Playing poker for Living

Every winning poker player starts thinking something like, "Isn't better to leave the job and do this for a living?" It seems like an elegant and easy life. You can play whenever you want, sleep all day, make a living by your skills and you are able to go anywhere you want and find a game. Perhaps the life of a poker pro is for few people and not for all.

For some poker professionals, holdem poker game is another form of the daily mill. You don't have to play when you want to. You play daily because you need the money. You play all night and your relationships suffer because you are not on the same schedule as others are. You walk away with thousands of dollars in your pocket but you can't spend because you want that money to play with. In short, it is not that elegant. Maybe you want to do it anyway. What kind of preparation you want?


You need to have enough money to last you throughout the weekend if you are playing it for fun. A few hundred dollars is enough or maybe a couple of thousand if you play for higher limits. If you lose, you will get another paycheck and you can save up some more money to play with. Even if you are a good player it is likely that you tend to lose. If you are playing for fun and win then you have a little more extra easy gaming money to spend all night.

If you are playing poker for a living, then none of that's true. Your money is your account. Lose it and you are out of the work. You have to keep your playing bankroll large at stock. Large enough of bankroll to endure weeks of losses because long streaks of losing can and do happen.

How large does your playing bankroll have to be? Let's say very large. Some instructions for minimum sizes are given in the table. Your bankroll cannot be very large, and we advice is to maintain some other source of non-poker income instead of complete dependable on the fixed bankroll.

These suggestions in the table are for your playing bankroll. You will need a reserve for living expenses because you will not be getting a paycheck and you won't win every week, or every month. A reserve of one year's minimum living expenses is about right. Also keep in mind that the larger games won't be available forty hours a week.

More poker pros are busted from spending their bankroll than from losses at poker. In addition to a playing bankroll, you need to have sufficient savings to allow you pay your bills without reducing your bankroll. There will be times where you are not winning enough to cover your bills. Keeping at least a year's living expenses in reserves is not too much.

If you are a professional player with no other source of income, your bankroll has to be large enough to endure a run of bad luck in which you have a very small chance of going broke. The mathematician call this "risk of ruin." If you lose some of your bankroll because of your bad luck, your risk of going broke increases. To balance this ruin, you will again have to start playing for smaller stakes, cutting your potential income. If your bankroll gets small enough that you can't play at a limit big enough to allow you to pay your expenses, then it is a time to quit the game and get on to the work.

Game limit Typical potential hourly earnings Recommended minimum bankroll
1-4-8-8 $10 $3000
10-20 $20 $7000
20-40 $30 $15000
60-120 $40 $45000

You not only have to defend against the reduction of your bankroll, but also you need to be maximizing your bankroll. That is because without an increased bankroll you are always at risk of a short-term run of bad luck, which can critically increase your risk of going broke. So to be a long-term winning poker players, you need not only to win enough to live on, but also you have to keep adding something extra to your bankroll. If you don't keep adding to your bankroll and you keep playing, ultimately you win get into a ruin resulting into losing your bankroll. It has happened often to many good poker players.

Playing bankroll and living expense is not all that worry about, however. Insurance and credits can also create problems for many full-time poker players. If you are self-employed then it is somewhat difficult you can make things like getting a car loan or credit card. But if you are a self-employed as a poker player then it can make those sorts of situations much more difficult.

The self-employed get discriminated against when it comes to credit.
Credit and insurance are two things that the future professional poker players need to take into account when deciding to start playing poker full-time. The amount of money you may need to have set aside to take care of those contingencies might be even larger than the amount of money you need to have set aside as a playing bankroll. The subject of normal personal finances of a gambler is discussed. Make sure that you don't forget these things into considerations.

State of Mind

One of the essential characteristics a poker player needs is a winning state of mind. You should be mentally prepared to win. You could be surprised how many people aren't ready to allow them to win. One of the things that make the determination to win is the willingness to lose. If you are afraid to lose, then you are putting yourself at a huge psychological disadvantage. A big part of winning is a willingness to lose.

Putting on an Act

There is a consideration among many poker players that poker is some kind of scam on unsuspecting fools. Those pros look at the people they play with every day with disdain. The basic result of that kind of attitude is discontent. Most poker people aren't very happy people.

There are different reasons for this. One of them is the aggressive nature of the game. The benefit from self-destructive behaviors of compulsive gamblers can sometimes harm the ego of poker pros. Many online poker players are not compulsive gamblers. Most conventional players lose but they don't lose much, at least not more than they get back in the form entertainment value- but some players are highly self-destructive. When you are playing for living, those players sometimes seem to stick in your mind. It is harmful to your self-esteem to realize that you are making a living by encouraging those people to just destroy themselves. Some players are able to rationalize it, but some aren't.

If you have a table where most of your rivals gradually lose money, they'll keep coming forever and finally you will just get it all, but when you play in card rooms, you don't have much control over who sits down in a game. There are players who limit most of their play to private home games for just this reason - they would make a long-term profit by winning small amounts, on a regular basis, from people who can afford it. In a private game, you cannot invite self-destructive players but if you play in card rooms, you will have to get use to it.

The Entertainer

What sort of business are professional poker players in? The opinions that a poker pro is some kind of hustler are common among pros and indicate an attitude that playing poker professionally is analogous to operating some kind of confidence game.

We think that it depends on where you play. In Las Vegas or Los Angeles, you don't have to depend on regular players to get a game up - Los Angeles has a large population and Las Vegas has lot of visitors.

Prop Players

One good way to make living as poker pro is to work for a card room. Some card rooms use proposition players (called prop players). A "prop player " works a regular shift in the card room and is used to help start games and fill-in when the game gets short-handed. He's paid a wage to fill up a chair at whatever table needs a player -but he plays with his own money. A prop player differs from a shill in this respect. A shill plays with house money, not his own money.

It is possible for a prop player to lose more than wage during the course of shift. If you do that frequently, you won't be working as a prop player for long -not because the card room cares whether you win or lose, but because you will run out with your money.

Prop players cannot select their own games. They have to play in whatever game is short of players. This means games are not very profitable. A game with good conditions will have a long waiting list of customers wanting to play in the game.

On the contrary, if you are skilled at playing in short-handed games and can shift gears and just play tight when the situation demands for that, then you can almost do well as a prop player. In a card room, working as an employee has some additional benefits in the form of health insurance scheme, verifiable employment for creditors etc.

Continue: Know Yourself in Poker

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