For exactly one year of my life, I was a professional poker player. That is, poker was my sole source of income (not to mention my main source of annoyance and frustration, with a heaping side of anxiety). During that year, I realized that the way the profession is portrayed in all the poker shows on TV is a steaming crock pot of bullshit. Even the James Bond movies steered me wrong. Where are the tuxedos?
Although I have friends who've played professionally for years now -- and love it -- that life is nothing like you probably think. For instance ...
Forget Luck and High-Stakes Bluffing -- It's All About Math
Poker pros like to call themselves sharks, actively hunting for minnows in the poker seas. Sounds like an exciting, adrenaline-charged life, right? Not quite. A better metaphor for a poker player would be an anglerfish:
With a math degree:
As a pro, you're not constantly attacking the weak players hand after hand after hand. If you are, you're guaranteed to go broke. Instead, you sit and wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait some more. And finally, when you get a decent hand, you strike and win your nicely sized pot.
Then you go back to waiting.
"Why does that guy keep trying to bite me?"
It's a long, grinding game of patience and attrition. And that's because it's all about tediously waiting for the percentages to line up in your favor -- successful poker players only play about 20 percent of the hands they're dealt. That's right -- 80 percent of the time, they're spectators. And, they know exactly what percentage of hands they're playing, because this is the type of minutiae they keep track of. People think that poker is all about reading facial expressions, but it's actually all about math. In fact, many poker pros -- especially the online players -- are outright stats junkies, entering the details of every single session into analysis programs to calculate their overall win rate and help them fix any holes in their games. Here's what a typical pro's post-game analysis might look like.