Poker is different from other hobbies because it has the potential to be more than a hobby if you are good enough. Some people dream of becoming professionals, while others see it as a way to make a living.

It is important to first understand the realities of a career in poker. This transition has its advantages and disadvantages. As a former professional player and instructor over the past five years, I'd like to share my perspective on this crucial life-decision.

Pro: Doing what you love

As a teenager, and as a young adult, I had to work a number of low-wage jobs. It was really hard to get up from your bed and do something that wasn't meaningful or fulfilling. For me, the idea of stacking shelves for eight hour was a mixture of dread and futility. Because I was determined to make poker my career, I worked as hard as I could to avoid being stuck in a job that made me question my decision. It was my answer to a complete lack of direction in professional life. All of my life, I have been playing games. I have been a gamer all my life. It's like saying you can be a child forever and making a career of it. You get punched in your face every time you encounter bad variance.

Con: Stress, Insecurity and Variance

My early twenties' dead-end jobs had one thing in common: the assurance that I would get my monthly pay-check. My first year as a professional was not the best. I didn't have a book-sales or coaching business so I had to rely on the tides not to rip me apart at the tables. I said'relied' because I didn't have the mental game experience necessary to deal with a huge downswing that occurred in my first year. You can feel anxiety and pressure if you work hard at your game and put in 40+ hours per week at the tables to make it through two months of a downswing. Doubts about how you can pull it off suddenly become major demons. Poker can become your worst nightmare, and it becomes impossible to go to work in order to cool down 12 more times. The good news is that if you're a successful player, there will be a new upswing. You have to make sure you don't fall apart while you wait. Variance can lead to stress. This is a natural part of a healthy person-being. If you choose to become a professional, don't neglect your mental game. You will need it.


It is incredible to be able take off when you wish. It is liberating to not have anyone scolding you while working. It is satisfying to be the one setting your own deadlines. Being productive and focused? Spend more time with your family. Feeling sluggish? Take a break and take a nap. You can always come back later. This control over your work hours is an absolute luxury. It is my favorite part about a poker career. Poker gives you the freedom to travel to play live, or to go away to the country for eight hours per day to work on your game. Although the game can become repetitive at times, it is not impossible to enjoy the freedom of poker full-time. For those who lack willpower, too much freedom can be a problem. This is a mental skill that must be developed daily in this field of work.

Con: Fierce Competition, Instability

Professional game play is so fast that you could lose a lot of your win-rate if you don't study for even one month. It's no surprise that even those who aren't naturally gifted can play semi-competent games thanks to the abundance of information available. The professional's advantage is much lower than in the glory days, when all you needed to win was a brain with a computer. Long-term uncertainty is a problem in such a competitive environment. In three years, will I be able beat the games? What happens if online poker is banned or taxed so much that I can't profit? If you don't make a lot and are at the top of the game there will be some uncertainty about turning professional. Although you won't get a comfortable state pension or guaranteed career advancement from poker, this is the price for freedom.


Professional poker players trade long-term stability and guaranteed monthly income in exchange for freedom to follow their passion. Although I've never regretted choosing poker over a traditional career, it is not a bad way to make a living. Even if you don't quit your day job, building those skills can be an enjoyable challenge. Top Poker Pros & Cons