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Inside the Minds of Professional Poker Players: The Secret Life

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Poker is considered by many to be the ultimate in card games and the premium table at any casino. It combines a little luck with strategy, mathematics, observation, acting, and emotional intelligence alongside many other factors and skills.

Since its 19th-century origins, poker has grown to be played by hundreds of millions of people. Traditionally, it is played in private games, casinos, and public tournaments held all around the globe.

In the modern world, online platforms like 888 have transformed access to poker allowing people to play anywhere, any time. Using PCs, laptops, and, increasingly, our mobile phones, we can enjoy a high-quality game of poker whenever we choose.

The aim in poker is to collect a hand of cards worth a higher value than those of your opponents. Wagers are usually placed after receiving just some of your cards, meaning the jeopardy is in the unknown to come.

Different variations have different specifics, but this is the basic premise around which poker is built. Players must make a series of choices based on what they believe they know of their opponents and their hands.

This combination of strategy, guesswork, perception, and courage is attractive to many people playing both for pleasure and for profit. For some, however, poker is more than just a pastime, it’s how they make their entire living.

Being pro

Becoming a  professional poker player has much to be said for it. It allows you to set your own schedule, determine your own path, and potentially earn huge sums.

It also, however, comes with a great deal of risk. Nobody is guaranteed to win a game of poker and no wins means no income.

There is no specific career path into professional poker, no job interviews, and no college course you can take. Getting into the game is different for everyone, some do it deliberately while for others it seems almost an accident.

Some of today’s biggest pros will tell you how they discovered a talent for poker at a young age. These people follow their success to see how far it goes, much like a musician or sports player might do.

Others will talk about how they arrived later, after perhaps writing about poker for their day job as a journalist. These players find themselves seduced by the possibilities of poker and the challenges it offers.

Daily life

You might imagine the professional poker lifestyle to be centred around a nocturnal world of smoky back rooms and whiskey. While this might be true for some, it is far more likely for a player to have more regular habits.

Online players can grind out their play for set hours each day, much like a steady office job. Tournament players will build their hours around the most desirable and profitable events, much like performers or athletes.

Playing in tournaments is possible online from the comfort of your own home and can fit around a regular routine. When playing in person, much of the non-poker part of the day is taken up by travel.


Perhaps the biggest challenge for a pro player is developing a mindset that both yields victory and protects through adversity. Anxiety, and financial insecurity are common threats for poker players who do not have the right attitude and strategy.

So, from testimonials by players, both big winners and those earning a modest living, how do they achieve this?

  • Philosophy. When faced with a bad run of results that began affecting their health, one player turned to the stoics. Embracing the philosophy “to endure and prevail is great good fortune” they were able to motivate themselves back to success.
  • ICM. One of poker’s most successful modern players attributes much of their strategy to the Independent Chip Model (ICM). This is an approach that encourages thinking less about chips and more about the real-world financial value of each decision. It allows better decision-making by understanding how the value of your chips changes depending on the specifics of the moment. This reduces panic and poor strategy and allows cool, critical thinking to prevail more often.
  • Trust the process. “There are short-term slices of good fortune… but over hundreds of thousands of hands, psychological, mathematical, and emotional skill reign”. These are the words of a professional poker player who understands the importance of the long game. By the very nature of the game, almost every poker player will experience unsuccessful periods of play. By trusting the maths, and their abilities, they are able to work through this and return to better fortunes.
  • Observe everything. Perhaps the most important tool for any professional poker player is perception. The more information you gather, the better your decisions are likely to be, so staying sharp and observant is essential.

Final thoughts

Any pro poker player will tell you that it’s not a career that will suit everyone. It can leave players feeling disconnected from society and is often a difficult path for their families to understand.

With the risk and uncertainty, however, comes the potential for great reward and an incredible sense of achievement. With the right skills and mentality, poker can be not just an extremely lucrative career, but a fulfilling one too. 

Jordan Wayne , a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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