by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
One of the things I’ve always liked about poker is it’s a one-man team. I grew up playing competitive tennis in and around Texas. When things didn’t go my way, it was one person’s fault - mine. Don’t get me wrong, team sports have positive attributes as well. There’s just something beautiful about being in control of your own destiny.
If there’s one observation I’ve made over the more than half decade I’ve been knee-deep in poker - very few poker players treat poker like a job or a serious business. Bankroll management is one of the most widely used terms in the industry and one of the least implemented. Especially with the overall demise of online poker in the USA, many tournament poker players are forced to play live tournaments. Instead of being able to buy into 10 different $50 tournaments at once, the same player might be in one $500 tournament. Instead of being able to distribute their risk (similar to buying into a mutual fund that has many stocks in its portfolio), they end up essentially taking shot after shot in every tournament they play (akin to buying an individual stock) - exponentially increasing their risk of ruin.
Just like with any business, when times are good you can expand operations, when times are tough it’s time to tighten the belt. Whenever I’ve gone through a serious downswing, it’s actually a relief to drop down in stakes. Not only financially, but it allows us to hit the reset button and get in the right frame of mind. When we’re feeling good and confident, we’re more likely to trust our instincts and do well at the tables.
Aside from dropping down in stakes, when we’re on a downswing it’s often advantageous to take some time off - even if it’s just a couple of days. It can get to the point that every time we get all in we have that bad feeling that we’re going to get bad-beated. That’s a surefire example of when it’s time to take a small break and regain our psychological edge.
Just like with any business or enterprise, we have to set aside applicable taxes on any profits we make. Also, if you’re claiming that you’re a professional gambler, you’ll need to file quarterly estimated tax payments.
A good suggestion that seems obvious is to segregate your poker roll and life rolls. If you make money outside of poker and want to increase your poker bankroll, that’s fine, but I suggest you do so to give you more buy-ins - not to move up in stakes. Generally speaking, you should only move up in stakes if you’ve made the money at poker and have proven you can beat the lower limits. It’s nice to start from the very lowest levels and work your way up - as you’re able to understand how the lowerlimit players and beginners think. No matter what stakes you play, it’s inevitable you’ll end up playing against amateurs here or there - you have to understand them thoroughly to effectively beat them.
There are many aspects of poker that relate well to the business world; the point of this article is to get you to take your poker game and career as seriously as possible. On or off the felt, the more you treat poker like an actual business, the better your chances of success will be.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com.