By George “The Engineer” Epstein
Poker professionals (pros), amateurs and recreational players – These terms are often bandied about in the poker world. Personally, I am a recreational player, but I do not regard myself as an amateur. I think most poker players are in the recreational category. Nor do I consider myself to be a pro. What’s the difference?
So I did some research to better understand these terms, and how they apply to our game of poker.
What is a professional?
According to the popular website, Professions Australia
, “a profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards.” Each member of this group has extensive knowledge and skills in a particular field or body of learning acquired from research, education and training at a high level, and is thus recognized by the public.” Furthermore, each “applies this knowledge and these skills in serving others.”
Professionals are members of such a profession – like medical doctors. They adhere to codes of ethics, and are committed to competence, integrity and morality, altruism, and the promotion of the public good within their field of proficiency. Professionals are accountable to those served and to society. (Ref: Sylvia R. Cruess, Sharon Johnston, and Richard L. Cruess; "Profession: A Working Definition for Medical Educators." Teaching and learning in Medicine; 16.1 )
This description hardly applies to anyone who calls himself a “poker pro” – players who depend on poker for a living and to support their families. Nor does the poker pro apply his skills for the benefit of others – as does a doctor. Indeed, our poker world has accepted a much limited definition for a poker pro – whether or not you agree. So let’s live with it.
According to Michael Wiesenberg’s, The Official Dictionary of Poker, a poker pro is a player who relies on poker as his main source of income. For his sake, a poker pro better be well skilled – or else.
What is an amateur?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an amateur is a person who does something – such as participate in a sport or hobby (like playing poker) – for pleasure and not as a job. Rarely does the poker amateur put in the time and effort to substantially grow his skills.
Like the pro, he too seeks to be a winner, but is less likely to succeed. Hopefully, he is financially secure and adept at money management, and does not dip into the funds he needs to support himself and his family, and for emergencies.
And, what is a recreational player?
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, recreation “is an activity of leisure
, leisure being discretionary time.” Recreation is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment
, or pleasure
– for "fun
." So, a recreational poker player is using his (her) leisure time to enjoy the game of poker. Some do strive to improve their skills.
But, does he really enjoy it if he is losing? Like the amateurs, recreational poker players are losers when you consider the cost-to-play (rake, Jackpot drop, tips, and other expenses). Why does he keep coming back for more? So, there must be more to it...
Thinking about it, there is the social interaction – whether you play in a casino or a home game with friends and family. For many of us, there is also the mental challenge – especially if you have learned the key poker skills such as selecting starting hands; reading opponents; estimating the card odds versus the pot odds when holding a drawing hand; knowing when/how to raise, slow-playing and check-raising to build the pot, avoiding chasing and going on tilt, and bluffing – especially semi-bluffing...
In this regard, I would remind you that, according to renowned poker psychologist, Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker, playing poker can keep us young and healthy. (Ref: Stay Young Play Poker; Kindle edition; $2.99)
Undoubtedly, because they have so much at stake, most pros work to develop their poker skills. Amateurs and recreational players are much less prone to do so; but, if they are smart, they too will seek to enhance their skills at the table...
George “The Engineer” Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!; Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision; and The Art of Bluffing. He has taught poker at the Claude Pepper Senior Center, at West L.A. College, and to elderly war veterans at the CalVet facility in the VA/West L.A. George created and organized the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. He was awarded the Senior Citizen Volunteer-of-the-Year Award, in large part for his activities on behalf of senior citizens, and has been elected to the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame.