*An article in a recurring series of profiles of players making the jump to playing for a living*
Going pro sounds fairly easy. You're regularly beating online games, so why not move to Vegas, start playing full-time, rake in the dollars, and enjoy the good life? Mark Edwards shares what is probably the more typical journey to playing professionally, with twists and turns in the road to stability and long-term progress. You'll appreciate his candid thoughts on his journey from Orlando to Las Vegas and what it takes to play for a living.
CC: Tell us about how you started playing poker, as well as how long you've been playing.
Mark: I started learning poker with all my relatives from my father's side, games like follow the Q, spade in the hole; lots of 7 card variation games. They wouldn't allow me to really play, so I'd sit around and watch and BEG to play, but always get a big NO. I finally taught all my buddies how to play when we were nine or ten years old, and before long we were all risking our penny banks! The games escalated as we got older, and I guess I never really wanted to grow out of it. I've only been playing seriously since 2003.
CC: Tell us about what you play and how you've moved through different levels.
Mark: A few years ago, I would play whatever I had the money for - this caused me to be constantly in and out of the game.
Honestly, if I had the money for a $25/50 NL game or the $80/$160 game, I would sit. I would do this over and over not being bankroll equipped and I could never keep myself in the limits I was playing. Even during my good runs, my spending habits were absurd.
CC: What do you focus on currently?
Mark: My main focus right now is beyond poker, I'm attempting to decipher the ‘big game' which is the stock market. Playing poker for a living gives me lots of time to do whatever I please, which I love. As far as poker goes, currently my focus is on multi tabling 12 tables of low limit online. Either .$50/$1, $1/$2 or $2/$4 NLHE. Though I'm playing low limits, I've been keeping my online bankroll at 25 - 35 buy ins to whatever game I'm playing in. My live focus is where it belongs, continue beating the limit I am bankrolled for which is $2-$5 NLHE.
CC: You moved to Las Vegas at the end of 2005. What led you to make this decision?
Mark: I love this city. Once I turned 21, I flew into Las Vegas handfuls of times. I would build up $5,000 - $10,000 bankrolls, fly out to LV and go broke. After about the 4th or 5th time I sat down with a poker friend of mine and really tried to break down what the problem was. He said, "That's easy... we fly into Las Vegas for a week and you only sleep three hours the entire time! By the time we reach day four, you're on no sleep and you're playing craps for $100 a roll--of course you're gonna go broke Mark!"
I felt as if I had to get everything done in a week's time. Like a kid going to Disney Land, I was the same way with Las Vegas, on vacations I would just burn right up. Last WSOP, I booked a hotel for the entire five weeks and told myself I was going to keep myself in the game, have a great time AND build my bankroll all at once. I managed to do all those things and decided I was ready for the ‘big move'.
CC: How challenging is it to stay disciplined in your game? Did you have any difficulties early on?
Mark: This has been by far the hardest part of playing poker for a living. When playing out of your bankroll and attempting to play for a living - any given session can be extremely stressful and can really set you on tilt. I finally worked that out. I've also worked out outside bankroll leaks to the game such as all circus games and poor money management. Though, my largest leak since the move out to LV has most definitely been the FEMALES... but that's a leak that I think every male will have to deal with forever.
CC: You play both live and online. Which do you prefer? Does playing both help your game?
Mark: I put in 1,500 hands in a day online minimum. If I'm not up for going down to the strip, I will bump that minimum up to 3,000 or 4,000. I can't say I prefer one over the other, they both have there benefits. I enjoy being in the comfort of my home and make a living through online poker, but online poker can be extremely anti social. I love people (for the most part) and enjoy all the crazy personalities I encounter at the live tables. Playing both DEFINITELY helps my game. There's no way I could put in the number of hands that I do online live. But live poker and online poker are most definitely two different animals, and must be tackled completely different.
CC: Have you taken shots at bigger games? What have those experiences been like?
Mark: Playing $5/$10 NLHE with no max buy in to me, is big; to others, it may not be a large game. I don't even go near Bellagio as I'm not ready for those high limits. Hopefully, one day I will be. In larger games I feel if I played in the game each and every day, I would beat the game. But when playing out of your bankroll AND playing for a living one short session can really get you steaming. The game becomes much more emotional when you're looking at those chips like they're real money. My experiences in larger games have been very emotional, as a few thousand dollar swing can really get the blood going. I guess that's what it is all about though, right? The best players in the world say, ‘If it doesn't hurt when you lose... it's not worth playing'. Playing a little above par usually keeps me on my toes, also.
CC: You've started playing more tourneys and are having some success. Tell us about your progress in tourneys so far.
Mark: I've played in a handful of Wynn's $330's and Caesar's 7 pm's. I like the structure as it prepares you for the bigger events where you get an hour per level and a larger chip stack. I've done extremely well but tend to get way too passive when I hit the final table, or... I can't win that oh so important ‘coin flip' when I'm down to 10/12 bets against another short stack player. I've always had this big dream of winning a WSOP bracelet and it would be surreal, but the more I play for a living, the more I feel cash games are where I belong. But who knows, the ‘buzz' of the WSOP usually gets me to get in there and gamble. I feel playing tourneys is MUCH more of a gamble as who knows how the cards will be hitting you that day, or if you will be winning your 80/20's and 60/40's. Taking down a big buy in tourney, requires that the Poker Gods be on your side that day.
CC: Do you have a network of players that you interact with? If so, how does this help your game?
Mark: I have a network of players who I seek after to pick their brain. As far as having a ‘crew' or something to that nature no I don't have a bunch of poker buddies who are all playing for a living, though many of my friends play poker. When I see a solid player each and every day in a big game, and have logged some hours against that opponent and gained respect for them...I decipher every move they make and try to absorb all the information I can from that player and add it to my game.
CC: For those considering going pro, what advice would you give them?
Mark: I'd recommend a few key points
1. Most important, BE HUMBLE! No matter how good of a player you are, no matter how large your bankroll is - any Joe Shmoe, on any given day, can sit down, get all the money in there with a backdoor flush and hit it. It happens, it happens all the time and that's part of the game. If you can't handle it, then you won't be able to cut it.
2. Keep very good notes, don't trick yourself. So many poker players claim to be winning players; many of my friends say the same thing. I ask them to prove it, by showing me their PokerTracker or poker journal, and they do not have such a thing. It's easy to lie to yourself about results, be truthful!
3. Make sure you have your life in order outside of poker. It's really easy to get absorbed in all the other negative things around the poker world. Drugs, partying, laziness, lack of respect for money earned, all destroy what you're trying to build.
4. Be bankrolled for whatever limit you're playing in, at least 20/25 buy-in's minimum.
CC: What are your plans for the summer? Are you planning to play in any of the WSOP tourneys?
Mark: I just returned from Tokyo, Japan after visiting family. Now that I live in Las Vegas, it's nice being able to travel in and out of the city and always returning here and calling it ‘home'. I still am unsure if I'm going to be participating in this year's WSOP events. The cash game action will be great and I may just camp out and really try to boost up my bankroll. Of course, if I never sit in the big tourneys, I'm never gonna win one....
Mark plays primarily at FullTilt and PokerStars.