contrast to most recreational players who treat poker as gambling and any winnings they get as a lottery jackpot.
Can Poker Pros Live a Balanced Life?
While poker is certainly a professional that presents many challenges from both a technical and a psychological standpoint, it can also offer successful players incredible freedom and huge long-term potential.
Many poker professionals struggle to separate their personal and professional lives, or even to maintain meaningful personal relationships outside of the world of poker.
And yet, all of the most successful pros have actually discovered that the only way to have a successful career in the game for many years is to find balance between the two and to live a healthy life away from the game.
If you are a young poker player looking to make it as a pro, make sure to consider all these things as you move forward with your career and consider ways to balance your poker playing time with other aspects of your life.