Playing Poker for a Living

It looks so tempting. In this current poker boom, so many horrible new players are flocking to the games every day, apparently eager and willing to give us their money. So it sure seems as though any skilled player should be able to earn steady money at poker, almost like drawing a steady paycheck at the office. And many do. But it’s one thing to win consistently when poker is a fun hobby and the money you make is a nice supplement to your regular income. It’s quite another thing when poker is your only means of support. When those chips you are putting into the middle of the table represent your rent and grocery money, the additional stress can be overwhelming. At the very least, it’s going to be a lot harder to stay on your “A” game in the face of the inevitable poker adversities.

Yes, some people do manage it. They support themselves solely by playing poker. But those players belong to a very select little group. And as with any exclusive club, everybody on the outside thinks that they deserve to join. Ego is a huge factor for most poker players, and it’s extremely common for wannabe-professionals to overestimate their playing abilities. One of the important thing that you need to do even if you play on Live Result SGP, before you even remotely consider earning your living at poker, you must be brutally honest with yourself about your skill level. That means keeping brutally honest records for a very long time before turning pro, so that you can have the cold hard evidence right there: You can beat this type of game, at that particular level, for this many big bets per hour.

But skill alone is not enough. Not even close. To play poker full-time as your only means of support, you must have extraordinary, iron-clad, virtually-infallible discipline. You’ll need this discipline to keep playing your best after countless boring hours of play, long after the game has stopped being fun and turned into a grind. Moreover, you’ll need this discipline to keep playing your absolute best in the face of brutal, seemingly-endless losing streaks. When that happens, the added pressure of needing to win some money in order to pay the rent will make it so much easier to go on tilt. And if you’re privately thinking: “Well, those kinds of losing streaks will never happen to me.” – yes, they will. Convincing yourself otherwise is just another form of magic thinking, and if you want to play poker for a living then magic thinking is a luxury that you simply cannot afford. Luck will always be a part of the game, and if a prolonged losing streak can happen to a legendary player like Doyle Brunson, then it can happen to you as well.

You need to be prepared for this financially. Your bankroll must be extra-large, to withstand major hits without affecting your ability to put food on the table. And you really should have some emergency reserve money set aside – three-to-six month’s worth of living expenses – just in case you do suffer that prolonged losing streak or, god forbid, some other sudden misfortune. One of the best things about playing poker for a living is the chance to be your own boss, but that also means you must take care of your own benefits, such as health insurance. All of these extra expenses should be factored into your budget before taking a crack at professional poker. Playing poker for a living is a business, and you must treat it as you would any other serious business endeavor. It’s also worth mentioning here that if you should list your job as “professional poker player” on your forms at tax time, the IRS will be more inclined to audit you.

So, what kind of stakes would you need to play in order to make a living at the game? Of course this largely is a function of your own expenses – how cheaply you can live each month, whether or not you have any dependants, if you live with a spouse who earns money, etc. You need to figure all this out in advance. Conventional wisdom says that a skilled player will average one big bet per hour, and so at a bare minimum you would need to play at the $10/$20 level. The exception to this would be multi-tabling online. If you can do this and still play well (and perhaps supplement your income by chasing all those online bonuses), then you can probably get by at smaller stakes.

For the skilled player, poker is fabulous as a second job. It’s a wonderful way to supplement your income, to bring in extra money so you can buy some nice things that you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. As long as you still have that primary job to fall back on, the losing streaks won’t be so crushing, and you’ll never have to worry about finding a way to pay the electric bill. But without that safety net, a life of professional poker can be a wild and dangerous ride.