The penny is beginning to drop for many wannabe pros that maybe, just maybe they haven’t got what it takes to quit their day job. Discovering that grinding out a living playing online or going around the live tournament circuit is hard work – quelle surprise.
All round nice guy Jon Aguir recently announced that he is retiring from professional poker poker to join Boston based FantasyDraft. This will come as no surprise to many professionals on the circuit as they are also looking for a chance to drop out of the all to risky career.
Read the Jon Aguir interview with Lee Davy at Calvin Ayre HERE – Well worth the read
Like professional sportsman, a modern day poker pro potentially has a limited career lifespan and you have to plan accordingly.
For a sportsman it’s simply that your body at 30 isn’t going to give you the competitive edge it did in your prime. For the poker player it’s likely that grind, the hours and the insecurity will get the better of you – like it or not poker is 70% skill but that still leaves 30% luck.
For a pro playing the circuit with the horrendous overheads, getting on the right side of that 30% luck is vital. It can mean the difference between recognition with some level of financial security or obscurity and the constant need to look for a stake and another chance at hitting the big score.
Even Winners Gamble
You only have to look at Daniel Negreanu’s (widely regarded as one of the most successful pro’s) costs to win ratio to see even winning players are taking a huge gamble. The constant need to cash in order to keep ahead of the costs of buy-ins, travel and expenses.
He recently showed in his video blog costs of somewhere in the region of $900,000 for a year on the circuit and wins just marginally behind that.
OK so Negreanu isn’t staying in the Premiere Inn but even so the tournament cost alone can be running at 100’s of thousands a year.
That’s fine if you can consistently bring in the decent wins but hopes and dreams are no guarantee of victory.
And don’t think that playing online solves all the overheads issue, while you can sit in your boxers without worrying about hotel bookings you still have the buy-ins.
A recent example by pro Jamie Burland might put him entering 36 tournaments over a night on the weekend totaling $4k in buy-ins.
Winning $20k in one night for a profit of $16k from 8 out of 36 cashes may seem great but crucially only one big win of $14k made the bulk of the profit.
Now just think about that for a minute – without that single win he would have made a much more marginal $2k profit. And don’t forget many nights even +ev pro’s will be shelling out $4k in buy-ins without a return. Day in day out they will pay to break even / marginal win with the expectation to hit a $16k “payday” making up for the drought of wins running up to it.
All this adds up to a huge gamble for professional players – even winning ones.
Time For A Reality Check
For some wannabee pro’s and self proclaimed professionals the reality hits that ma theybe huge win isn’t coming anytime soon. For those that have already won big, that it’s not going to sustain them through to the next big win.
When you see genuinely winning players like Jon Aguir quitting you get a sense that many players really shouldn’t be assigning themselves “pro” status in the basis of a couple of decent wins here or there.
For many they are just on the right side of variance, on a heater or plain and simply kidding themselves that they’re more profitable than they are –
That’s basically just being a degen gambler who’s “vice” is poker rather than the horses. You might not realize it but ultimately your just another “sucker” at the table if you have an inflated view of your own skills and success.
A recreational player may have a handful of cashes to their name and consider themselves nothing more than a keen amateur on a decent enough run and have no desire to risk it all and play the circuit – That is a healthy outlook.
A deluded “pro” may boast 10 times the cashes but if that has taken a small fortune in buy-in’s to achieve with little if any real profit, are they really a pro player ?
While poker is inherently a game of skill unlike most other forms of gambling, that is only the case when you can leverage a significant skill advantage over your competition while also keeping a tight handle on what it’s costing you to get those wins.
Back to Enjoying the Game
While poker will always be a skill game their is one simple way to make it less of a do or die game – remove the NEED to make a living solely from poker.
There are simply too many players (including good players) who are trying to make poker their living rather than making it a lucrative hobby.
Back in the day even profitable professional poker players maintained some pretense of a non gambling profession if only to keep the taxman (and the wife) happy.
Perspective from Faraz “the toilet” Jaka
While writing this post I also came across the first part of a really insightful piece by poker pro Faraz Jaka who is quite definately a long term winning player but highlights the realities of being a winning pro on the circuit, staking and just how much of a million dollar win a player will net after settling stakes, tax and expenses.
The oft quoted business saying “turnover is vanity, profit is sanity” equally applies to real poker – apparent fortunes being won looking at gross cashes v the reality of net profit after all the costs.