Relatively speaking, there aren’t that many people who can claim to be full-time poker players. It may seem like there are a lot of professionals out there, but the vast majority of online poker players are recreational in their intent. According to one 8-year veteran, balancing the appearance of casual play with the dedication of professionalism has been the key to his success over the years.
A highly successful online poker player from Australia offered a close-up look inside his full-time poker life in an interview with Nick Whigham of News.com.au. For several reasons important to him, the online poker player requested full anonymity, thus he’s referred to by the pseudonym, ‘Ray’.
Ray said that his first taste of poker came from home games with his buddies during his first year of University. Playing for $10 a pop, he said that he usually lost. That was what led Ray to try online poker as a simple means of developing skills through practice. As it turned out, Ray had stumbled upon a new career path, finding himself winning large amounts of money with relative ease.
By 2007, Ray had bankrolled $80,000 playing online poker. It was his final year at University, when most students seek out a ‘real’ job based on their educational virtues, but Ray opted for a full-time poker career. Although his mother wasn’t exactly thrilled with the decision, it turned out to be the right one, netting Ray $100,000 in his first month.
Ask any serious player who was hitting the virtual tables in those days, and they’ll tell you it was the golden years of online poker. As Ray explained it, “Everyone was playing it but no one was any good … a lot of the smart math kids hadn’t gotten on to it yet.”
Now ask those same players how they feel about online poker today, and most will tell you it’s a lot harder to win a decent amount of money. There are many more full-time poker players in the mix than their used to be, and although the ratio of pros to casual players is still incredibly low, sites have geared their services more towards recreational players to protect them from the so-called ‘sharks’.
Ray says he’s found a way around all that. He says maintaining anonymity has been the key to ultimate success. Too many online poker players make a large sum of money, then reveal their identity in hopes of fame or a sponsorship deal, but not Ray. By keeping his identity unknown, inexperienced players do not recognize or fear him at the tables.
Part of his strategy is to avoid bigger sites that tend to attract sharks and attention hounds. Unlike most, he does not play at PokerStars. “I go on other sites and look for the easiest opponents,” said Ray, divulging that he spends the majority of his time on Bodog, PartyPoker and iPoker.
Technically, Bodog no longer accepts players from Australia, but the full-time poker player pays $300 a month to a Canadian guy who rents out access to servers so that it appears he is logging on from Canada. He also employs special poker software like Hold’em Manager and Poker Tracker to record and analyze his gameplay.
Ray attributes much of his success to the ability to ‘mark’ his favorite opponents. Using a poker site’s note taking capabilities, he is able to remember which players he did well against, and what their fatal flaws were.
He also takes advantage of some software’s buddy list abilities, which enable him to pin an opponent as a “buddy”, often without them even knowing. He is then able to look for his buddies as soon as he logs on and join their table. “It’s more like a hit list,” quipped Ray.
Now 30 years old, the full-time poker player continues to earn vast amounts of money playing online poker for an average of just 5 hours a day. Amazingly, he manages to do very well, despite the fact that the majority of his fellow pros claim there’s just no money in it anymore.