The last couple of years has changed the employment landscape for a lot of people. Many have been laid off through the lockdown periods and for those lucky enough to keep their jobs, working online from home became the new normal for many white-collar workers.
This has led to some re-evaluating their living situations and what they want from their careers. As big-city rents climb ever higher and online infrastructure improves across rural areas, it could be tempting to ditch the office altogether. We’ve looked previously at how to find freelance writing jobs but there are all sorts of online options now, from blogging to tutoring to recruitment. A less conventional, but perhaps alluring, path is online poker. It’s estimated there are roughly 120 million poker players globally, and with over 4.5 billion people now having a regular internet connection, that number is only set to swell.
But can the average Joe make money like a pro?
Is it legal?
Whether you’re permitted to play online poker for real money stakes depends very much on where in the world you are, or plan to be. Europe permits online casino gaming almost universally and makes up the market’s biggest player at around 22%. Canada and Australia are both on board with online poker, India has state regulations (but not federal, which means in reality, poker sites can operate across the country) and some countries like Indonesia have banned online poker domestically but don’t stop players from accessing poker sites based overseas. As of April 2022, only five states in the US have legalized online gambling – so building a career in online poker would be reliant on being located in NJ, NV, PA, DE or MI. While sports betting has been federally legalized by the Supreme Court in May 2018, many states have dragged their heels – Ohio, for example, only overturned its state ban on sports betting in December 2021 and won’t have infrastructure until 2023. Online poker may be a way away in much of America for some time yet.
Is there skill in poker?
We may be familiar with watching televised poker tourneys where the commentators will wax lyrical about the personalities and playing habits of professionals, but primarily, poker is a game of math. This applies even more so in online poker where we’re not physically at a table to observe if a player has certain movements, tics or gestures – “tells” – where they may subconsciously reveal how excited they are (or otherwise) about the hand they’re holding or building. Internet poker is primarily a game of playing your own cards, rather than against the opposition, and while there is software to help players calculate the likelihood of certain hands coming out and their chances of winning (pot odds), the online game is much faster paced than it’s live equivalent. A successful online player needs to be both skilful and sharp.
The popular image of poker is the high-rolling Vegas card room, or perhaps the million-dollar pots of the World Series Of Poker tournament. Players starting in online poker are wowed by the story of Chris Moneymaker, a Tennessee accountant who entered an online WSOP qualifier for $86, won an invite to the Vegas finals and scooped the $2.5 million first prize. However, his story is exceptional because it is the exception. While it’s true that the numbers of online players have boomed over the pandemic period, there are a lot of people chasing dreams. The very richest poker players earn tens of millions, however much of that comes from the opportunities their celebrity buys them. Phil Ivey supplements his tourney winnings with media and commentary work while Phil Hellmuth writes books, does extensive poker consultancy work and never saw a sponsorship deal he didn’t like. The reality for most is that without a big starting bankroll, the best way of accumulating money in online poker is by grinding on multiple low-value tables simultaneously and burning the candle at both ends, timing when different countries finish work and start to play. It’s grueling. Then there’s the issue of finding tables with less experienced players rather than players who are a legitimate threat to your chip stack. It’s tough. Can it be a job? Possibly. Can it be a lucrative one? Probably not unless one relocates to a country with a very low cost of living where smaller wins can furnish a lifestyle.
Chris Moneymaker’s World Series Of Poker win came all the way back in 2003 – in online poker’s infancy – yet is still spoken of in hushed, revered tones. Everyone loves a rags to riches story. That there aren’t Chris Moneymakers every year should indicate that while online poker can be fun – and perhaps a way to boost some income should one be good enough – aspiring to a career in poker should be approached with much caution and even more research.