These days there are several avenues to play professional poker and they are to either play cash games or tournaments in a live or online setting. Firstly if you are going down the avenue of playing live poker tournaments for a living then I really do wish you the best of luck because you are going to need it.
Any poker tournament is a lottery and as Dan Harrington once said, the difference in how good you are as a tournament player basically dictates how many “tickets” you buy. A weak player may not even have a ticket while a mediocre player may have one and a world class player may have half a dozen……but a tournament player is still in a lottery.
It is hard enough to play live tournaments for a living unless you are fortunate enough to get a sponsorship deal or something of that ilk. Online tournaments usually don’t help the cause much because the really fast structures mean that variance is huge and losing runs can last a long time. Some of the best online tournament players do well but it is a tough way to make a living. So it has to be cash games and despite the fact that live games are softer, you simply cannot compensate for the fact that you can offset that by recording huge volume when you play online.
I only ever play online cash games and I play at around the $100 levels. You simply cannot expect your opponents at these levels to make huge mistakes in big pots. The combination of regs and decent short stack players means that your profits will come from exploiting fold equity more than pot equity and this means going after small pots when your opponent’s ranges are at their widest.
In online poker then the required bankroll that you need is dependent on several factors. Firstly how aggressive your style is and how aggressive the overall game is are key factors. Secondly what form of poker you are playing is also a factor. Heads up no limit and Pot Limit Omaha are far more volatile than full ring no limit hold’em. So the shorter the player numbers then the more volatile and aggressive the game is. This also knocks on to playing higher levels as well where players become much more aggressive.
In full ring games then I think that 20 buy-ins is a solid number as long as you are a favourite to do well at your level. So at NL100 then if you win at a rate of 5bb-10bb/100 hands then a $2000 bankroll could be enough to turn pro. You could turn pro at lower levels and have even less but the lower you go then the harder it is to earn enough money per hour to cover all of your expenses.
Remember that your weekly and monthly outgoings have a huge impact on your ability to turn pro. If you need $3000 per month just to break even and turning pro will only make you $2000 per month based on past results then turning pro cannot be an option under these criteria.