Home > The reality of poker > How much can you make playing poker?

How much can you make playing poker?

It’s a question that gets asked by beginners a lot. And with all the World Series of Poker tournaments and Phil Iveys being paraded on TV,  it is easy to form the belief that it is natural to be making 6 figures a year for any good poker player. It isn’t.

Whenever I am asked “how much can you make playing poker?” I always say that it depends on how much you play. Let me give you an example.

AN EXAMPLE

An “OK” poker player’s winning ratio is about 3 regular big blinds for every 100 hands that he plays. To be able to sustain such a ratio though, you need to be devoted and have good predispositions for the game. Read my Poker Myths Part I article to get a better feel for what it might require.

So if a someone is a regular at the No Limit $0.50/$1 stakes and plays at 6 tables simultaneously, with each table averaging 80 hands per hour, this means that he is playing a total of 480 hands per hour. If his winning ratio is 3 big blinds / 100 hands, this translates to $3 / 100 hands. This gives us roughly about $15 per 480 hands. And that is how much you can make playing poker at the $0.50/$1 stakes if you are a good player — $15 per hour.

Assuming you play two 2-hour sessions each day (4 hours a day), you will be making $60 a day, which will translate to around $1800 a mont — providing that you play 4 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the month.

You will of course make some Rakeback as well. It is hard to estimate how much, since it depends on many variables, but I would say around $700 sounds about right.

The total for our above example would be around $2500 a month. That is quite good money, especially if you live in an eastern European country or many Asian / South American countries. You can live as a king off of it 🙂

FURTHER ANALYSIS

Your next question might be: “how long will it take before I can become a winning player at the $0.50/$1 stakes?” And again, the answer is: it depends.

If you put the time into it and have proper motivation and are eager to learn, I would say around 8 to 16 months. It takes some people less than that, and some people more. This is just a general estimate.

Keep in mind that while 3 regular big blinds / 100 hands is a good profit rate, there are quite a bit of players who make more than that. If you become really good, you can make 6 bb / 100 hands, and could probably play 8 tables simultaneously, which would translate into a monthly income of around $5,500 a month (including rakeback).

So the short answer to the question of how much can you make playing poker is: anywhere in the range of $1500 – $7000, with most of professional players being closer to the lower end of that range. If you can achieve a steady monthly income that fits in that range within your first year of play, you should consider it a great success. If you keep excelling from there, you might even start beating the higher stakes, such as $1/$2 and $2/$4, in which case your earnings may double or even triple.

CONCLUSION

There is a lot of money to be made in poker, no doubt about it. But it is not magic, nor an easy solid-proof way for making money. The number of poker players that make $150,000+ a year is similar to the number of people who make that kind of money outside of poker, in everyday life and businesses.

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  1. 10000dollars
    January 16, 2011 at 3:58 am

    That’s some very useful figures! And hard work is the key for sure.

    It makes me wonder how many hours serious poker players play each day. And how good do you play after four hours? Six? Eight?

    Keep up the good work!

  2. January 16, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Hi 10000dollar (I can call you by a name if you prefer? :),

    Regarding your question, it really varies from player to player, what stakes they play, how many tables do they play and of course how good they are.

    I know poker players who play around 10 hours a week and make a ton of cash. They are the good ones who have been playing for many years (5+) on a daily basis. They can allow themselves some slack because they have worked really hard on achieving what they have.

    And at the same time, I know quite a bit of players who play 4-8 hours a day. And concentration does indeed suffer after that long amount of time. You should always break it down into sessions that are no longer than 2,5 hours each. Some people can sustain their concentration for hours without end — but they are the exception, not the rule.

    As for me, I play about 3 hours each day. And I already get tired some time (keep in mind it’s 3 hours of maximum concentration).

    Hope this helps 🙂

  3. 10000dollars
    January 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Well, I prefer to by mysterious 😉

    Thanks for the information. I agree regarding your suggested time limits. Even a short break every 60 minutes is good too of course. And I heard about a science report stating that the human brain cannot focus efficiently for more than about two hours every day (eight hour work days should be abandoned!) 🙂

    Just a pointer/question: You say 3 big blinds. You’re refering to fixed limit only, right? And would that be 3 big bets and not big blinds (which is a huge difference)?

    Cheers.

  4. January 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Hi again 🙂

    (what’s your name btw? I prefer calling you by it, instead of 10000dollars, as flattering as that one may sound :D)

    I have also heard of a similar report on concentration span. There is a lot of truth in it, although I think that taking a 2-3 hours break after a 2-hour session should regenerate your concentration enough and make it possible to play more. Of course it varies with every individual. But that is something for more experienced poker players to concern themselves with, the reason being that beginners can’t really tell if they are actually playing well or not, and therefore cannot reliably judge how good their concentration is.

    The reason I could only play 3 hours a day is because I also play at the piano daily, around 3-4 hours. If I didn’t play piano I would be able to play an extra 2 hours of poker a day. But I would get bored quickly then 🙂

    Edit:

    I just re-read what I wrote above in my article. As for the big blinds, I actually meant no-limit holdem regular big blinds in this context. So when I say 3 regular big blinds, I mean 1,5PTBB. Does this make sense or is it unclear?

    • 10000dollars
      January 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks, crystal clear! 🙂 It sounds very low for NL though, but I don’t remember exactly what’ve read earlier. It goes to show that I’m being a bit too optimistic right now 🙂

  5. January 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Great article. It answers a lot of questions. I study as well and I was hoping to play poker professionally after I get my degree. The only thing I’m worried about is variance. Are there months where you make far less than you usually make?

  6. January 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Hi Jade,

    Thanks for dropping by 🙂

    Yes, there always comes a time when you will be making far below your average. Actually, this is a wrong way to put it, since you have to calculate downswings into your average — they cannot be approached separately.

    With that said, I have had a period of over +300,000 I believe where I was losing at poker. It took considerable psychological effort to keep playing, and I wouldn’t have made it without the support of my friends.

    This was at the higher limits though, where the variance is much bigger. At the micro/low stakes, you can expect to have +10 buy-in drops fairly regularly, and 30+ buy-in drops from time to time. The better you are, the smaller the drops will be.

    There is a good poker variance calculator, which attempts to calculate your likely variance based on any given hand sample-size. You will need to know your average win-rate in bb/100 hands as well as your standard deviation (poker software such as Poker Tracker or Hold ‘Em manager can provide you with that info). Here is the calculator:

    http://www.evplusplus.com/poker_tools/variance_simulator/

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