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Home > Poker-Pros > Articles > Johnny Chan

Treat Poker as a Business!
by Johnny Chan

This column is about poker as a business. You know, lots of potential players Johnny Chan are attracted to the game because they think it is easy money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Playing professional poker is a very demanding job. And you know what? There aren’t a lot of players who make it in the long run. The ones who do take it seriously and treat it as a business. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many great things about being a poker pro. You work your own hours, are your own boss, and sleep whenever you desire. You have the opportunity to be involved in an interesting profession in which you are always learning. You may travel to interesting places, meet lots of interesting people, and enjoy the camaraderie of players from all over the world wherever you go. You may also enjoy a sense of accomplishment after developing your game to the point where you feel confident you can make good money playing poker year after year. I could go on and on, but that’s not the main focus of this column.

I want to impress upon you the importance of treating your professional career as a business. By this I mean that you have to be disciplined and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Compare yourself to other professionals and look at what they do. Of course, staying away from drugs and other bad habits goes without saying. One of the things professionals do is put in lots of hours at their job. They work at it continually, and make many sacrifices in the beginning of their careers. Eventually, after several years of hard work, they reap the benefits of their dedication in the form of increased income, easier schedules, more vacation time, and many other lifestyle perks. Another thing most professionals do is lead balanced lives. They usually have families, or at the very least, partners, and a wide circle of friends. They involve themselves in activities that allow them to get their minds off their work. They enjoy nights out with the wife or husband, weekend trips and family outings, time at the health club, movies, shows, and concerts. They have hobbies, and generally try to balance their time with various enjoyable activities. As a professional poker player, you should do the same. Step back and take a look at your life. Imagine yourself two, five, and 10 years from now. How do you see yourself? What do you want to be doing? Is what you are doing now going to get you there? Do you have a plan?

When I was coming up, I went through lots of difficult times. I did my best to remain focused and stay on track. I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes, because I made plenty, but I never gave up and always maintained sight of where I wanted to go. Eventually, all of that persistence paid off for me. The early part of your career will most likely be filled with lots of hard work and learning. You can compare it to the years that most professionals spend in school and apprenticeship. After all, there is no “poker college” or graduate school. You have to learn while playing. For this reason, the first 10 years of your career are often the most difficult. It is during this time that you will be experimenting with and developing your game. You’ll be learning how to deal with the fluctuations and how to manage your money. You’ll be learning how to manage yourself and, especially, your emotions. You’ll learn the sad truth that you get to keep only a percentage of the money you win. Much of it goes for living expenses, taxes, and the expense of running the business of playing poker. If you are lucky and smart, some of it will go into savings and investments, including but not limited to some sort of retirement account. I could go on and on about the traps to avoid and the qualities that go into making a successful full-time poker pro, but let’s just say that you should take a tip from those who enjoy good lives following traditional professional careers; watch what they do and learn from them.