At first glance you'd be inclined to say that a professional poker player is someone who makes their income from playing poker which on a basic level would be correct. To me though it's more about the player's mindset.
To expand on that for me being a professional poker player has more to do with their mindset and how they approach the game rather than making an income from the game. In my eyes a recreational player is a player who likes to sit down at a table with a few beers with no more thought about what they are doing other than enjoying a few hands of cards without worrying if they win lose or break even.
On the other hand you have what I would class as a player with a professional outlook on the game.
This type of player, irrespective of the stakes involved, would sit down at the table with clear goals in mind. If playing in a tournament their first goal could be to cash in the tournament and then shoot for a final table or they have it in mind that they are aiming for a final table finish straight from the off and so play their game accordingly. If they were playing at a cash table they may have set themselves a goal of doubling their initial buy in before cashing out.
In both instances I would also expect such a player to have a good understanding of money management, have clearly defined buy in limits and be prepared to move up and down the buy in levels as their bank roll, not their emotions, dictated.
They would also have a good understanding of their table image and also of the importance of position and drawing odds both implied and reverse implied odds.
This is a player who I would very much consider to be one who could call themselves a professional poker player and I wondered if anyone else agreed?
engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.
That's the only difference I see really. All of the things you mentioned are factors in determining a good poker player from a bad one but you can tick all the boxes and still work 9 to 5.
You can be the best player in the world, but if poker isn't a source of income, then you shouldn't be considered a professional. Since poker is a game where the chips are a way to keep count, hypothetically if you hit one massive score, you could consider yourself a 'professional.' But the more general term is linked to someone that treats poker like a 9-5 job and has consistently shown profit over the years.
The biggest attribute that a pro player needs to have is to deal with short term failure. I remember years ago telling my father in law that despite cashing out every week consistantly that the night before I lost 1000 dollars. He said "son you have to stop playing" to which I replied "no, not only am I not stopping playing but I look forward to playing the exact same game and even against the same opponents because this is what I do".
You can't let short term failure dictate what you do or who you are. You can't let the fear and self doubt grow inside of you. You must deal with it head on and embrace it or those negative emotions will destroy you at the table. A man will only go as far he can in life if he's able to control his weaknesses. To control something you must deal with it promptly and decisively. Ignoring or running from them isn't an option for those who want to succeed.
A professional poker player is like a professional in any other field. It's someone that tries to acquire certain skills trough study/training/repetition and then generates a regular income in that field (not necessarily an unique or even main income). From all the professionals in that field some will be exceptionally talented, and some will suck and will only get to keep their job because of lucky circumstance or just lack of better competition, and everything in between. There's nothing magical or unique about pro poker players, they're just like everyone else trying to make some money or just trying to do what they love.
IMO people should strive less to become a "professional" poker player and just strive to become better at the game, even if it remains just a pastime. And as MoreTBC said, your views on being a professional are actually views on getting better. Plenty of hugely successful pro poker players won't respect one or more of the "rules" in this thread. That doesn't make the not pros, just means they have some leaks. Hell even Usain Bolt, fastest man alive admits to having "leaks" in his chosen profession.
Thanks for the comments guys, as always some well balanced counter points as well as agreement on some of the points.
@Sect7G I'm sure we can all relate to people not being able to understand how poker players can lose money and still carry on regardless. My own father is a case in point. Despite my winning far more than I've lost over the years he still thinks that I have a gambling "problem" because I play most days and talk about the targets (mission goals) that I need to reach. As an aside I do find it quite funny that he spends more of his own money on alcohol in a week than I spend of my own money on poker in a month but he would never consider that he himself to be an alcoholic lol. (He isn't by the way but it's the best example I could think of to highlight how people think of poker as a problem)
@Magicadil I'm inclined to agree with you in regard to the hours you have to put each week should also be a factor in determining if you are a professional player or not. In so far as the money lists are concerned I think that this is where poker rankings can be a little skewed given there are such massive differentials in prize money between say finishing 9th in a tournament to finishing 1st. I would prefer a ranking system for poker based on finishing positions alone but that's perhaps a debate we could have in a different thread
@FeelsBadMan Interesting points raised and as with any occupation there are those that excel and (thankfully hehe) those that totally suck. Your bigger point about it being more important to improve your game is, in my opinion, spot on. Improving your play should go hand in hand with improving your bankroll. I have a theory that quite a few of the "top" players actually play beyond their means and (I may be wrong on this point) sponsors keep their position inflated as they are effectively playing with free money and we all know that you can play a lot better and take more risks if you can stand the financial hit if it goes wrong. (Again perhaps a discussion for a different thread.)
@MoreTBC Agreed, in it's purest form the definition of a professional poker player should be someone who derives their main source of income from playing e game.
Nice question. Yeah I would say it's an interesting one and depends on how you define professional as you mentioned.
If you mean someone that makes their main income playing poker then that's fairly cut and dry i guess.
and I guess it goes withoutsaying that to be consistently making money playing poker you need a fairly strong mindset anyway.
But then there are some people that make their living playing poker but have a terrible time handling the swings and are super stressed out, they might break mice etc but just not spew at the table, if we are talking about professionalism in terms of how they handle themselves at the table, then I guess you could argue these people are not professional even if they make their money playing poker.
So for instance you could be employed as a manager for a company. Your profession is manager, but if you alienate all your staff and can't handle your emotions, could anyone say you are a professional manager?
So yes an interesting question I think.
When all's said and done, I would say the following are essentials of a pro poker player:
My impression is that some of the so called professionals have been lucky with a big score once and then they continue to play high stakes and are out playing in WSOP , they cash a few times but are more like an average or just above average player really . But you also learn as you play , some players just happened to be at the right place at the right time , won millions of dollars and continue playing poker as a living. That is just my impression of course. Lots of hard working professionals too.
Darwin Moon is a good example of this. Came 2nd in WSOP Main event in 2009. This was based around extreme luck and running super hot. That one score will set him up for life, but he should also be aware of what his skill level is and not hop into high rollers, huge cash games, etc. Don't assume just because you've won a massive prize that you can compete with the top names. That's how people usually end up going broke.