In recent years there has been a real boom in the number of players taking up poker all round the world and Australia’s no exception. In fact this year’s World Series of Poker event in Las Vegas attracted a record attendance of over 107,000 entrants with the best performing Aussie being Melbourne’s Martin Kozlov who won cash in no less than seven events.
But the road to becoming a successful professional like Kozlov is by no means an easy one and, just because you may be a talented amateur who regularly wins in the casino or online, there’s no guarantee that you’ve got what it takes to make a living from the game.
In fact, as the infographic below shows, although around 25% of players do make money in the long run just 10% make enough to go professional and make at least $50,000 a year. Obviously, making a full time living from poker does require a certain dedication and the more hands you play, the higher the chances of winning. In fact one Australian pro who talked to the New York Post about his lifestyle claimed to have to play up to 400 hours per month when things weren’t going too well just to get ahead of his losses.
It’s also widely agreed that to make a living it’s important to enter real tournaments as well as online games and this brings its own set of pressures. For example, it often means extensive travel with all the disruption to family and social life that this can bring, not to mention having to cover hotel costs with any winnings you make. Combine this with the long hours you need to spend at the table and it soon becomes obvious that striking the perfect work-life balance can be hard.
Having said this, if you’ve got what it takes to become a poker pro the earnings you can potentially make compare very favourably with many other professional sports people in Australia. For example, the average salary for a jockey is just $44,000 and for a soccer player it’s $70,000. It’s only when you get into sports like Aussie Rules and cricket that the money starts to skyrocket to the levels that only the most successful pro poker players could hope to earn.
However with these kinds of high-earning sports you also have to factor in the relatively short span of a career which tends to end in the mid to late 30s – an age at which many poker players have many more years ahead of them.
That’s not to deny that it does take a very special skill-set to make it in poker, not to mention substantial financial reserves to see you through the inevitable losing streaks. So anyone seriously contemplating a life at the poker table should really think long and hard before giving up that regular pay-check.