A Pro’s Perspective on Poker Tournaments

If you are a regular on poker forums and websites, you have probably heard about the online tournament pros who are raking in five to six-figures. It doesn’t take much to form a picture of these mythical pros that are continually making the finals tables and pulling in mounds of cash. Many players who are regulars at online tournaments often wonder what the pros have that makes them so successful? The good news is that it all comes down to volume and variance.

First off, we need do define what is an amateur poker player and what is a professional. Amateur players are those people who play around 1 to 3 tournaments a week, and usually at night. These are people with day jobs, families and lives outside of the world of poker. They can be college students, working professionals, teachers or doctors. Their work, family and social commitments limit the amount of time that they can spend playing online.

Looking at the Math

That being said, these players are serious about poker. They spend their free time trawling poker forums and finding ways to improve their game. Amateurs have a poker career that ranges from small wins, to breaking even or holding a small loss. Now let’s look at what a professional is. A pro is someone who plays poker online for their sole source of income. This means they do not have day job, a safety net or any other way to earn income besides winning a poker game. Professionals play poker day in day out, often 6 or 7 days a week, multiple hours a day.

In order to gain perspective on how much a pro wins, we need to consider all the numbers and statistics involved. If you get into the nitty gritty of the stats, you will find that poker pros are far from the mythical heroes we think make it to the finals of every tournament. In fact, the media is to blame for giving us a false sense of reality by highlighting the big wins without mentioning how many losses it took to get there in the first place. The reality is that even the top poker players win less than 1 per cent of the time. In most cases the number usually sits around the 0.6% mark.

Volume, Volume, Volume

This means that even the best players are winning only 1 out of every 100 tournaments they enter. If you factor in the variances, this number can even be as high as 1 in every 200 or 300 tournaments. So maybe now you are not feeling so bad. What people don’t realise is that the pros only make it to the final table around 3 percent of the time. The same pros are only cashing out 13% of every tournament they enter. When we look at it in opposite numbers, it means that even the pros lose money 87 out over 100 games they play. The biggest difference is that when the pros do cash, they cash very deep.

If you have ever thought that you have had a longer than normal downswing, think again. Pros have massive downswings just like everyone else. In reality, the pros have much longer non-cash streaks because of the volume of tournaments they enter. The reason pros have got a reputation for pulling in massive profits is because of their ability to close tournaments. Between amateurs and professionals, the pros would reach the finals tables at least one third more often than amateurs. It all comes down to volume. What we all have to remember is that pros play poker, all day, every day. Playing well is not only an obsession; it is their sole income. As such, they have the advantage of being able to see the bigger picture and making more profitable decisions, more often.

Implementing What You Learn

So what can we learn from this, how can you use this information to improve your game? The answer again is volume. To start off with, a player would need to leave their comfort zone of 1-3 tables and add a few more. It may seem like it will make the game harder to read but the increased volume means that you are playing more hands, increasing your experience and ultimately improving your game. Another option is to simply add one more game a week. Adding just one more game each week with a ROI average of 20% will soon mean a whole heap of extra cash.

One mistake many amateurs make is to focus on individual tournaments. You need to get comfortable with the fact that on any one tournament, the chances of you winning are extremely low. In fact, most of the time you will be losing. Stop obsessing over what happened and just move on. The pros know that you are going to be cashing out 15% of the time, all you can do is focus on making informed decisions and trust that the variances will work to your advantage over the long term.