Poker is unique among casino games in that you’re playing against the other people at the table rather than the house. So, if you’re better than most of the folks at your table the odds actually favor you winning money. Of course the opposite is also true — if you’re the worst player at the table you’re guaranteed to lose.
When I’m in Vegas, I usually hit the $1/$2 (or $1/$3) no limit Texas Hold’em tables for a few hours. This is the lowest-stakes version of the game, and theoretically it attracts the least-skilled players. I only play two or three times a year, but I usually manage to hold my own.
But recently I’ve noticed that more seats at the low stakes tables are being filled by full time poker players. These are typically guys that started playing online and got so addicted to the game that they’ve moved to Vegas to “turn pro”. Last night, for example, I sat down at a table of 9 players. At least two of them (the ones on each side of me) were full time poker players. Another five were what I’d call hard core poker enthusiasts — they still have a day job but play poker every day. That leaves room for two “recreational” players (a.k.a. “tourists”), with me being one of them.
I started talking to the pro on my right and he said that he plays about 30,000 hands a month. If you do this math, the only way that’s even possible is if you play multiple online tables at once plus a ton of “live” poker. Basically, these guys spend every waking moment playing poker. But he said he loves every minute of it and makes around $100k a year (mostly tax free) in winnings.
There’s no way guys like me can compete against players like this, which is exactly why the pros play the low stakes tables — it’s easy money. So you can probably guess how my night went. I hung on for a few hours and by picking my battles even managed to get up a few times. But ultimately I helped a couple guys pay their rent this month.