Hope for the best but prepare for the worst
Even if all things seem to indicate you’re ready to play poker for a living in 2020, I’d suggest you prepare for the worst before making that huge step.
You should have at least a few months’ worth of expenses stashed away.
This will help you control your emotions when running poorly since you will be able to rely on those funds when needed.
The first few months can be a real struggle, and you don’t need the additional pressure of absolutely having to make a profit during that period. With some extra money in the bank, you can survive a bad stretch or two without it having a substantial negative effect on the quality of your life.
Choose Your Battleground: Live vs. Online Poker
One of the essential decisions about playing poker for a living is what you want to be your game of choice.
You’ll probably want to stick to the poker format that you have the most experience and the best results in, but there are other things to consider.
The first and most significant decision is whether you want to play live or online.
Online poker will inevitably require more effort on your part since the average player is much tougher compared to live games. This is especially true if you want to compete at any reasonable stakes like NL200+ or play tournaments over the buy-in of $50.
However, it also has plenty of advantages letting you have more freedom, play several games at the same time, and progress as a player much faster.
Live poker, on the other hand, is way softer. You’ll still encounter many recreational players at $1/$2 and $2/$5, and even the regulars tend not to be very good.
So, in terms of skill, beating live games at comparable stakes is way easier, but it all depends on where you live and how you structure your life around poker.
Playing live poker for a living: cash games
If you decided to play poker for a living, how much you make from the game will have a crucial impact on your overall life quality.
People often have a warped idea of how much professional players earn, so I’ll try to put things into perspective.
- Live cash games: 10 – 15 big blinds an hour is doable on lower stakes for a good player
- Online cash: 2 – 5 big blinds per 100 hands at NL100+
So, in live cash games, you will be winning more per hand dealt, but you have to play a single table.
Online, you can play as many as you like, from one to like 15+. Obviously, it depends on how good you are and how much you can handle, but the potential seems much bigger online, so you can stick to these games if you already have some experience.
However, if you just want to start playing poker for a living in 2020 and you’d never done it before, I’d suggest doing it at the live tables.
With a bit of help from training programs such as Jonathan Little coaching, you can quickly become a decent winner and earn a very tidy profit playing something like NL500.
Also, if you want to play seriously, you’ll want to move away from the lowest stakes games as early as possible. Even if NL500 games are somewhat tougher than NL200, the impact of the poker rake at the lowest stakes is usually quite significant, and it will take a bit part of your profits.
Playing online poker for a living: tournaments
If you have your mind set on playing online, I’d suggest you focus on MTTs. The reason for this is that these big-field tournaments still attract many recreational players, so there is an edge to be had.
The best MTT grinders manage to pull the ROI of around 30% playing on an average buy-in of $100.
Even if you can’t get to that number, making 20% per tournament is decent enough, but you’ll need to put in a good volume every week.
MTTs are very time consuming and don’t provide as much freedom as cash games, so that’s another thing to consider.
Pros & Cons of Playing Poker for a Living
To wrap up this article, let’s briefly delve into some pros and cons of being a professional poker player. In addition to the money you can make playing the game, there are some other positive aspects of choosing this career path, such as:
- Having more freedom to schedule your working hours
- No boss over your head
- Earning potential is capped only by your skill and the time you’re willing to spend playing and studying the game
- You can take days off and plan your vacations without any restrictions
All of these points sound very appealing, and they’re the reason why so many people decided to pursue poker as a career. It’s an excellent way to get out of the rat race and build a decent life for yourself on your own terms.
However, there are some downsides, as well:
- You need a decent capital to start playing professionally
- No perks that come with a traditional job (insurance, paid sick days and vacations)
- No fixed short-term income you can count on (due to variance)
- Having to deal with big swings and emotions that come with them
- It can be very draining and emotionally taxing
So, playing poker for a living isn’t just about going to a casino or firing up your computer and piling up the cash.
All the swings that come with this lifestyle and the fact that you can always fall behind the curve can make things stressful.
It’s not like many other traditional jobs where you can rest assured your spot is safe. You’re never safe at a poker table because there is always someone gunning for your chips, and you can never stop learning and improving if you want to maintain your win rate.
Should You Play Poker for a Living in 2021?
Despite everything written in this article, you’re the only one who can make the final decision.
If you have a passion for the game and are ready to seriously work to achieve what you want, poker can be a very rewarding career.
Hopefully, you can use some ideas from this article to make that decision a bit easier, but do not rush to make any conclusions.
Take some time to think about it, go over all the points mentioned before, study some strategy tips, and be honest with yourself.
If you still think you have what it takes and aren’t afraid of change, all I can say is best of luck on your journey and see you at the felt!