Another look at pro players through the eyes of Negreanu

Another look at pro players through the eyes of Negreanu

November 21, 2017 3:00 AM


I have always admired Daniel Negreanu, world-famed poker celebrity and member of the Poker Hall of Fame. Rather than just earning a living at the game, he seems to care about the poker world. And he is willing to share his thoughts with the rest of us. I consider him to be a true poker professional – a rare individual.

Back in April 2015, he wrote about poker pros. When I wrote a column in GamingToday on “Defining real ‘pro’ players” (April 4, 2017), I was not aware of Negreanu’s earlier writings on this same topic. Subsequently, a reader was kind enough to send me the blog by Daniel with a much different perspective. Anything he writes is well worth our time to read and study. So, consider this present column to be a sequel based on what I learned from him.

As I explained previously, I believe a professional person is like a doctor, helping to cure people’s illnesses; or a scientist/engineer who strives to better understand or improve our world – like an environmentalist or a space scientist.

Most of those who label themselves poker pros, merely seek to earn enough money at the tables to support themselves and their families – perhaps store away some savings for the future. But, they contribute nothing by way of making this a better world, or helping anyone else other than themselves. Few, if any, gain enough wealth to become philanthropists.

In that vein, Negreanu discussed what it takes to become what is commonly considered a (so-called) professional poker player. As an analogy, he likened a poker pro to the owner of a small one-man business. His customers are his opponents at the table – completely self-centered and hardly a professional, in my opinion.

Negreanu describes what a poker player must go through to achieve that financial goal. He must win enough, he warns, to pay his bills (food, rent, health care, travel costs, etc.) and still have enough left over for a hefty poker bankroll. To “earn” enough to accomplish that goal, Negreanu warns you have to play for long hours in very high stakes poker games.

Considering the variance inherent to poker games where luck (like it or not) is a factor, can you imagine how high a bankroll you would need? And, do you have the endurance for all those hours seated at the poker table? A few may make it by focusing on very high buy-in tournaments – and getting very lucky. There is always the possibility, but so very rare.

He likens the task to that of an athlete who aspires to make it to the big leagues: “Less than 5 percent of ball players in the minor leagues will ever make the big leagues,” he warns. “Most will fail.” Then he adds, “This holds true in poker as well.” On that basis, poker players hoping to become pros, might regard themselves as the minor leaguers at the poker tables. That makes good sense. Few will win enough to be qualified as a (so-called) professional poker player.

All things considered, here is my advice to all who enjoy the mental challenge (helps our mental and physical health) and social interaction while playing poker – at whatever stakes you choose: Adjust to being labelled a “recreational player.” That’s a person who much enjoys the game, and loves to win, but would never expect to make a living at it.

Even so, just be sure you have the funds set aside or a job/business to allow you to live a decent life, support your family, and save for your ultimate retirement – even when you are on a losing streak. And, that will happen.