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.




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