Poker can be many things to many different people. For some it’s a hobby, for others it’s a passion and a way of life. For those with the skills, discipline and experience to make it work, poker can be a profession. However, playing poker professionally can look a lot different from the glamourized TV version. It’s not all about six-figure scores and flashy self-promotion. The ‘Phil Hellmuth’s’ and ‘Gus Hansen’s’ of the world are more image than substance. In fact, the vast majority of professional poker players are people who you will never see on a television screen. They don’t have publicists or personal branding, instead they quietly and consistently earn a decent living month to month like any other working person. Poker pros come in all shapes and sizes, their monthly income can vary month to month and player to player. Some earn huge amounts of money and others earn an income similar to the working class. In this series we will take a deeper look inside the day to day lives of true poker professionals of all types.
‘StrugLife’ is an online poker pro living in Canada who has amassed nearly $400,000 in documented online tournament cashes. He is a perfect example of how the professional poker grind is more about consistency than huge scores, as he has built his significant earnings bit by bit with an average cash of only $205. I was lucky enough to get a brief look into his life as an online poker pro.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
A typical day for me involves taking care of my responsibilities which are unrelated to poker, like getting in my exercise, cleaning the house, or walking my dogs, then preparing for my grind by watching training videos, reviewing hands, then grinding, after which I’m usually quite tired and I just pass out after I’m done playing.
How many hours per day do you play?
Overall I would say on average I play 10 hours per day.
How many days per week?
I play one session a day and on average four or five times per week.
How many tables do you play at a time?
I tend to keep my tables down to no more than 8 or 9 tables at a time, usually around 7 tables. On Sundays it can get a bit more in some instances getting up to around 12 tables or so.
What’s your game? Stakes?
I play NLHE tournaments, during the week I play between $22-$109 buy in tournaments, and on Sundays $12-$215.
What kind of atmosphere do you like while playing?
I like to listen to music, I think the best type of music to listen to is music without any words. So I listen to instrumentals of some of my favourite songs, and I also listen to study music at times.
At what point did you realize you were good enough to make a living playing poker?
I would say I realized I was good enough to make money at poker quite a while ago, but I most recently realized I was good enough to make real money when I began working with this reg who is now backing me.
Can you remember any specific changes to your game that allowed you to make the leap from amateur to pro?
Just a couple of the changes to my style which helped my transition from amateur to pro mostly involve me attacking when my opponents cap their range, as well as playing my hand based off of how my whole range wants to play and not just playing my hand face-up.
What’s the biggest factor related to poker success outside of in-game strategy?
The biggest factor in my poker success is having a balanced lifestyle and getting my sleep cycle in order, I’m still working on this aspect, but this is definitely what’s going to be key to success as a poker player.
How much time do you spend working on your game?
I spend many hours a week studying, I watch training videos, review hand histories, and use tools such as HRC, flopzilla, and equilab. There are other tools I am looking into getting familiar with in the future like Piosolver, but for the time being I’m just working with what I’ve got.
What are some of your personal interests outside of poker?
My personal interests outside of poker include working out (even though I don’t do it far enough), videogames here and there, and women, so not a whole lot lol.
Tell us about some of your best moments in poker
I don’t have many shining memories from poker, most of my winning has just been small scores consistently, rather than a couple nice big ones. But recently I managed to hit what was my biggest score at the time, which was 8k, it was 3rd place in the Sunday challenge, I was hoping to get my first 5 figure score but was not able to do so. However, the very next day I won a tournament which was a $55 buy in 6max for first place giving me the five figure score (10,000) i was hoping for the previous day.
What do you love most about being a poker pro?
The main thing I enjoy about being a pro poker player is being able to play a game I enjoy so much and have the potential to make a nice living doing it.
What do you dislike about being a poker pro?
The main thing I dislike about it is that it can consume so much of my time I find myself neglecting family and friends at times.
Have you had any trouble getting your family and friends to understand what you do?
I haven’t had any trouble getting my family or friends to accept my choice to play poker for a living, my brother did so many years ago during the poker boom, and my family understands that it’s a strategy game where someone who is good enough can consistently support themselves from it.
(Psssst! Play our Poker game here).