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What it takes to be a professional poker player
There is a lot of poker on television, really the only interesting hands are where someone makes a very bad play or something improbable happens. AA beating a flush draw doesnnot always make it past the cutting room floor. Therefore, the poker that you watch on television is not the most optimal way to play. So let me give you some ideas on what it really takes.
1. Poker is about fundamentals. Playing hands with position and changing with the style of game. A good example of this is a hand like 5s4s that is much more valuable as a No Limit hand rather than a Limit Poker hand. Poker Theory by David Slansky was one of the first books I ever read and the concepts still stick with me today. You have to have a base of understanding before you get creative.
2. Getting too creative is not profitable long term. Long term the money is made by making fewer mistakes (in terms of dollars) than your opponents. A good example is the above hand playing no limit, against one opponent from early position even if you hit a favorable flop not only will it cost you a great deal of money but you do not have the ability to get much information cheaply. In no limit the practice of set mining is a big deal because it is rare that if you flop a set you will be up against a hand that beats you and you will often take the stack from hands like AA and KK.
3. Playing within a proper bankroll has been covered often and so has playing in games where you have little edge. What is not covered often is playing in games with a high rake. In a lot of ways it is a double edged sword because if players are savvy about how much the house takes the game can become a shark tank (also known as a nit festival). On the other hand a game with a $10 rake per hand with all fish may be profitable based on your contribution towards the rake. There really is not a ton of data on this subject but it is something you want to be aware of, playing in games with fish is important but ignoring the house edge is foolish.
4. Maintaining your mental health edge is important. I personally believe that poker is a young mans game because it is easier to maintain your focus without regards to the abuse you do to your body and mind. As you get older however you have to preserve what mental edge you have by reducing the time you play and maintaining a decent diet. Playing more when you are winning and less when you are losing is easier said than done but that is what it takes to be a professional.
This was my first article related to playing poker seriously. In future articles I will try and be a bit more specific. This was meant to be an overview covering some surface issues.