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Know your royal flush from your full house? Go from a lucky hand on poker night to millions in tournaments

Kiss goodbye to measly bets, cowardly folds and nervous foot-tapping; it’s time to take on the big boys and girls.

Why poker?

Many people have two ideal scenarios when it comes to work: doing it at home in your PJs, and/or travelling the world to glamorous locations and being paid for it. As a professional poker player, you get to do both. “I’ve been to almost every continent to play and have seen so many of the sights I’d only dreamed I’d visit when I was younger,” says Liv Boeree, 29, a poker player and TV presenter.

“I’ve met and played against the very best in the world, not to mention actors, directors, athletes, businessmen, scientists and other really fascinating people.” 

Queen of poker: Live Boeree

Poker players also spend a lot of their time playing online, hence the working in your PJs bit. That doesn’t mean you can take it easy, however.

“I’d typically play six days a week, usually a session from 11am-1pm. Then from 3pm right on through until around 2am,” says Ross Jarvis, who became editor of PokerPlayer magazine after playing online tournaments with for three years. “It’s a lot of hard work with unsociable hours. You must either be incredibly talented or have a good work ethic to be able to pull it off - or both.”

The freedom you get being a pro poker player seems to be a real draw, too. “I have some responsibilities,” Boeree says. “For example I am a member of Team PokerStars Pro, which means there are certain tournaments I must attend - for example in Barcelona and the Bahamas, what a tough life! - but otherwise I completely dictate my playing schedule.” 

Meanwhile, Jake Cody, a pro player for PokerStars who at the age of 26 is one of the youngest in the game, considers himself carefree: “I have so few responsibilities - it’s an ideal lifestyle for someone in their 20s.”

Young star: Jake Cody

Working on your poker face

Most forms of gambling are based on luck, but poker aficionados insist a large amount of skill is needed to be a success. It’s rarely a case of pick-up-and-play and, Cody advises, newcomers will need to take  time to learn the ropes. 

“In the early years I was completely obsessed with improving; I spent all my days playing as well as reading poker books, going on forums, watching training videos and, most importantly, discussing hands,” he says. “Being good at maths helps but is not essential. Logic, mental strength and the ability to block out emotion are all very important in my eyes.”

In Boeree’s case, a woman makes her own luck, and she uses her gender to her advantage when playing tournaments: “Not only do you stand out more, and thus get more media coverage, but players often underestimate you at the tables. I use this to get an edge very, very often.”


Do you feel lucky? How to become a professional poker player
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