Can one make a living playing online poker?

I’m a member of a couple of sites where I play online for fun. Any game where I play for real money though, I play in person.

I’ve heard a couple of statements (online and IRL) that people can actually make a living, and a decent one at that, playing poker online. Is this true? Are there any Dopers who actually do it?

One of the grad students here just finished his PhD and is now supporting himself and his lady soley by playing online poker.

He makes a lot more $$ at that then he would ever had if he had stayed in science, but I have a feeling he’s pretty unusual.

The college-aged son of one of my coworkers made $10,000 over last year’s summer vacation playing online poker eight hours a day. He’s graduated now and has some kind of teaching job, but still supplements his income with poker winnings.

I believe that SenorBeef is such a Doper.

Yes, it’s possible to do. Yes, it’s possible to make even a decent living doing it. But it’s also difficult to do. Extremely difficult. And it’s my belief that a good majority of people who play “professionally” merely have such a low budget lifestyle they don’t need to consistantly win large sums of money to stay afloat.

I’m not going to get fully into the math of the situation right now, but you’ll need a large enough starting base to survive for a few months and keep up the buy-ins to the games you want. It’s also possible, and this is really scary, to be a good, winning player, and still LOSE over a block of a hundred or even a thousand hand hours. Think about that. How many other jobs out there does that happen?

And here’s the key: that’s just for the winning player. Imagine you’re a losing player who deludes themself into thinking you’re actually a winning one getting unlucky. You want to guess how often that happens? Fuzzy math leads to fuzzy thinking and it’s so easy to say “I haven’t yet hit the long term. If I play just a little bit more I know it’s going to turn around.”

So as a good, professional player, you not only have to be a winning player, you must weather the losing periods without tilting your way into busto territory. And above all you must constantly keep an honest perspective of your game so you’ll know when you’re slipping.

Oh yeah, and play, play, play. Lots. Until you practically get sick of it.

Sound like fun? Good luck!


These sort of stories represent a very small percentage of all online poker players. They are, of course, the stories that the online sites love you to hear, because then you’ll think, “Well, if that shlub can win at poker, then surely a smart guy like me can win.” And then you get out your credit card or your PayPal account and start forking over your money.

Another thing to remember about playing online poker as that even if you can win more hands than you lose, it’s still very hard to make a decent profit because of the “rake.” This is the cut that the host (i.e., the online poker site) takes from each and every hand. They get the rake whether you’re winning or losing.

The amount of the rake varies from site to site, but it’s actually scandalously high considering how many hands get played and how low their overhead is. I believe that there have been some poker pros talking about putting together a rake-free website, but i’m not sure how that’s going.

Well, the fella that I’m talking about is no shlub, for sure. In fact, he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met (which is saying something considering where I work), got a PhD in eletrophysiology and has a photographic memory for numbers.

Really, I wouldn’t hold him up as someone to emulate, because for all but the smartest people, they just won’t measure up.

You realize that $3k/month is not exactly a king’s ransom, right? Entry-level teachers make more than that. Shoot, I make lots more than that, with no risk of making less, and have time to surf SDMB during the work day.

Though I don’t know anyone supporting themselves on poker winnings, here’s an excellent Slate magazine article about it:

Full House

I have one freind that makes his living playing online poker. He doesn’t live like a king but he covers his rent and other bills and has some spending cash. He generaly spends a good eight hours a day playing and most that time he is in four games at a time. He freely admits he could make a better living with a real job. He does have an engineering degree. Right now he is content with playing around and being lazy most the time.

I beleive that World Poker Exchange claims to be rake free. From what I’ve seen, they take a rake, but they give it back every monday, to better advertise how much rake takes.

I tried to play poker part time instead of getting a job my first year of college. I didn’t lose money, but I didn’t win a whole lot either considering the time I was investing in it. I ended up sitting in my room a lot, in complete silence, taking notes and trying to follow the game as well as possible, which is hard when 40-60 hands are being played per hour.

In the end, for me it was boring, lonely work, and I think very few people can actually make a significant amount of money doing it.

I am playing poker ‘casually’ right now, in the sense that it isn’t part of my income but I am trying to gather together a large bankroll. I started of with 50 dollars, after about 1 years of playing I now have 470 dollars in total. It is most definitley possible to make a very considerable amount of money playing poker. The biggest problems to access the money is however mentally, 99% of the population can not make money over the long run. Most people go broke at some point because they lack the discipline needed to stick to there bankroll, and keep playing solid poker even though the cards are against you is extremely difficult.

I once heard a statement that; Poker is a great secondary job, but a louzy main job.*

A lot of poker site’s are currently offering ‘rakeback deals’ which basically means that you get a percentage rakeback back. Most professional players at the higher stakes utilize this.

Quite true, poker has a nasty habit of tricking people into thinking there winning players.

*I don’t remember the exact words

I believe Senorbeef had a big post about this very topic a while ago.

Ask the pro poker player

I’m now playing poker on-line for a living. Was doing it part time for over a year. I’m making a fairly decent living, choosing my own hours, no commute, no dress code, vacation whenever I want, as much or as little work as I want. Overall, pretty good. I don’t think I’ll be doing it forever, but for now, it’s pretty nice.

The people that can do this are a very small minority. I can regularly make money playing live at casinos. I’ve NEVER been able to make money online. I’ve talked to people that can and they usually agree that for the most part online poker has been fished out. Not even close to how it was 2-3 years ago.

I think PartyPoker made a press release stating that less than 10% of it’s customers have cashed out. Not won money, cashed out ANYTHING.

To answer the question, yes, some people can. If you’re thinking of giving it a try and had to ask the question I can pretty safely say you’re likely not ready.

I play poker for a living and make around $100/hr. I know many people who make upwards of $500/hr, and several others that have made over a million dollars just this year. Yes it is very difficult and takes tons of patience, discipline and hard work, but that is no different than any other job. Unfortunately congress may have thrown a wrench into online poker. See my thread in the pit entitled, “Another sad and embarassing day for the U.S.”.

I have a former colleague who plays poker online. He started as a hobby, but he goes to about 5 tournaments a year, and he is definately doing better than break even. But it helps that he has a job, and his wife makes good money too. His hope is to get to a point where he can be self sufficient.