We get this question/statement a lot from aspiring online poker players. The most entertaining emails come from the player who just won $10k in a tourney and is now ready to go pro.
Here’s the deal: poker as a profession is TOUGH.
There is the chance that you play your first 10k event and win a couple mil – but that only happens to like .01% of the professional population. Not a tournament player? Well there is a reason it’s called grinding in cash games.
Traveling, staying in hotels, eating out, and having losing streaks can get incredibly expensive. I know several people with more than $500k in tournament wins who are flat broke. I’ve met people who have won $1 million and lost it all a month later. I know what your thinking….if I won that kind of money it wouldn’t happen to me.
There is a mental process you must go through to become a pro. It can be thought of more as a downward spiral toward being a degenerate. You need to become truly desensitized to the value of money so you can do things like be willing to take coin flips late in tournies with hundreds of thousands on the line. Unfortunately, if you have any personality ‘leaks’ like gambling in the pit, drinking, drugs, women, whatever – you can become reckless with your money.
Not only that, the variance, especially in tournament poker can be brutal. You could be the best player in the world, and start your ‘career’ bricking out the first 20 tournies you play. That is tough thing to deal with emotionally, and financially.
Certainly there are benefits to doing this full time – flexible schedule, traveling, meeting interesting people, etc. But it is by no means an easy way to make a buck. The saying “Poker is the hardest way to make an easy living.” is certainly accurate.
Should you drop out of college? No.
Even if you are making incredible money right now, stay in school – because it is very likely that if you drop out you will never return (regardless of if you say you are just going to take a break….you’ll find yourself struggling to ever go back). Having a college degree is a basic requirement in the professional world. There are lots of jobs that don’t ‘require’ it, but unless you want to be a salesman, it is going to be tough to find an interview for a good salaried job should you decide poker isn’t working out. Not to mention to social benefits of being surrounded by a bunch of people your own age, with unlimited amounts of free time.
Growing a bankroll online is considerably easier when:
a. you are living at home, or in a dorm room.
b. have very little expenses or ‘financial stress’.
c. are single, without a girlfriend, wife, and kids
Playing professionally requires you to grow your bankroll (or at the very least maintain a six figure roll) so that you can withdraw enough money to live your life. Sometimes the stress of the two can break you down, and you begin chasing money, playing worse, mostly because you are starting to see the value of the $$ again. You also need to maintain about 6 months of living expenses in your ‘life’ account – for when you start running bad and have no room to take money from your shrinking online roll.
It is certainly possible to live well off this game. But if playing poker for a living is a direction you choose, make sure to consider all the possible outcomes, not just the one that has you rollin down the street in a bentley as you drive up to your mansion.
Don’t forget there is always the option of playing poker to ‘supplement’ your income. This can be a much more enjoyable lifestyle, especially if you find another profession or career you are really interested in. To do that, you’re most likely going to need a degree.