One of the most elusive tasks for an ordinary poker player to undertake is making his or her game profitable.
Let’s take being profitable as making a return- no matter how much it may be whether a million dollars or a single penny. Over years of poker playing if you fall under this category you are profitable.
Sounds easy. Just quit when you’re ahead, limit your losses and stay on top of your game. Despite the obvious logic, sounding easy and being easy are completely different things. Most poker players are actually long term losers and only a small percentage are winners.
1. Rake and Fees
Hardly a main factor, but for the struggling poker player the house’s cut makes the difference between breaking even and being dead broke. Thinking about the hundreds of games I’ve played and the thousands of hands, if I added up all the little amounts of rake and fees- I’d have over ten grand, and I’ve only been playing for about two years! My greatest up-swing has been $2,000 in one day and about $1,500 in the other direction, hardly close to 5 figures.
So in order to be profitable you not only have to beat your opponents more often than they beat you, but you also have to compensate for that small tribute taken by the house.
2. Self Control
Playing smart is hard when you’re not mentally prepared. Can you handle $1/$2 No-Limit? How about $10/$20 or $50/$100? Unless you can treat poker playing as a real job, you are going to have a difficult time making intelligent decisions. Any other kind of attitude towards poker is either too spontaneous or too emotionally driven. Both of these qualities do not produce stable income. While in a corporate setting there are clearly defined procedures, due dates, and systematic rituals, in poker the sky is the limit and anything can happen. It’s plain unpredictable and it’s difficult to plan or feel secure in the financial sense.
All too often I find myself setting a schedule, or making a commitment to play only a certain type of game only to find myself disregard them and play based of my own impulses. I get “caught up in the moment” and make decisions based on only how much money I have at the time and how I am feeling. What do you know!? This sounds kind of like how you play poker: You manage your stack and play against opponents based on how you feel your hand measures up and how you feel your opponent is feeling. While this can sometimes be good, it isn’t predictable and thus isn’t secure.
Unless you are the best poker player in the world and can beat anyone at any time, you are better off finding a mentor or somehow splitting your personality into 1. The Shark- always hungry for action and especially fish. 2. The Shark Keeper- the guy who makes sure the shark doesn’t do something stupid like eat a poisonous fish and die.
No matter who you are there will be a delicate balance between arguing factions in your head. After a big win you may want to jump into a larger more promising game because you are HOT, but a voice inside of your head is telling you to be wary of the difficult field of players and plus, you’ve got an appointment in only 45 minutes- there’s no time! Before you know it, you fast-played under the pressure of time and got beat in a game you didn’t belong in- your big win is now a big loss and you’re kicking yourself for not listening to your keeper.
But wait! It works the other way around too. You may be playing a tough player, but you are busting out your A-game. A voice of doubt, even fear speaks to you: What if you lose? You’ll be out one grand! Too much pressure! You’ll start playing conservatively as not to make a big risk where you could meet the end. Unfortunately for you, the only way to win is to take big risks and to fluster your skillful opponent. Like all cold-blooded killers, adept poker players can smell fear and when they do they will strike. You may end up with loss because your keeper psyched you out!
Hopefully the point is sinking in. The competitive player in you seeks challenge and thrives on victory. The sensible business owner in you seeks profit and stability. In all situations in poker you will find yourself second guessing yourself and making tough personal decisions. The key here is to balance your mind, and this is something only you yourself can learn how to do because no two minds are alike.
Some people don’t care about money. They live for the thrill to play poker to live. I’m reminded of a biography of Stu Ungar that I recently read. A man regarded as one of the greatest poker players ever to walk to planet. These types of people will either end up really rich or really poor. The thing is they don’t care about money it’s just paper, they wanted to feel alive and they did and that’s all that matters.
Unfortunately for me, money is an issue. I wish to support myself as well as other close people. So, I have to carefully balance my state of mind and the opposing factions. Hopefully this has give you some insight on your own ways of thinking, I do stress the importance of having the courage to approach your fears and mistakes and to truly learn from them. Poker is a game of constant self-evaluation.
If this article made absolutely no sense to you, well then just consider me crazy. I’ve got multiple personalities running through my head.