A day in the life

This is a follow on from part one where I explained what my set-up is like and what is involved in playing the game. Here I’m going to explain how it’s possible to make a living from poker and what life is like as a player.

There are two ways that I make money from poker. The first is the most obvious one which is by winning money on the tables. This basically involves playing better poker than the other players on the table. Making better decisions than your opponents, exploiting their weaknesses while protecting your own weaknesses, maximising every profitable spot and minimising every unprofitable spot. These are the kinds of things I need to think about while I’m playing. As I explained in part one, the overall standard of the game is increasing all the time. This means it’s crucial that I constantly work on my game to stay ahead of the curve. It’s also important not to play when I’m tired, ill, hungover or even when I’m just not feeling in the mood. Other jobs will let you get away with working while in these states, but playing poker at the wrong time will decimate your bankroll in no time at all.

100k VPPs in a year give you one of the highest VIP levels on Stars and the benefits that come with it – click for details

The second way I make money is through “rakeback”. All poker sites take a small amount ofmoney out of every pot that is played. Over the long-run these small amounts compound into large sums, and I personally pay PokerStars tens of thousands of dollars every year in rake. To attract and keep customers sites offer loyalty schemes in the form of rakeback. Some sites give a fixed percentage of rake back to players, but Stars is a bit different. They have a points scheme where you amass points (VPPs) and convert them into cash (or other items) at their store. The more points you save, the more value you get out of them.

One of the biggest perks of making money through poker is that in the UK it is classed as gambling, and therefore is completely legal and tax-free, meaning that everything I win is mine to keep.

The toughest thing about playing poker is the luck factor, or variance as it’s commonly referred to. While in the long-run poker is a game of skill it also has a very large element of short term luck. Dealing with the variance is one of the hardest parts of playing for a living and is the downfall of many an otherwise great player. Technical ability will only get you so far if you can’t handle the swings.

A simulated graph of expected results of one player over 100k hands. Each line on the graph is a different run-through. It’s easy to see that even over such a large sample, results can vary drastically from what you would expect.

What most recreational players don’t realise is just how long a run of bad (or good) luck can last. A recreational player who plays live once a week may not even play enough hands in their lifetime to reach the long-run and have their results even out. The advantage of multitabling online is that I can play upwards of 100k hands per month, so the long-run comes sooner rather than later. However, losing days are very common and losing weeks are also fairly frequent. Losing months are also possible, but from memory, in the 3-4 years I’ve been playing seriously, I think I’ve had about 3 or 4 losing months on the tables. Luckily in all those situations, the profit I made from VPPs more than made up for the table losses.

Day-to-day I tend to treat poker just like I would any job where I would be working from home. The advantages that I have over other jobs is that I have no responsibility to anyone other than myself and I really can choose my own hours. I do tend to keep a fairly steady schedule though. I usually get a session started between 9-10am and play till lunchtime. I’ll have lunch and take the dog for a walk, then start a second session around 2pm which will last till around 5pm. I’m then free to choose whether to play in the evening or not depending on our plans.

I think I’ve covered most of the basics, but if you have any questions then feel free to click on ‘comments’ below and ask away.

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