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Are You a Successful Poker Player?

19 March 2010, By: compncards
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bracelets paulclark

What is a successful poker player? A couple of months back, I was talking with someone who was trying to figure out whether they were a winning player. They went into how many big blinds they had won per hour and how much money they had won and lost in different sessions. They were worried that they were wasting their time with playing poker.

My first question is one that I ask anyone that is worried about bankrolls, turning pro, etc. I asked him what his goal was in playing poker. Was he planning to work his way to play pro or was he just playing for fun. His honest answer was that he would like to work his way up in limits, but poker is more recreational than a means towards a goal. I then asked him simply, "Are you ahead overall in your play." He answered yes. I then replied, "Then you are a winning player."

People fail to realize a simple truth. If you are up even as little as a dollar, technically you are a winning player. Now, with that being said, being a winning player does not make your a great player. Hell, it may not mean you are a good player. You might be good at picking games. You may have played only the lowest stakes for years and have ground out small profits and never tested yourself.

You probably are wondering what my little tirade about being a winning player has to do with being a successful player. Well, in order to be a success, you must be a winning player. That much seems obvious, but it does bear pointing out, and I will explain in a bit. Whether or not you are a success in poker is really relative in my opinion. For example, if you are a recreational player, and that is all you intend to be, going out and running a bankroll up to $10,000 would by many definitions make you a successful player.

Of course, most people would look at $10,000 and laugh. Especially those looking to make poker their living. In that case, $10,000 is chump change. In order to be successful in being a "professional" player, you need to decide what type of lifestyle you want for you and your family. Winning $50,000 or even $100,000 may not make you successful is you have an outrageous lifestyle.

In my own life, I have friends  that try and pass me off as a professional poker player.  I correct them and say that I played "very semi-pro" for a couple of years with what I call mild success.  But at the same time, I saw the pro lifestyle and the pitfalls and it is not something I want full time.   I enjoy where I am at now, but I never pass myself as a pro player, because I am not.

Now, I am going to go into an area that is a little tricky. There are players that are "accomplished" and there are players that are "successful players." For example, Chris Moneymaker is an accomplished player, but I would not classify him as a successful player. How much money does he have left from his Main Event win? They named a candy bar after it, and it is not 100 Grand. Looking at his track record, had PokerStars not given him an endorsement, do we really think we would even hear of Moneymaker anymore?

Another player that is "accomplished" but hardly a successful player anymore is Eskimo Clark. He has bracelets and tons of tournament wins, but stories are regularly told about him having to hustle for buy-ins. There are many pros and wannabe pros that have had great accomplishments but have been unable to hold onto a bankroll.  In poker, it's about how much money you have.  If you don't have it, it is hard to really be considered successful.  Accomplished yes, successful in certain events yes, but a successful player.  Not really.  Of course, you may see it differently.

So when you think about your play, consider where you want to go with your game. Be realistic with yourself as well. You know whether or not you will be able to hang with the big boys, or even if you want to try. Is this something you could truly do 40+ hours per week for the rest of your life? Also, can you make enough money at it to support yourself and your family.

Or are you on the other end of the spectrum. Are you a recreational player that could care less about ever playing at the WSOP? Is the $100 or $200 a month you make from your low stakes play perfectly acceptable winnings to you?

Success is relative. Quit obsessing over big blinds and rate per hour, etc. Take stock where you want to go and determine if you are getting there. Don't let TV or the internet dictate what you consider your success. You may already be a success and not know it. Then again, maybe it is time to give up on that pro dream.

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