If you wanna play poker for a living….

by Lou on November 21, 2005

An aspiring professional player emailed me today, asking these questions:

I work a part time job while in school and as I save more and more money I have been considering becoming a part-time pro at my local casino Chumash, playing 10-20 and 15-30 limit hold em. I have several questions regarding this:

-How much would be a smart bankroll to start with if I decide to go this direction?

-What would be your decision if you were in my situation?

-What advice can you give me on being successful over and above what you have written in articles.

I take the articles you and Daniel Negreanu have written on this subject seriously and would appreciate your feedback. Thank you for your time and consideration.

If you are going to play professionally and support yourself that way, give yourself the best chance of success possible. You owe yourself that much. You should start out with a playing bankroll of between 400 and 600 big bets. For a $10-$20 game, you’d need between $8,000 and $12,000, and you can double that if you intend to play $20-$40.

To prevent yourself from having to use your playing stake to live on, you’ll also need to save at least 18-24 months of living expenses. Even living frugally on $1,500 a month requires between $27,000 and $36,000 to pay rent, buy food, buy gasoline, and money for anything else you enjoy doing.

And all of this will never be enough if you cannot beat the game. My suggestion would be to finish your degree first; save a bankroll anyway you can, then give poker a try by taking a month or so and playing in the games and casinos where you’d intend to play professionally.

If you accept the philosophy that a winning player can make one big-bet per hour, you can earn $40,000 annually by playing $10-$20. That’s not much of a living to aspire to, but it’s your call — not mine. If you think you can beat the $20-$40 or $40-$80 games for one big bet per hour, give it a try, but you really ought to have a “Plan B” in place just in case poker doesn’t pan out for you, or you decide there’s more to life than sitting in a poker game 2000 hours a year. That’s why getting your degree is important. It provides you with options outside of poker.

I don’t mean to sound negative, and I really wish you all the best if you give it a try, but it’s important to know the perils up front so you can make whatever informed decision best fits your life.

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