5 Reasons to Not Become a Poker Pro
You're crushing the cash game, earning over $20 an hour in your nearby poker room. You're also winning at a high rate online, and scored your second tournament win inside a month. You've swiftly built your poker savings up to $12,793 — and that's in only about three-and-a-half months playing about 25 hours a week.
When you do the math, and consider you could make even more if you moved up in stakes, you figure you could earn the $45,000 a year you currently make in your full-time job. You're thinking it's time to quit that day job you hate and devote all of your time and energy to making a living as a poker player.
I have three words for you: DON'T DO IT!
Or at least think long and hard before you do. I can think of at least 10 reasons why you shouldn't be so eager to leave that day job, even though you might now seem to be ready to be a full-time professional poker player.
Here are the first five that come to mind.
1. You haven't played enough
Yeah, I know you think you have a great track record over the past three-and-a-half months. But you haven't played nearly enough to know whether you're really beating the game, or whether you've just caught a nice hot streak of good luck.
Playing 25 hours a week for 15 weeks is only about 375 hours of play. That's well short of even the minimum 500 hours that is generally considered enough to start evaluating how you're really doing against the typical game.
2. You don't have enough money in the bank
Sure, almost $13,000 seems like a lot of money. And compared to $0, it is. But that's not enough to live on without a steady, guaranteed income of some sort. Though poker may eventually become that for you, it surely isn't yet.
As a good rule of thumb, you want half a year's expenses and a playing bankroll that can withstand the worst losing streak you can imagine while still being sufficient to keep you comfortably in the chips. You're making $45,000 now. If you're going to start a career as a $1/$2 player, and you're currently living off $45,000 a year, you want to have at least $20,000 in the bank and a playing bankroll of another $20,000.
Keep grinding and winning, and maybe you'll be ready some day. But not now.
3. You aren't that good yet
After three-and-a-half months of winning play, you don't yet have the chops of a professional. You might think you do. But as already noted you haven't been at it long enough to know, even if you're results are very positive.
You haven't faced losing streaks that can last for months or even the better part of the year. How will you hold up? You don't know. You won't know until you have a lot more playing experience under your belt — at least a year's worth — and ideally more than that.
4. You want a steady stream of income
You think you have a steady stream of income, with the almost $13,000 you've earned so far. But it's far from steady. It's supplemental. It's a big difference playing for fun and extra cash and playing to pay your bills. Ask any pro.
Having a steady (non-poker) stream of income can help you keep your poker game at its best, because you'll never face desperation, poverty, or bills you can't pay just because your game has gone south.
5. You want benefits
You've calculated your ability to earn $45,000 to replace your day job. You do the math and it all adds up. But there's a problem. You haven't added in the cost of the benefits you get from your full-time job.
What benefits? Health insurance for one. Also, sick days, vacation, personal days, jury duty, bereavement leave, and the employer's share of unemployment insurance, worker's compensation, and the like.
Don't think those things add up? You're wrong. Just try and purchase health insurance on the open market, or try to play poker when you're really sick, but you need the money. Or when you're faced with wanting to take time off for personal emergencies. Or when you can't afford not to earn your daily nut at the table. Then you'll see how wrong you are.
The income you need to replace isn't less than the money you're earning at the steady day job — it's actually a lot more.
Those are my first five reasons to consider as potential arguments against going pro. Just in case those aren't enough to convince you, next week I'll share five more.
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.
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