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Can You Make A Living Playing Online Poker?

Can You Make a Living Playing Poker?


Making a living playing poker is extremely hard which we prove by numbers, and we share the best ideas of how & what we can get the most out of online poker. 


Full-Time Poker Player – A Few Facts


Firstly, let me list a few pieces of data which would give you better insights into the poker industry & player characteristics, which will help us assess if being a full-time poker player is a smart idea.

BTW, when it comes to real money poker, the standard poker game we refer to is Texas Hold’em, in case you’re not familiar with it, you should check “Texas Holdem For Beginners – 15 Minutes Crash Course” first as well as 16 Best Real Money Poker Sites Latest List, just FYI. 


Nature of Poker Game Skill or Luck?


Many people still assume poker is all gambling and luck mainly because it is often played in a casino with other pure gambling games. However, as our poker guides like this explain, many types of research prove that poker heavily depends on skill in the long run and luck works only in the short-term variance. Let me quote an interesting article on Poker AI bot “Cepheus” developed by the University of Alberta;

It may not win every hand it is dealt, but over time, no one can beat Cepheus, a computer program that scientists claim plays a near-perfect game of poker. Cepheus loses to no one over a long enough time. You just have to play enough hands so that luck goes away. Poker program Cepheus is unbeatable, claim scientists

alberta university poker research logo

If so, Cepheus proves Poker is basically a game of skill rather than luck. You may want to TRY it Yourself.  But again, note the word from Michael Johanson, a researcher at the lab;

I’m sure we’ll get plenty of emails from people who will play 20 or 30 hands against it, win a little bit, and then happily declare victory and say Cepheus must have a bug. But while a human or another program could get lucky and beat Cepheus in a short match, nobody could do it consistently over a long match.

Anyhow, the key point here is that if you play poker better than most of your opponents, then you will win money in the end.


How many people play poker for a living?


Then, what does a skill-oriented game mean to professional life? Below is a popular Luck/Skill Continuum;

luck skill continuum without poker

Our bald guess gets Poker to be positioned like this;

poker skill luck continuum positioning

The whole purpose here is trying to look at a category similar to Poker and see how professionals earn there.

Considering the individual play style of poker, let’s take tennis as a comparable activity.

BTW, as you see the details in the “Poker Intangible Benefits” section later, there are a lot of similarities between investment & poker.

Both are games of ‘incomplete information and unlike the game of chess based on ‘complete information which is determined solely by skill, there is randomness in poker.

So, examining the earnings of a stock trader or any other financial trader like Forex is one way though, this category heavily depends on the size of capital people can manage, which makes us difficult to get a benchmark, thus we use tennis here.

Professional Tennis Player Earnings

In professional tennis, men’s tennis top players earn like this;tennis atp all time career prize list In total, 1,078 players earn over $1 million, which is composed of 658 players from the ATP Career Prize Ranking and 420 players from the WTA Career Prize Ranking.

Professional Poker Player Earnings

What about Poker, how much is a professional poker player’s salary or prize money? According to The Hendon Mob, the top players’ career earnings are;

poker all time money list

The above Poker All-Time Money List covers the Top 514,686 players and 2,050 players who made over $1 million. This is how much professional poker players make.


Is a Full-time Poker player a wise idea?


So, what do these facts imply?

Are 1,078 tennis players & 2,050 poker players a lot? We couldn’t find the population of tennis & poker players worldwide, but in the US, Tennis Industry Association shows 17 million & shows 15 million (this number was 2010 data and after Black Friday – the US Department of Justice seized the domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker on 15 Apr ’11, it was said to reduce drastically even down to 10 million) as regular players.

poker black friday

Then, even compared with these US-only industry populations, 0.006% (tennis) & 0.021% (poker) can make over $1 million in career earnings (please note, this is not an annual income but the career income over the last 2 decades for poker – since The Hendon Mob started collecting the data).

It proves both of these activities are esoteric industries like other team sports shown in the continuum or entertainment, writing & art (painting), etc. The great money is concentrated among the few top elites.

As you may be aware, what we have discussed is about a.k.a. Big Tournament Pro, then we need to assess how much people can earn money from online poker. 



Playing Online Poker for a Living – Earning Assessment


How much do Online Poker players make money?


Well then, should ordinary people without outstanding gifts forget about “making a living playing poker”?

As said, the above poker all-time money ranking database is based on only live tournament results, namely the earnings of the tournament pros. Meaning it doesn’t include any money in online poker games which are cash games or tournaments without “live”. This is where online poker players usually wager their money to win or lose.

The biggest difference between Poker and Tennis (or many other activities we described esoterically) is the existence of the online real money competition market where anyone at all levels can play.

So, let’s try to identify how much top poker players earn from online poker rooms. It’s often said that only less than 30% of the total players make money in the long run.

Please bear in mind that the purpose of this calculation here is just examining the feeling of the magnitude of the market & win with a ballpark number.

This means the accuracy of the number is not our priority since we are mixing up apples & oranges for the data sources (we use H2GC, Edison, EBGR, Statista, GVC Annual Report &, etc.) & the periods as well as using our bald guesswork, just FYI.

poker market size in europe


The global betting and gaming market amounted to £347bn in gross gaming revenues (GGR) in 2018, of which £40bn (11% of the total) was online.

Poker accounts for around 5%, which means £2bn ($2.6bn).

GGR in poker is brought mainly by the poker room’s rake + tournament fee, so assuming these are 20% (use the very high side) of the total bets, the players’ wagered amounts would be $2.6bn / 20% = $13bn.  However, unregulated online gambling in the US is obviously huge. American Gambling Association (AGA) said;

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates that Americans will wager more than $10 billion on the upcoming 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Of that $10 billion, only about $300 million – or three percent – will be wagered legally through Nevada sports books.

Americans illegally bet at least $150 billion annually on sports, empowered by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a failed federal prohibition on single-game sports betting. Illegal wagering is often done through bookies, on illegal offshore websites, or through sports pools like popular March Madness® basketball bracket pools.

This means, 97% of sports betting is bet underground. However, “The Conversation” also warns of AGA’s estimate by implying the hidden market size would be less than 50% of AGA’s estimate. Anyhow, the most popular Poker country in the world is the US, so Poker can be a similar situation.


federally appointed commission reported a range of estimated illegal sports betting handle between $80 billion to $380 billion, with GGR of $4.8 to $22.8 billion.

The estimation has quite a wide range, the most aggressive estimate is 4.75X of the most conservative one. So, let our estimate be the most conservative by $13bn / 3% x 50% / 4.75 = = $46bn could be the total wagered pool.

Given the assumption that 30% of the players are said to be profitable, 3 million regulars are sharing this $46bn pot – 20% poker room fee = $37bn, which can be calculated as $12,300/player/year, or $1,025/player/month.


Making a living playing poker cash games


How much you need to live is a relative term. Minimum wage widely varies by each country as below;minimum wage world mapping

For the US, the minimum wage is $15,000/year ($7.25/hour), so our estimated $12,300/player/year earning from online poker must, if not impossible, impose an extremely tough frugal life.

The work-together couple could be manageable unless your partner complains but once you get a child, it would be almost impossible.

Remember, $12,300/player/year or $1,025/player/month is the average profit among the top 30% of players, so even if you can consistently win, the final earnings could be lower because the top-notch grinders must take much of the total pot.

In any case, being a full-time poker player seems to be a very hard way to make an easy living.

If you happen to reside in the US, suggest accessing the 8 Best US Online Poker Sites for Real Money.




Playing Online Poker for a Living – Suggestion


poker grinder


Consider online Poker Earnings as a Side Income


The above verification makes us suggest that we should make money from online poker on the side rather than solely rely on it for a living.

Some of you may think being in the top 30% of poker players online would be a daunting task because poker still involves a lot of luck in the short run. However, in reality, the majority of online players are amateur and with a few skill edges & the right approach, it may not be as difficult as you imagine.

Actually, it takes 5 minutes to learn how to play poker and there is a huge number of spillovers from sportsbooks & casinos into poker rooms and those players just want to spend casino winning money with no serious intention to win poker.

Playing with such players is absolutely enjoyable (I talk in full detail about how to locate those fish in 9 Softest Online Poker Sites – Latest List to Prey Fish).

The earning we estimated doesn’t include any promotions (bonuses & rake-back etc) that online poker sites constantly offer, so the additions of these regular offers will help you make the second income stream better. BTW, when it comes to poker bonus hunting, check the Complete Guide to Online Poker Bonus Hunting for Dummies

So, making $1,000 from online poker each month can be a practically achievable target and we should consider it as a side income – see how to do it Later


Poker Additional Benefits


The tangible benefit of keep playing poker is making money, but you can also expect intangible poker benefits as below;

Investing Skill

The connection between poker skills and investing skills is already well-proven. Let me quote the article “Could poker make you a better investor?”, which is based on SSRN Research Paper;

Good poker skills certainly seem to help if you’re a hedge fund manager. A new study, Hedge Fund Hold’em, has found hedge fund managers who do well in poker tournaments enjoy significantly better fund returns. “This effect is stronger for tournaments with more entrants, larger buy-ins, larger cash prizes and for managers who win multiple tournaments,” the study notes, “suggesting poker skills are correlated with fund management skills.”

Is it possible the hedge fund managers in the sample are simply big gamblers who got lucky, or that they were rewarded for taking extra risk? No – managers who played poker “are not more risk-seeking than their non-player counterparts”. Quite simply, the results show “skilled poker players are, on average, better fund managers”.

Vanessa Selbst, the only woman poker player ranked GPI (Global Poker Index) No.1 joined Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund;

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst – Example of correlation between poker & fund mgmt skill

The article also said;

Most things in life – including investing – are like poker, not chess. It is a “game of incomplete information”, of “decision-making under conditions of uncertainty”; important information “remains hidden” and there is “an element of luck in any outcome”.

Luck can allow a hopeless poker player to go on a winning streak, just as a clueless investor can make a bundle by getting lucky on a speculative stock.

So, poker seems to be “the best off-time activity to improve investing skills”.

Finally, for those who think the easy way, the below quote from the same article is usefully supported by this article;

Instead of learning poker skills, couldn’t investors simply invest in funds headed by skilled poker players? Alas, no – the aforementioned study found such hedge funds underperform following big poker wins.

The connection between poker skill and investing skill is well known, so money tends to flood into such funds following high-profile tournament wins. Size hurts investment performance; as Warren Buffett often points out, it’s a lot easier to be nimble and to make big bucks if you’re managing millions rather than billions. Thus, it’s too late to buy into a fund after a big poker victory.

Brain Health

Poker can sharpen your brain.

Poker Night Benefit Save the Date Alzheimers Association

The poker tournament is regularly used by the Alzheimer association

Let me quote the below from the blog related to the new research released by Dr Jeffrey Cummings, a leading researcher in the field of Alzheimer’s disease;

Playing poker is a great way to drastically decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s and other brain-related diseases, typically associated with old age, by 50% or even more.

Dr. Cummings references a French study from 2009 in his research. In the French study, 5,000 elderly individuals played various games that stimulate mental activity. Poker was one of the games in the study and it proved itself to be one of the most effective when it comes to combating Alzheimer’s disease.

So, are you ready to pursue an Online Poker extra income journey?


USD 1,000 Monthly Extra Income Standard Model


You can make over $1,000 every month from online poker cash games without being a professional poker player but with proper commitments & the right strategies.

We have separately prepared the guide “Make $1,000 a Month from Online Poker Cash Games Specific Instruction” where you find the following contents;

  • Model to Earn USD 1,000 / Month Playing Online Poker
  • 3 Assumptions Behind Online Poker USD 1,000 Earning
  • 4 KPIs to Achieve Online Poker USD 1,000 Earning
  • Target Model for Online Poker USD 1,000 Earning
  • 5 Successful Tactics for USD 1,000 Monthly Extra Income
  • (1) Master Basics
  • (2) Locating Fish
  • (3) Exploit Bonus
  • (4) Multi Tabling
  • (5) Tilt Control
  • Make USD 1,000 a Month Playing Online Poker Conclusion

Besides, you need to know where to play online poker for money & the easiest poker game to make money, then you get the info from “Softest Online Poker Sites – Latest List to Prey Fish



Best Crypto Poker List Wrap Up


Online Gambling & Poker Future Forecast


According to Grand View Research, the global online gambling market size was valued at $48.52 billion in 2018 and is expected to register a CAGR of 11.5% from 2019 to 2025 as shown below;us gambling market evolution by category

Let me quote some comments from this research;

Online gambling can be considered a global activity both in terms of technological and organizational viewpoints. The increased development of new technologies such as virtual reality and blockchain is also driving the growth of the online gambling industry.

This may be attributed to the fact that several companies are now integrating blockchain technology into their online gambling business. 

This helps them ensure transparency in gambling activities and offers an enhanced user experience. In addition, blockchain-based gambling platforms are completely decentralized and free of third-party influence.Grand View Research

(For this particular point, see List of Best Blockchain Casinos – Provably Fair Bitcoin Games)

Obviously, the online poker industry is also predicted to hefty growth globally with mushrooming of crypto poker sites, which means we can expect a lot of influx of newcomers (fishes).


You don’t have to be the top shining poker tournament pros such as Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth & Fedor Holz, but make a decent income on the side from online poker cash games while improving your investment ability & keeping your brain active.

Then, the below best Poker Tracking Software will be very useful for you to improve poker skills constantly;

holden manager logo

Since: 2007 (one of the HUD pioneers)

License: Lifetime up to 3 PCs

Feature: Easy to install / Multi-language support

Support Sites: 12 Major Poker Sites + Free Hand Grabber

Price: $100 for the most popular package (see a full price list)

Payment: Card, PayPal, Neteller& BTC

Offer: 15 Days Free Trial

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Note: With all the features of Full stats (customizable to make the feed less cumbersome), In-depth analysis (adjustable based on skill level) & Post Game Analysis (focusing on your core skills by finding your leaks) make HM3 the best HUD for Beginner/Casual Players (Active forum is available).


Lastly, if you play also sports betting and use cryptocurrencies, suggest taking a look at the List of Best Bitcoin Sports Betting Bookmakers, and Stake regularly offers Risk-Free bets. 


Besides, in case you want to be a sharp casino & game bonus hunter, strongly suggest taking a look at the List of 52 Best Bitcoin Casino Bonuses and for those who appreciate the highest privacy, go to the List of Best Anonymous Bitcoin Casinos & Bonuses, just FYI.



Good Luck!!


Joshua Walker (bio)

Editor – Global Extra Money (GEM)


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