The recent poker boom, spurned on by television coverage of tournament poker, as well as the ability to play online, has introduced the world to a new career path: that of the professional poker player. Players such as Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan, and others have become true media superstars. And from watching these tournaments, where thousands of dollars are at stake based on the turn of a card, many see poker as the road to a life of riches, thrills, and glory.
But the reality of professional poker is far different. Indeed, there are many people, including myself, either sole playing for a living or supplementing their income by playing cards. But you'll never see most of us under the lights of the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour. While a select few do make money solely from playing the large buy-in poker tournaments, the vast majority are grinding out a few dollars per hour in the cash games. And with the advent of online poker a new type of professional has arisen: the online multi-table pro.
For those of you not familiar, in online poker it is indeed possible to play more than one table at a time. Most of the top online professional poker players do so. The number of tables one can play is limited by the individual poker sites, but it is not uncommon for one player to play eight, twelve or even sixteen games at once, often spread across multiple sites, limits, or even different games. For example, I personally like to play a mix of four to six sit and go tournaments (a type of online tournament involving five to ten players that lasts around an hour) and four to six no limit hold'em cash games. The benefit of playing many games at once is fairly obvious: if one is a winner at one table, why not play ten more and win at those too?
There are thousands of poker players out there making a living doing just this, at broadly varying stakes. While in the past, it was necessary to play for a reliably large amount of money to simply pay the bills, these days someone can play games as low as $ .50 / $ 1 blind no limit hold'em and make far more than what is possible in most vocations. Sincemore, since lower stakes games require a smaller starting bankroll to be successful, professional poker has become a very accessible goal for many young hopefuls. If one is willing to put in long hours in the smallest stakes games, it is certainly possible to start a poker career from as little as $ 1000.
Still, most fail in their dream of gambling for a living. The rake, a fee taken out of each pot by the online poker sites, ensures that only about ten percent of all players win over the long run. Only the most talented, dedicated, and disciplined players rise to the level of being able to play professionally. And given their intelligence and skills, many of them would have far wealthier had they chosen to pursue other fields. But professional poker, especially when played online, offers something that most jobs can not: the ability to choose your own hours, be your own boss, and know that over the long run, your success is based only on your own ability.