The Cost of Playing Poker for a Living


There are several types of serious poker players and others who would like to be considered professional players.

For this article, I define professional poker players as those who support their lifestyle by playing poker. There are very few who can achieve that status and even fewer that can survive the swings of poker or understand how expensive it is.

Here are some hard facts about the pitfalls of playing poker for a living. The most important thing is you must always be in control of your money. Players who don’t have a knowledge of cost or how to create a budget will fail miserably.

If you could win every time you play, playing poker for a living would be the best profession in the world with all that freedom and money.

To calculate your costs, let’s say the rake you will pay for a year is $30,000 to $50,000. Then add $1,500 a month living expenses, and now you have a starting budget of $48,000 to $68,000 a year you must win.

Those are the basic expenses you must cover before factoring in building your bankroll or any travel or entertainment costs. That is very scary to think about because it does not take into consideration you might lose or run bad.

The reality is it is almost impossible to turn pro unless you start with a large bankroll and play so high that your hourly win rate goes from $20.00 to $30.00 per hour, which will get you to $62,400 based on playing 40 hours a week.

But to reach a much higher standard of living, you must play higher.

Your hourly cost to play in a $40.00 buy-in game may be the same if you play in a $300.00 buy-in game.

A majority of players that are considered professional players have other sources of income, such as a partner that does not depend on their gambling income.

I have known hundreds of players who could not enjoy the lifestyle of gambling or playing poker if they did not have a partner or other source of income.

Having a partner in gambling, whether it’s your spouse or a business partner, is vital to enduring the swings that are a part of poker.

I’ve been playing poker for nearly 50 years, and the game has not changed much, but the cost of living and rake has more than tripled, making poker a very expensive occupation.

I have often told poker players, “Instead of playing poker, you can go buy a new Mercedes with the rake you save.”

Just saving a dollar per hand or getting money back on a player card over a year will pay for a new car.

That’s math that poker players should consider.

Now that you understand the math of playing poker for a living, you must realize there is much more to being a winning poker player than choosing the best game and position. You need to be a winner in life, too.

This reminds me of the story of a player who asks another player to borrow money to eat on. The player said, “If you need money to eat, how are you going to play?” The player responded, “I have money to play.  I just don’t have money to eat.”

Sure, understanding the cost of playing poker is important, but having your priorities straight is the most important part of becoming a great player.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM.  He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” at to receive notifications of new posts by email.



Brian Nadell: A Poker Player’s Poker Player by Patricia Chavira


Los Angeles-based poker pro Brian Nadell had a great week at the Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC). On Monday, January 16, he cashed in Event #4: $350 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better.

Three days later on Thursday, January 19, he made the final table of Event #8: $350 Omaha 8/Stud 8 or Better.

This is no surprise. Nadell has been playing cards since he was a kid, but in his early 20s he would play in a poker game once a week where you could bet up to $3. He says he played every week and never lost.

The first time he stepped into a casino was in August 1987. He was reeling from the loss of his father when a friend asked him to come to the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, California.

On that first visit, he played $15/$30 Stud Hi-Low and won $3,300. Gaming Today columnist Robert Turner was responsible for bringing this game to the Bike. Nadell and Turner have been friends ever since.

The First Legends of Poker



Eight years later, Turner created the first Legends of Poker for the Bike in 1995 and made Nadell a Legend of Poker host for the Omaha tournament.

Turner said, “We had an elite group of poker players who were very popular. Nadell was a great host and ambassador for the game of poker because he was such a well-liked individual and a great promoter of the game of Omaha.”

In 1996, Nadell moved back to Las Vegas and played high-limit poker at the Mirage. In Vegas, he found success playing in the WSOP. 1999 was a particularly memorable year.

Nadell at the WSOP


He placed 13th in the $1,500 Seven-Card Razz, 2nd in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better and 15th in the $1,500 Razz.

He made a dramatic comeback in the Stud event. He was down to one black chip, but went on to capture second place for $85,000. This would become a familiar narrative for Nadell and the WSOP.

Nadell says he has made 11 final tables, and at one time, held the record for making the most final tables at the WSOP without winning a bracelet.

He has made millions playing poker, but he isn’t an ordinary poker player. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. He brings passion to everything he does. He is one to watch this year at the World Series of Poker this summer.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.


LAPC Underway at Commerce Casino


The Los Angeles Poker Classic (LAPC) got underway at the Commerce Casino on Friday with Event #1: $175 No-Limit Hold’em. This tournament featured a $100,000 guarantee and drew 1,079 players.

Event #1 Winner Jeffrey “Lee” Peterson took home $16,995 and the Remington trophy. In his winner’s interview, Peterson stated that he is a business owner who plays for entertainment. He took a five-year break from poker and last played in the LAPC’s Main Event last year.

He came back with a vengeance and plans on playing more events this year.

Tournament Director Matt Savage has put together a great schedule this year that should appeal to pros and recreational players alike. This week will feature a mix of events for mixed-game players starting with the $350 Omaha 8 or Better tournament on Monday.

$350 Stud 8 or Better will be held on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Thursday will feature the $350 Omaha 8 or Better/Stud 8 or Better.

This weekend will feature several No-Limit events, including a $1,100 WPT Main Event Mega Satellite that guarantees two $10,000 seats on Saturday, January 21 at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, January 22 at 12 p.m. a $240 No-Limit Hold’em Knockout Big Bounty event will feature a $50,000 guarantee. Also, on Sunday at 5 p.m. a $175 No-Limit Hold’em All in or Fold Bounty carries a $10,000 guarantee.

Beginning the week of Monday, January 23, the schedule will feature several other mixed games, including a $350 H.O.R.S.E. event on Thursday, January 26 at 1 p.m.

On Wednesday, January 25 at 5 p.m. the first flight of the $350 No-Limit Hold’em begins and features a $300,000 guarantee. Additional flights will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. and Friday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 5 p.m.

The rest of the schedule in January and February will feature bigger buy-in events, such as a $570 Big O tournament on Thursday, February 2 at 5 p.m. and a $570 H.O.R.S.E. event on Friday, February 3 at 1 p.m.

An event you don’t see on very many schedules is the $1,100 2-7 Triple Draw. This event will take place on Wednesday, February 8 at 5 p.m.

The $10,000 WPT Championship will begin on Saturday, February 25 at 12 p.m. The series will end with the Championship final table taping on Thursday, March 2 at 4 p.m.

Follow all the action on Twitter @LAPC or at

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer specializing in poker. She writes the “Poker Scene” column for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.