In it to Win It: Here’s How Black Players Can Break into Professional Poker

Wish you could play poker professionally? We can’t blame you. After all, the prospect of big money and an exciting sports-celebrity lifestyle is pretty alluring, especially considering you don’t need massive muscles, and a perfectly toned body of a professional athlete to get there.

However, it’s not easy to become a professional poker player either. It takes years of hard work, but you can get started by following our tips to break into the industry.

Practice is Key to Your Success

Like in any other sport or pastime, becoming a professional poker player takes practice. You’ll need to master the game, from simple hand rankings to ultra-advanced strategy. You must become an expert in both poker and psychology, learning to read the body language and facial tells of your opponents and using them to enhance your tactics at the table.

This means you’ll inevitably spend a lot of time in card rooms and play the host at a lot of poker nights. However, this may not be enough. Sometimes card rooms close, and your friends may not want to play with you every single day. But never fear. Depending on where you are, you may be able to take your practice sessions to the internet as well.

For example, those living in New Jersey can play cards at any number of nj online casinos, many of them featuring live tables that can really get you into the zone. Those visiting or residing in other poker-friendly areas can take advantage of their collection of venues but check with local laws before attempting to play online. If real-money online poker venues aren’t legal in your area, you could comb the internet for private meet-up groups or poker clubs playing just for fun.

Seek Out a Mentor to Offer Support

No matter what industry you’re working in, mentorship is incredibly valuable. Don’t believe it? The stats don’t lie. In one survey, over 60% of businesses that had implemented a mentorship program saw a marked increase in worker productivity tied directly to the mentors. In another, 97% of people who had a mentor viewed him or her as a valuable asset.

If you want to be a professional poker player, you have to learn from the best. Study what works and emulate it. Look to those who have gone before you and reach out to them for advice. While you probably won’t get Phil Ivey to play with you right off the bat, local pros in your area could be more than willing to help if you come at it with the right attitude.

When approaching a pro to ask for advice or mentorship, stay humble. Send out a short email to pique their interest, and let it develop into a longer chain of communication to establish rapport. You could also approach them in person at your local card room, but make sure not to interrupt them in the middle of a game.

Start Small & Work Your Way Up

Nobody begins as the best. From Amazon’s classic come-up story as an online bookstore to Disney’s rocky start in a Los Angeles garage, you’ll find that most enterprises have humble beginnings. So will you, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s precisely where you want to be.

In this case, starting small means playing cash games at your city’s hotspots until you build up the confidence to compete in tournaments. Once you become known as a regular to look out for, you can start traveling to nearby cities to get your game on and build your reputation.

It’s only by working your way up that you can land among the lucky (and talented) few who manage to make a living from the game or gain enough notoriety to get sponsored.

Still want to become a professional poker player? There’s no reason you can’t try. Remember to start small, seek advice from more experienced players, and practice your craft at every available opportunity. When the time comes, you could find yourself playing alongside the greats.

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