Dear Poker Counselor: I am a "young" senior citizen myself. I would like to enter the world of professional poker playing and would very much appreciate some guidance and mentoring. Can you suggest how I could go about preparing myself with books, DVDs, one-on-one coaching, and actual playing in the New York area? Emailed by Ed from White Plains
Professional poker is certainly not an easy way to pad your retirement savings, so please do not expect profits to come easily or steadily. Playing poker as a main source of income is financially and emotionally risky. I've known great poker players who could not make it as professional players, as it takes more than superior poker skills and knowledge. In fact, many more players have tried and failed in pro poker than have succeeded. This is because to survive this game it takes a unique blend of poker skill, patience, energy, resiliency, intelligence, internal drive, and much more. Many who have been professionals for decades skill struggle with paying the bills during losing streaks, can not afford medical insurance, and have little money invested for the future. In short, poker is not an easy business. I echo the thoughts of most professional poker players, as almost all of them attempt to discourage most aspiring poker pros from taking that leap until they are 100% committed and ready. Your first question is to check within yourself to see if you are indeed mentally and physically prepared to take on this substantial challenge. Playing recreationally for a few dollars that you are able to lose is one thing, but playing pro poker with stakes that influence your livelihood is another.
If you are absolutely certain that you are focused, hungry, and committed to pro poker, then your first step is to hone your skills. You should read every poker book and informative poker website that you can get your hands upon. Be a student of the game. Don't passively read: learn! Take notes on interesting points. Compare and contrast the advice that the writers dispense. Hellmuth's books might tell the readers to play tight poker, while Antonio Esfandiari's might instruct the reader to be aggressive to apply pressure on the opponents. Do the same with the instructional DVD's on the market, such as Phil Gordon's Final Table Poker. Before you take a serious step up the poker ladder you should have an expert's knowledge of position, pot odds & implied odds, cash game vs. tournament play, and other rudimentary poker concepts. When those are firmly under your belt and you've logged thousands and thousands of hands at the tables to get more experience, you may be able to start climbing levels. Start at small limit poker and grind out profits. Work your way up, sharpening your game, your confidence, and your bankroll along the way.
Be forewarned that real life pro poker seldom resembles the exciting, edited final tables that you see on TV. An enormous majority of the time at the table is boring, monotonous, yet stressful. That stress amplifies tenfold when you must secure profits to pay the bills. You are about to embark on a very difficult path. Be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into. With New York being a hotbed for poker players, you should be able to find some local poker veterans to serve as your mentor. Allow them to explain the grind that serious poker can become. As the "Poker Counselor," I do not often attempt to discourage players or instill a sense of self-doubt. That is not my intention. In your case, I simply feel it is only fair to give you a dose of reality. It will not be easy!
Dear Poker Counselor I am still not convinced that skill is all that important in poker. I've been beaten by old ladies who hardly know how to play the game, and I've beaten pro players. It comes down to the cards most of the time. – Posted at an online forum by City_boy
Professional poker player Andy Bloch is also an ex-member of the infamous MIT Blackjack team. In case you are not familiar with that team, they were a gang of MIT students who used their mathematical minds to count cards at the blackjack tables. When counted correctly, a blackjack player can have a slight statistical advantage over the house. Even though that statistical advantage might only be a measly 1-2%, it is still enough to have that blackjack team win bets to the tune of tens of thousands per night if played optimally. Over the course of time, the MIT blackjack team has combined to win millions in casinos worldwide by exploiting that slim advantage. By playing time and time again when the decks gave them a slight advantage, they have been able to build sizable profits. The same concept holds true on the poker tables. The very best players in the world still only hold a slight statistical advantage over the average player. With that in mind, greats like Johnny Chan can indeed be beaten by complete novices when the cards do not cooperate. On the other hand, it is clear that over time the very best will come out on top. The best players use their abilities to read their opponents, their instincts, their experience, and their understanding of the game and structure to give them that slight advantage. It is much like a professional blackjack player who is always accurate on his count. Although he might lose money in a night or over a week, in the long run he will indeed come out ahead. Poker is too often measured by one tournament, or by one result. In reality, we should be looking at year-end standings to give us the most accurate picture of true poker greatness. Poker is a marathon, not a sprint. In the long run, the best of the best will be crossing that finish line as the real winners.
KEEP THOSE QUESTIONS COMING!!! Carlisle14@hotmail.com
Ed Note:Noble Poker has 6 handed single table tournaments that we think are easy pickins...get in on the action