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Guest Post: 7 Lessons I Learned from Being a Professional Poker Player

This is  a guest post by Henri Junttila@Wakeupcloud

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I played online poker professionally for almost five years. I stopped cold-turkey in early 2009 when I realized that I didn’t like it anymore. There are a lot of myths surrounding professional gamblers out there.

For the longest time I didn’t listen to my feelings and I kept playing poker even though it was destroying my soul. It probably took me 1-2 years to fully realize that I was not happy anymore. It was a fun ride though, and being a professional poker player definitely improved my life in many ways which has allowed me to capitalize on opportunities and switch to making a living with websites and blogs.

Many told me I was lucky to be able to make a living playing poker, but they don’t realize the discipline, hard work and dedication that went into learning the game. With all that said, let’s have a look at the seven major lessons I’ve learned during this chapter of my life.

1. Discipline

Poker taught me discipline, because it’s not easy to keep your temper while you keep losing in the short-term. It’s a game of numbers and knowing the right long-term play, but I have to say, it’s still tough when you keep getting crushed. I made a lot of mistakes in poker, but luckily I made less than the competition, which allowed me to be a profitable long-term player.

2. Hard Work

It’s easy to think someone is lucky or an overnight success, but you never see the hundreds or even thousands of hours of hard work that was put in. When I started playing poker I literally spent an entire summer just reading, discussing and breathing poker, that’s how I learned the game. Once you stop working and studying, you lose your edge.

3. Money

Being a professional poker player allowed me to travel and taste freedom, but it also taught me a thing or two about money, primarily about greed. As I made increasing amounts of money, my greed started to grow to epic proportions. I wanted more and more, without a real purpose of why. After a few years I realized that it isn’t all about money. Money is just a tool that is meant to be leveraged. When you get clear about what you really want, you may find that you don’t need a lot of money.

4. Psychology

To be able to win, you have to get into your opponents head. This is easier said than done, because you can easily out-think yourself and end up making bad decisions (also called the fancy play syndrome). By being forced to do this for almost five years, I learned a lot about how people think, but I’m still not a mind reader, unfortunately.

5. Acceptance

If you’ve played poker you know the cards aren’t always in agreement with you. As a professional poker player you learn this the hard way. You can sometimes go weeks or even months where you lose money or play breakeven, even if you’re playing well and making good decisions. You have to accept it and let it go if you want to keep your sanity.

6. Awareness

Becoming aware of your emotions and breathing while playing poker is huge for your emotional stability and discipline. It can set you apart from many players and it makes the whole game much more enjoyable. Instead of thinking about your bad luck, I focused on my breath and awareness. It’s not easy, but it definitely raises your energy and mood.

7. Taking Action

When you’ve lost a week in a row, you still have to get up and play, because you know that in the long-run it will even itself out. Taking action when you’re facing tremendous resistance has trained me to move ahead even though it’s tough. Being objective and taking action is something that has helped me a lot not only in my life, but also using it to make a living building websites and giving myself more freedom.

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No matter what you’ve experienced, there’s almost always a reason. The five years you spent at your soul killing job? What did you learn?

That’s what I have to say, what about you? What have you learned from your adventures, past jobs or crazy stunts?

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