Can You Make A Living From Live Tournament Poker?

Dollar in keyboard

For many of us aspiring top level poker professionals out there, we see the top players living the life that we dream of. They travel the world, win lots of money and live a life that we can only assume is luxury. However, these are the world’s elite players playing at stakes we can only dream of reaching. So what does this mean for the average tournament grinder? Is it really possible to earn a good living from poker?

According to Darrel Plant, it is not.

In a very in-depth blog over at Deadspin he delves into the numbers to show that even making a modest living that is close to the minimum wage is a very hard task indeed. He starts by comparing the 25% ROI that Chris Moorman records online in the higher stakes events to what a player looking to earn just $10k a month at the lower stakes.

“So lets say you’re almost as good as Chris Moorman, and that your expected annual ROI is 25%. For every four dollars you put into tournament buy-ins, you make a dollar in profit. If you want to make $10,000 (in the long run), you need to play $40,000 worth of tournaments. Of course, $10,000 isn’t really enough to live on. Maybe you’d be more comfortable with $60,000. That’s $10,000 above the median household income in the US. It’s not partying-with-Devonshire-and-Moorman kind of money, but there’s a little extra in there to account for travel expenses and something to keep you warm in a cold tournament room.

Whilst to some even being able to play poker for a minimum wage might appeal, the amount of effort and risk that goes into might make them think twice.

“To make $60K with a 25% ROI, you need to play tournaments with a combined buy-in of $240,000. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars of buy-ins each year in order to make what is a little above average income in the US.

If that sounds like a lot of money, it is. It’s also a lot of poker playing. $240,000 of tournament entries per year is $20,000 of tournament entries each month, or about $5,000 per week for 48 weeks of the year (with four weeks off for good behavior). $1,000 per day, five days a week, if you want a weekend.

What you also have to consider is that the top pros will have sponsorships and endorsements, something that your regular grinder will most likely never have. Plant’s blog post goes so much deeper than we can show you here but it really is an eye-opener for the average grinder with big aspirations.


@pokercouk Headline's a little misleading. I don't say it's impossible to just play live tournaments and make a living, just that it's hard.