Defining real professionals versus poker professionals

Apr 4, 2017 3:00 AM

According to Michael Wiesenberg’s “The Official Dictionary of Poker,” a poker professional (abbreviated, “pro”) is a player who relies on poker as his main source of income. He depends on winning to support his family and himself. But is this what a REAL professional is? The word “professional” conjures up a much more significant, laudable and profound meaning to me.

In my mind, when I speak of a professional, I think of a person who has gained high regard and respect from the community or, perhaps, even the world, based on his work on behalf of others – perhaps to society and humanity. I think of doctors, school teachers, university professors, lawyers, engineers, scientists – people who are well educated and experienced in their chosen fields of endeavor, and who then apply this knowledge and ability for the benefit of society or other people who seek or need their services. Such people have earned our respect; they are true professionals.

A poker pro does not fit this definition. He plays the game to earn a livelihood; it’s all about money in his pocket. Poker is his main source of revenue. He depends on winning to support his family and pay the bills. (I hope he succeeds and is never in financial trouble.)

The rest of us – the vast majority – play for recreation (we are called “recreational players” or, perhaps, amateurs). We enjoy the challenge of the game and the social interaction. Of course, we also seek to go home winners – more money in our pockets than when we arrived at the casino. Everyone wants to be a winner. But, we don’t regard ourselves as pros. The difference, of course, is that our livelihoods do not depend on winning (hopefully) – as do the “poker pros’.”

With the introduction of poker shown on national TV channels starting in the late 1970’s, there has been somewhat of a change – a very significant one. Usually it’s a tournament with high prizes (money) for the winners. These events have been given high-sounding and memorable names – such as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour, for example. Tens of thousands or more people – poker players and others – are likely to be watching the game being played on TV. That may well include you and your poker friends.

By virtue of these games and the players shown on TV, the so-called poker “pro” has been elevated in status. His name becomes recognized by others – even if he fails to gain the top prize in that particular tournament. (Even Phil Ivey does not win every time he plays.) Many poker writers – authors of books and columnists – proudly announce the total of their winnings and other awards – bracelets, rings and trophies. They have every right to do so. (Although, they don’t discuss their costs or their losses.)

On the other hand, how can we, in all good conscience, put that poker player in the same category as a surgeon or other medical doctor, or a scientist who has dedicated his (her) life for the benefit of others or our society – helping to make this a better world? Would you put a so-called “poker pro” such as Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Ivey, or Doyle Brunson in the same package with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin or Elon Musk?

A true professional should always work for the benefit of our society and humanity in one way or another, and not only to make a name or money for himself.

Think about it.