What is the most important personal quality needed to play poker professionally?

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Answered by: Michael, An Expert in the Poker - General Category
The thought of quitting one's job and becoming a professional poker player is tempting for many--particularly, it seems, for young men in their twenties and early thirties. It's not hard to see why. Putting aside for a moment the obvious allure of the Vegas lifestyle, poker is a career where one no longer has to deal with the hassles of a normal nine-to-five gig. No more printer jams, morning rush hour, or passive-aggressive coworkers. And what's more, you get to play a game--that's right, a game!--for a living.

Sounds like a nice deal, all in all, but if these are some of the thoughts bouncing around your head lately, I'd like to ask you to read this first (it's a quick read, I promise.) Before you take such a drastic step, one which will have serious and possibly irreparable consequences to your resume and prospects for a normal career arc, you should be sure you have the single most important personal quality needed to make it as a pro. I don't intend to speak about every personal quality a poker professional needs--for the purposes of this article, I'll concentrate on the one quality which tends to make everything else fall into place.

So, what is the crucial quality?

Some people would tell you it's simply talent. Others, more experienced, would argue for self-discipline. Some would raise their hand for courage, and yet others for the ability to think in a clear, logical, and ruthlessly objective manner.

These are all important qualities for a poker pro, but none are the correct answer.

So, what is the most important personal quality needed to play poker professionally?

The answer: Love.

That's right: Love. I'm not trying to get at anything metaphysical, nor will I advise you to show goodwill towards all men (not that that's such a bad thing). What I mean is that you must genuinely love the game of poker. One of the least observed truths about professional poker is that many players are downright bored with their career. They wish they could do something else, but they feel stuck, and these players, as talented as they may be, will never rise above a certain level. They often go broke simply because they don't put in enough hours at the table, and thus leave themselves little margin for error when they hit a streak of bad luck.

Now you may want to say, "Umm, thanks, pal, but that's not my problem at all. I can sit and play for hours and hours." And that's wonderful, but please consider for a moment where you are in your lifetime relationship with poker. Chances are, you are still in a "honeymoon phase" with the game. The existence of bored professional poker players may never even have occurred to you. But it's a reality, and it will be your reality if you aren't genuinely fascinated by the game of poker--not the prospect of getting rich from the game, but the game itself. Like anything else, poker is a job requiring long hours and self-motivation. A genuine love of the game is the best motivation.

So how do you really know if you love poker? That's something only you can determine. But here are a couple questions to ask: 1) Do you constantly analyze poker situations when you're away from the table, considering how you can improve? (Hint: you should.) 2) If you had a vision of yourself ten years from now, still playing poker for a living, would you feel disappointed or excited? (Hint: you should feel excited. If you want to play poker merely to make money and leave the nine-to-five grind, you will almost certainly fail.)

Poker is known as a tough way to make an easy living. The tough times are something every pro has to experience, but love can see you through.

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