It isn’t the win that separates amateurs from pros. After all, Moneymaker did beat Farha.

It isn’t the number of hands won that separates amateurs from pros. Dan Harrington made it to two consecutive WSOP Main Event final tables betting once in a blue moon along the way.

It’s the money.

That’s it, the difference between your run of the mill Party Poker hobbyist and Doyle Brunson is the amount of money that they make playing poker.

That’s it; it’s the money.

Now the single most asked question I face every day is “How do I become a professional poker player.”

My answer is always the same: “Make enough money to live your life playing poker.”

People think I’m being cute – I’m not. It really is that simple. You can pick up tools along the way to help you, you can read up on poker strategy guides and poker odds and poker tournaments and all about the life and times of Stu Ungar – but when it comes down to it, all you have to do is make enough money playing poker to support yourself.

And there is more to making money playing poker online than playing good poker.

First of all, you must be on a rakeback plan and have a bonus code. You absolutely positively 100% must be on a rakeback plan and have a bonus code if you want to make all the money that you can. This is a no-brainer. Here are some links to a few popular sites’ bonus codes, use them, use them, use them: Full Tilt Poker, Party Poker, PokerStars.

Secondly, profit is profit. You can take this to mean everything from “Better to win a small pot than lose a big one” to “leave while you’re ahead.” For our purposes, I’d like to look at the one of the biggest profit pitfalls in online tournament poker, dealmaking.

Just this past Sunday in the weekly Party Poker 300K tourney, dealmaking mode was initiated with 3 players left in the tournament. Now by the time you’re finishing in the top 3 in a $300,000 guaranteed prize pool tournament, you know that you are about to make some real money on your buy-in. In fact, with three players remaining there was still $110,000 yet to be awarded.

The three players lined up like this:

joran111111 had 3,463,593 in chips

LowbirdT had 2,752,652

Indigo4life had 1,048,755

And Party Poker offered them this deal:

joran111111 for $45,300.34 USD
LowbirdT for $40,251.66 USD
Indigo4life for $28,148 USD

Outright prize money for the top three places are $60,000 for first place, $33,000 for second and $20,700 for third. 2 players accepted the deal, 1 rejected it and play resumed with blinds at an astronomical 50,000 / 100,000 +2.5K ante. Of course, if you read Second Guesses,then you already know what happened.

The idea behind making a deal is to eliminate the variance of big-blind final table poker and yet claim a sizeable chunk of the prize pool. Theoretically, a final table deal should be a win-win for everyone involved.

How do you determine if the deal is a win for you? Well, this is a tricky question. Here’s how I do it, I look at these three things in this order:

  1. Blinds: Excluding a silly deal where someone offers you first prize money, the first thing to look at it is the size of the blinds. High blinds = high variance, manageable blinds = low(er) variance. To determine if you are playing with high blinds or not divide the amount of chips in the pot before a single card is dealt (that’s just the antes + blinds) and divide it by the total number of chips in play (add up every one’s stack) if that number is greater than 1.0% then you are officially in high blind/variance territory.
  2. Relative Position: Once you know if you are in high variance country or not, then you should look at where you are relative to the other players in the potential deal. Let’s assume that there are 3 people in this deal. If you are in high variance territory and the small stack, then you should be looking to press your luck and greatly improve on outright third place money in a big deal for you. Generally speaking, you should be looking to accept anything that improves by 20% on third place money, but if the blinds are really high, you may be able to goad a bit more out of the chip leader who will be reticent to subject himself to further play. Lower variance (lower blinds) are not great for the third place guy as those blinds give the big stack flexibility to force his stack upon you. Second place is also looking to improve on outright second place money in high variance mode, but not as significantly as third place, after all, the second place guy has more to lose. 10-15% improvement should be good enough to click “accept.” Low variance, they should be looking to stick it to third a little more and take closer to 20%. And if you are the big stack in high variance, you are actually looking to move backwards and decline on outright first prize money to secure the biggest payday possible. Generally dumping as much as 15-20% of your prize money to secure big winnings is plenty acceptable. And if you are in low variance land, don’t accept anything more than a 10% decline on first place money.
  3. The Flexibility: Amateurs make it to final tables often. It’s not such a big secret; in the short term, luck can usher a player or two up into the highest realms of even the biggest tournament. Generally speaking, a player who made it into the tournament on a satellite freeroll will be elated with any big payday. Thus, they will be more flexible in accepting deals that perhaps do not maximize their profits. Also, you will see amateurs subconsciously set round number minimums after breaching certain thresholds. Like if you know a guy is on a freeroll because he’s been trumpeting his situation in the chat box and if you are in dealmaking mode with them, try this: Go down to the nearest round dividend of $500, $5,000, or $50,000 depending on the prize pool and offer it. Let’s say you enter dealmaking mode and your opponent, an amateur, is being offered $53,422.31 to your $40,133.69 by Party Poker or whatever site you’re on. You’re cool with that deal but before you click yes, try offering the guy a clean $50,000. Chances are that he sees $53,422.31 in about the same way he sees $50,000 (ie, a big number starting with a 5 followed by 4 more numbers.) Don’t be afraid to finagle, especially from lower chip positions.

The last bit of advice I have for making a good deal is the same bit of advice that just about any performance based profession receives: don’t let your ego get involved. In the Party Poker 300K that I brought up earlier, a guy turned down a 36% increase on outright money because he somehow thought that he should get more, re-entered super high variance play, lost immediately and lost more than $8,000 without putting a penny of it into actual game play.

Money is more than merely the score in the game of poker – money spends. Money is money and it is the lifeblood of your livelihood; the best professionals know that.

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