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Poker, the future and a general look at the game from a professional standpoint

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How profitable is poker as a game, what should we really be thinking about before we get into this as a career, where is it heading for us and what is really obtainable?

People get into the game of poker for a variety of reasons but for this entry I'm just here to talk about my thoughts on the pro community and evaluate poker from a income and cost perspective as well as whether people should be doing this for a living and some of the factors that should shape where you go as a future.

 

Poker comes with its costs as well as its advantages

Advantages include

  • Freedom
  • Unlimited working hours if you wish
  • Reasonable earning potential (up to 500k a year)
  • Freedom to work from any location with an internet connection

 

However when we look at the disadvantages

  • Requires often mind numbing high volume to get good results
  • Stressful
  • Non-consistent form of income
  • At the higher stakes players are at times unsure whether they are even profitable
  • A very isolated lifestyle where nobody particularly cares about your sucesses but you
  • Opportunity cost
  • Entry barrier

The freedom of poker is beautiful in the respect that its very flexible and allows us to choose our working days, but for those who are higher up in the earning brackets they will tell you the opposite, players like myself who are looking to achieve Super Nova Elite do not have super flexible time schedules and often find ourselves grinding through many weekends and towards the end of the year if we are slack or had a vacation at any point doing 14 hour days trying to catch pace.

Along with that comes the ability to work as many hours as we want essentially giving us the opportunity to decide to an extent our own wages. Every game that we play has an earnings cap based on our personal skill level or the ranges of obtainable ROI's in the respective games but the hours have no bar and if there's a new car we want to buy we can just choose to double our hours and put in the extra work where as people with regular jobs are often handcuffed in that respect.

As far as the earning potential goes the days of the party poker era are over and to hear of players having million dollar swings or winning 100k in a weekend to dump it the next is almost unheard of now. Every game is reasonably structured with a hierarchy of dominant to mediocre regs who force the weak regs down limits in a battle for superiority and profit. And to make it to the top of any given heirachy takes an ungodly amount of hard work and talent.

Most professionals last year i imagine made between 20k to 120k for a full year of grinding if they were running at expected value. And the % of professionals making over 100k + per year would be a very low number. This is often the part that surprises me the most, when regulars are grinding 45k a year online with huge swings instead of just picking up a standard regular job that offers a steady income, future promotional opportunities and actually gives them life skills to set themselves up in future their given area they want to progress into.

In my opinion at least I see every grinder with an expiration date, the games will evolve and laws will come and go but what is more important is our physical and mental wellbeing and how that will change in the coming years in relation to how we go about poker. As I write this I'm 21 going on 22 and can capably 18 table 6max turbos but when i hit the age of 30 I expect my capabilities to drop down to 12 tables. I expect the game will have taken a toll and my passion will have diminished at least a bit  (I still love the game personally after thousands of hours over 3 years but in 8 years I will not know if I can answer the same). This means my earning potential is expected to diminish unless I move up to higher stakes. What I am trying to get across here is that poker as a career has a graph that curves as opposed to grows in a beautiful upward trend for earnings. And it's something i need to take into consideration for my future. Being left with no major skills besides a partially finished university degree and X amount of dollars may not be the wisest path I could go down in comparison to finishing the degree, learning the ropes of my given career line then eventually creating my own firm with others.

Another and more interesting topic to the game is the evolving difficulty and entry barrier. Recently I was asked by a friend to take on a new horse for low limits and train him up to a level that he can earn a decent income himself. But it got me thinking about how the times have changed, due to the difficulty of the games increasing its actually very hard now for new professionals to enter the line of work. For example if 12bb/100 was obtainable once (*note that's just a random figure not actually sure what is or isn't obtainable) in 10NL when somebody was starting out and 5bb/100 is proportionately the same difficulty to obtain with the same hours of study then that given new entrant is only earning a measly $5 per hour if they're managing 1k hands 4tabling zoom. Due to the lower limits getting much harder it means that in order to actually accomplish something as simple as earning minimum wage (in my country i believe its $15) a player may have to grind for 6 months to 18 months depending how fast they are at mastering the basics of the game just to accomplish what they could have gotten straight away at any low level entry job. From there up they must battle at every point to increase their hourly from 25nl+.

Now this has its upsides and downsides. Many pros claim that the games will get so hard that the profitability will drop and people will have significantly worse hourly's then what we do now. I personally believe in the invisible hand theory and an equilibrium. If the games become too unprofitable then regs will drop out and change into different career lines. If the games get super tough it will mean that new regs have such a hard time breaking into the games that they will often just give up and through the games own difficulty create a sort of protective barrier that protects its current professional player pool from being overpopulated.

A big dependant in my opinion on whether poker is a viable income for you is hugely dependant on where you live. For example if I lived in a country where the average income was much lower or job stability was poor then I would be far more inclined to play poker as comparatively the risk is not as bad. Whereas if I lived in a country such as Australia where the average wage is high I might consider just taking a regular skilled job and utilizing the great economy to  set myself up. Why would I want to grind hundreds of hours online for 80k a year when I could take a job  that gives me the same wage with no massive capital and emotional swings and has an expected curve in my future potential?

Entering into poker with no savings for backup can also be a recipe for disaster being that the games are very swingy and players have to force themselves to learn how to save money when they win to not blow their roll. When I began poker I was a broke high school student on a backing deal, I had no life expenses and poker in general was softer back then. Had I entered now I would have just given up due to the time it took me to get here and my life expenses would have eaten my profit so fast I could not justify playing this game as a profession living paycheck to paycheck so to speak.

All these points here have applications in backing people as well as far as the type of person you back all these factors should most definitely be considered. The answers will greatly impact the % chance of the person you intend to back scamming you or giving up while in makeup or asking for loans to cover life costs.

 

Finally poker in itself is a very very isolating and at times morally questionable job. You only speak to people over Skype often in text form, and outside of seeing family and friends I often find myself feeling a form of social skill regression whereby I forget to function as well as I can with random strangers and friends alike. The isolation isn't that big of a deal to me as I'm naturally an introverted and enjoy solitude as it  gives me time to contemplate things. will like. One thing I personally battle with is that I have no social worth to my community  doing what I'm doing. I'm helping nobody and only contribute by paying GST on the stuff i buy. Even if only 3 people read this entry I feel I have accomplished more writing this then playing 50,000 sngs and raking in 80k

Like TheDrunkLife said in one of his awesome video blogs (i recommend watching them) nobody cares about you. Nobody cares if you had a bad beat of X vs Y, nobody cares if you're on a 50k downswing. This games a very selfish isolating but unique and skillful cocktail that only some will enjoy in the long run.

 

 

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