Playing Poker For A Living

by Lou on May 21, 2005

One question I’m frequently asked relates to playing poker for a living. With poker’s new-found populkarity, there’s no shortage of people who want to play professionally. If you’re one of these guys, please give this some thought before heading off to the nearest casino to make your living at the poker tables:

If you’re playing for a living at casinos that are not located in major poker centers, you will have a hard time finding games at higher limits. You might find that the biggest game in a casino near you might be $10-$20 or smaller, and then the “big game” might not be spread on a 24/7 basis. If you want to live where you now reside and there’s not a big enough game around to support your lifestyle, you’ll either have to move to a locale that has big games on a regular basis, or adjust your life style to meet the realities of a smaller income.

If you want to play very big games, such as $80-$160 and above, you will have to relocate to a major poker center, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or Atlantic City — or else you’ll have to go online to find the high stakes games you need in cyberspace. Are there high stakes games online? You bet. I’ve seen $200-$400 no-limit games on a few sites, and these are very big games indeed.

You’ll need an adequate bankroll to sustain your efforts, and that may be more money than you think you’ll need and probably more than you have on hand. You should have at least 300 to 400 big bets as a poker bankroll, and 500 to 600 is better yet, particularly when you first begin your poker-playing career. This bankroll is for poker only; it’s not for food, rent, utilities, clothing, or your car payment. You’ll need a separate bankroll for that, and while it may sound like a lot, you should have 12 to 18 months worth of expenses in store to cover these costs. At the end of a year to a year-and-a-half of playing professionally you should be earning enough to allow you to treat some of your winnings as income. Once you’re able to do that, you can consider yourself a real professional. Up until that point, you’re on probation.

If you think these requirements are restrictive, bear in mind that most new businesses that fail do so because they are undercapitalized, not because the product is inferior, the sales and marketing effort is less than adequate, and the management is poor. If you are serious about playing poker for a living, you need to view poker not so much as a game, but as a new business. In that regard you’re no different from the guy starting a restaurant or opening up a barbershop. If you are undercapitalized, you significantly increase your risk of ruin, and why would you want to do that? Instead, just continue to build your bankroll until you are adequately capitalized. The give it a go. You’ll give yourself the best chance to succeed if you do.

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