The Real Life of Pro Poker Players

min read
BetMGM May 18, 2022, 7:18 AM

Luxury cars, exotic holidays, and spending sprees might be what come to mind when you think of the lives of top online poker professionals. The reality is that poker is not all flash and fortune. It’s a long and arduous journey to the big wins and riches we see on screen. A professional career takes unbelievable dedication and sacrifice. Let’s see what life is truly like for your favorite poker stars. Then, you can decide whether the saying is true: “is poker a hard way to make an easy living?”

Misconceptions about professional poker

Before you understand what life as a professional poker player is like, let’s dispel some misconceptions concerning poker careers. Many people see professional poker as a side hustle that requires little time to make big money. This image of poker as a get-rich-quick scheme is false.

Sure, some poker stars might lead glamorous lives, but players also make great sacrifices to play poker online and offline professionally. Most have to lead frugal lives to make it to the top. Even poker master Daniel Negreanu advises spending less on things such as groceries. Some top players might be multimillionaires, but the majority of people playing poker professionally earn far less. 

Unlike what movies might portray, poker players are not chasing one big win. The life of a poker player is carefully managed. They don’t “live on the edge.” Success in poker isn’t simply luck and bravado. The pros you look up to aren’t spending their time getting lucky; they’re busy working hard to get better. 

What life is like for professional poker players

Long working hours

Online poker has certainly made schedules more flexible for modern players, but one thing remains the same: poker players work long, long hours. Professionals usually have 8 to 12-hour working days. Most professional players dedicate roughly 70 hours of their week to playing poker and working on their strategies.

Constant studying

Daniel Negreanu, also known as Kid Poker, recommends spending 20% of your time studying poker at a minimum. This might seem excessive in any other career, but it’s a common thread among the routines of the top online and live poker players.

Poker is a skill-based game. You might benefit from a favorable hand, but someone with a worse hand can take your money when they know what to do with it.

Pro players have a strict study routine in place. They spend an hour or two a day reading quality poker guides and books and analyzing videos of poker online.  

Self-assessment and bookkeeping

Poker players regularly do bookkeeping and self-assessment tasks. These are sometimes called poker session reviews and database reviews. 

Professionals don’t kick back and relax immediately after an intense session. Instead, they carefully record how much they spent and won in each session. Considering the large number of poker tables these specialists play online at the same time, this can be a difficult task. 

Self-assessment works hand-in-hand with bookkeeping. Generally, professionals review their hands after the game and take notes of better moves they can make in the future and the mistakes they can avoid. Bookkeeping helps them keep track of their finances, while self-assessments help them keep track of their performance and possible areas of improvement.

Taking charge of their health

Though old-school players might not have been known for taking their health seriously, a new generation of top players sees this as a crucial factor for poker success. The daily schedule of a modern player today involves activities that optimize their mental and physical health. That includes gym sessions, allocating time to cook healthy meals or taking part in physical hobbies. 

Professional Matthew Wheat believes poker prosperity requires a healthy mix of other external things in your life, not just poker. This can be spending time with family and friends, engaging in fun hobbies and again, a fitness regime.

A poker player must have a sharp mind. To get this, players work their bodies, and they pay attention to their diet. You only need to look at the physiques of the top tournament players to see that this is the norm. 

Successful players know that winning is more than the decisions you make at the table or in the online casino. It’s about the way you manage your life and health.

Losing games

People often think that professional players just play a few big games, win them, and then call it a day. Professional players play countless games every day. They maximize their time by playing multiple online games simultaneously. This means they play against very different opponents with different skill levels. 

Because of this, even a pro player spends a portion of their time losing. It’s pure statistics. If you play a lot, you’ll lose from time to time. Losing is a part of their life, and it doesn’t stop them from showing up for the next game.

Playing with burnout

Professionals have to play almost every single day. With a schedule like this, burnout is a given. Poker stars have said they can be burned out for weeks after mass multi-tabling.

However, they also know that professional-level poker is really a business and not a game. Players have to show up and play on good days and bad days. Every single day as a poker professional requires proving your dedication over and over again. 

Regular travel

Players who like to take part in live poker tournaments and games have to do a lot of traveling. Because online poker is not fully legalized throughout the US, many players opt to travel for certain games. Live tournament specialists spend most of their year in hotel rooms during the tournament circuit. 

Preparing for tournaments

Preparing for a live or online poker tournament requires more of the same time management, dedication and planning, but intensified. The time leading up to a tournament requires even more vigorous study to design a solid tournament strategy. Players take time to practice and test their strategies and playing styles. It’s not always new skills that will serve them in a long grueling tournament, but the techniques they’ve mastered over a long time.

Maintaining peak mental acuity for a long tournament is critical. Before a tournament, poker pros avoid high-sugar foods that might drain them. They opt for a protein-rich and nutrient-dense diet. Even though the long hours of a poker career might hamper sleep, getting adequate rest before an event is not optional.

Different players either prefer to relax before a tournament, or they like to squeeze in some last-minute practice and studying. Whatever their style, alcohol is a no-go. 

BetMGM poker tournaments

Poker tournaments are just a click away on the BetMGM app. Here are some exciting poker tournaments you can join to get started: 

  • Daily $10k tournament with $109 buy-in
  • New Jersey Sit & Go tournaments 
  • Sunday $35k with $215 buy-in
  • $750 Old School Tournament with $35 buy-in
  • Progressive Knockout Bounty Tournaments (PKO)
  • $12,000 Mega Tuesday Tournament with $535 buy-in

Get tournament-ready with BetMGM

A professional poker career can be even more challenging and demanding than a full-time job. But getting started doesn’t need to be difficult. With a BetMGM account, you don’t need to be a big name in Texas Hold’em poker to start playing in online tournaments. You don’t even have to mark special dates on your calendar. We have tournaments running every day. 

Register with us to test your skills in a real poker challenge. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.