Peter Hallberg
World Backgammon Champion 2004

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July 2011

From hobby player to full time pro

Jul 18th by Peter Hallberg

Mid-stake poker pro? Is that even possible?

A lot has happened since my last blog. Once again I have been facing a crossroad and having to make a hard choice of what I want to do with my career. It all seems so dramatic but in reality it's just one of those situation where you need to listen to your gut feeling and go with it. There seems to be no right or wrong.

For the last year and a half I've been living of writing blogs and come up with ideas. It has been fun but all good things have to end so does this. My contract ends soon and I have to find a new way to support myself. No problem at all. It's not like I have no options - on the contrary. I have a degree in computer science but I don't see myself working with computer stuff anymore. There is of course poker but the current state of poker legislation in Denmark on top of my current skill level (or lack thereof) make it seem almost impossible to make a living as a full time poker pro. Then there is the option to go for a job in the e-gaming business which I believe would be a lot of fun but where do I go after that. Finally I could finish my master degree in computer science (need one more year) and do something more meaningful afterwards.

None of the above mentioned options seemed particularly attractive so I spent about two weeks weighing pros and cons of each job. It all came down to what I really wanted to do. Not what I was currently able to do! The choice fell on poker. You would suppose that was the end of it - but no - it was just the beginning.

What does it mean to be a poker pro?
I asked myself that question. Unfortunately the only answer I could come up with was 'not handling poker as I had done so far'. Let's face it. I've been playing poker on a semi serious level since 2009 and my current skill level is about a none losing NL200 6-max player. That's not much to show for two and a half years of playing poker part time. But what does it take to make it as a professional poker player?

The answer is somewhat simple. Live like a poker pro! Sounds simple but it's really the hard part. I believe you need to encompass most of the following things to become a successful poker pro.

Spend the hours needed at the tables
Look at your win-rate at your current level and hold that up against your monthly expenses. If you play small/mid-stakes as I do you need to put in a lot of hours to be able to make it. As a rule of thumb you need to make about the double amount you need for expenses to be likely to handle the variance.

Up until now I have mostly been playing when I had the time and mostly for fun. If I need to put in the double or even three times as many hours it's certain that atleast some of the hours will feel more like a chore than as good old fun. It's uncertain how I'm going to react to that.

Mental robustness
To become successful you need to spend your energy and focus on playing well and making good decisions at the table. If you are off balance and tilting in one or more of the enumerable ways of tilting you are bound to have a hard time making progress technically and mentally. If you tilt too often or too much you will give away all your edge to the players who tilt less. Tilt also makes it almost unbearable to play poker for a living and it shouldn't be that way. It should be fun and profitable.

Selecting opponents carefully
By that I mean picking the least skilled players as opponents. There is a huge difference in the time of day and even the day of the week when talking about the average skill of your opponents. The games are simply more soft after 20:00 CET and between 06:00 and 08:00 in the morning. Also weekends are really good because as a mid-stake poker grinder you need to be there when the casual players are online to have fun. It's like driving a cab. If you want to make money you have to be there when people need cabs and that is unfortunately when everybody else are off work. It is also hard to have a good paying night shift job in normal office hours.

Physical fitness
To put in the hours needed I need to get into physical shape to gain more stamina. This has been a very important revelation for me. Previously I have underestimated the idea that you can't realize your equity if you can't play enough hours. Typically tilt and stamina are the only two things (not counting laziness) that can affect the hours you play. With a stabilized blood sugar level your body is tuned for holding your focus through long sessions. To achieve this I need to do a whole lifestyle change.

Poker skill level
I need to find a playing style that fits my temper and feels natural to me. It's simply too hard to constantly make moves you don't like deep inside. I've tried to play everything from super tight to loose but things seem to come most natural to me when I play a fairly tight game with a lot of medium sized pots. To keep developing I need to watch videos, do sweat session with other players, discuss hands with friends both real life and on poker fora and learn to evaluate my own performance.

A very central point is that all these things are never done. To stay competitive I need to continue working on each of the above mentioned areas.

This process began very slowly back in May and in the next blog I'll go into each area and talk about my progress this far.


:: Backgammon ::

* Dansk Bg Forbund (DK) 

* eXtreme Gammon

* Bg World Championship

* DBgF on Facebook (DK)


:: Poker ::

* Pokernyhederne (DK)

* (DK)

* Texaspoker (DK)

* PokerHistory


:: Chess ::

* Dansk Skak Union (DK)

* ChessBomb

* K41 (DK)

* ChessTempo