How to Not Be a Poker Pro

by , Dec 21, 2007 | 4:16 am

On Tilt sent me an email inquiring about what it really took to play poker for a living. I was happy to answer, it being the holidays and all. And because Dan is withholding my Christmas bonus on the grounds that I don’t post enough, I thought I’d share our conversation with the educated readers of Pokerati who probably have given some thought to the same question:

From: Tom Schneider
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 7:03 PM
To: ‘on tilt’
Subject: RE: it’s your favorite nuisance…

Hey OT,

You are in a similar position that I was many years ago. Good results, but no place to play, and playing too small to make a real living. In order to think that you could make a living playing poker, I think you need to test yourself at limits that would allow you to live the same or better than what you’re used to. In other words, if you make $50,000 per year, that’s about $25 per hour. You are going to need to play at least 10-20 limit or, I would say 5-10 NL. I think many people make the mistaken assumption that winning at 1-2 translates into winning at 5-10 and higher etc. I even find myself sometimes taking 1 month of good results and interpolating 12 good months and wow, I’m rich. I believe that you need to keep detailed records until you have the equivalent of at least 6 months of full time work, i.e. 1,000 hours at the table.

I hope this helps

—–Original Message—–
From: [on tilt]
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 4:24 PM
To: tom schneider
Subject: it’s your favorite nuisance…

On Tilt…remember me.

I hate to bother you. I really do. But you are the closest thing to an authority with a proven track record that I can ask.

So basically, I’ve already convinced myself that I could play cards for a living. But i have two things holding me back.

1. Bankroll. poker is essentially a part time job for me, and I partly live off of the money I make playing….so the bankroll is not growing. and between current job and family, I don’t get out to play cards enough to get ahead.

2. There aren’t any games big enough around here that make consistantly that would support doing it for a living. oh yeah, I limit almost exclusively when playing cash games at casino’s or local rooms.

well i think most of that was irrelevant. i made a post on a local forum, and someone suggested that i email you and ask your opinion…so here I am.

i’ll include a link to the post. i don’t expect you to post there, but if you have time to take a look, i would love to hear your thoughts.

oh yeah, just a little warning. the core group that post there have all become pretty good friends. don’t be alarmed by any derogatory banter or hazing you might encounter there.

here’s the link.

thank you for your time

on tilt

6 Comments to “How to Not Be a Poker Pro”

  1. on tilt

    here is another question for you.

    since I began tracking my all of my live play, there is a particular stat that I find interesting…and somewhat reassuring.

    in my live cash game play, my winning percentage of sessions is right at 60%. for me, this has been a huge eye opener since i’m averaging close to 2 big bets an hour overall. I’ve learned not to beat myself up over the bad sessions and to really look at the long term results.

    a couple notes on the winning percentage. most of the wins are good and the losses are minimal in most cases. plus, due to mostly roadtrips to OK from dallas after work, most of the sessions are only 4 or 5 hours in length. i think i lot of these session could be turned into winning session if i didn’t have to leave sooner than i would want to.

    i didn’t realize how many sessions i had actually lost until after i was looking at how well my hourly rate and overall profits were doing. it kinda shocked me, but again it solidified that it was a long term process. at this point in my so called poker “career”, i don’t even think twice about the losses anymore as long as i can look back at it and know that i played well.

    sorry, my question was….do you think 40% is too high a percentage of losing sessions?

    granted, there are a lot of short sessions and i certainly don’t have 1000 hrs of data compiled. but as a general rule, what do you think?

    again, thanks for the response.

  2. Tom Schneider

    I haven’t seen the data that you are talking about, but I do have some comments.

    The fact that you are winning 2 big bets an hour with a 60% winning rate tells me that you are avoiding big losses. Big losses kill your hourly rate more than anything. So, you should be proud of the fact that you have kept those to a minimum. In fact, otherwise winning players are losers because of their inability to get up from the table with a losing session. Once in a while, I fall prey to this same mistake. So, good job on that.

    As far as the 60% rate, I think, but don’t know, that if you are playing primarily no-limit, I would expect that your winning percentage would be lower since one hand can ruin your whole night. The fact that you are quitting because you have other commitments (job) says that you are more in control than most gamblers. I think that having to drive long distances to play, after you have already spent a long day at work makes winning even more difficult. In fact, I dedicated a chapter in my book about making sure that you have a mental checklist that indicates if now is a good time to play. That process improved my winning percentage.

    To answer your question, I wouldn’t be so worried about your winning % given the info that you have provided. Keep up the good work and see if you can move up in limits. I know it’s risky, but you need to be tested. I hope you pass.

  3. Jbonemalone

    I’ll say it again:

    i’m drunk and i’m gonna say it


    Happy Holidays

  4. DanM

    We love you, too, drunk-ass blog reader.

    Keep on drinkin’!

  5. Robert Goldfarb


    Don’t be offended by DanM’s response to your post as there is a good chance he was drunk at the time of his writing.

  6. Chris Rebuy

    Dear On Tilt,

    Congrats on curbing your losses. Stick to the day job, rest up for the drive, and know that AK is still a drawing hand… even if it’s suited.

    – Rebuy