Highs and Lows of Being a Professional Gambler

By Michael Stevens in Casino & Gaming on August 11, 2019

11

Minute Read

Most gamblers realize that becoming a professional isn’t an easy path. A successful pro must excel at a specific game and be disciplined in bankroll management and other areas.

Even still, professional gambling seems like a very desirable job. You need only look at multi-millionaire sports bettors, WSOP champions, and card-counting legends to get inspired.

Being a pro definitely has its highs, including fame and fortune. But it also has plenty of downsides that must be considered too.

That said, I’m going to cover the highs and lows of being a pro gambler and finish by concluding if it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

Best Aspects of Being a Pro Gambler

Professional bettors enjoy a number of general advantages and benefits that are specific to their chosen game. The benefits discussed below apply to most forms of pro gambling.

Win Profits From Entertaining Games

The average person goes to casinos knowing full well that they have a solid chance of losing. After all, the casino holds an edge in all of their games.

Nevertheless, these people visit casinos and gamble for the sake of entertainment. While they hope to win, they’ll still get plenty of thrills even if they lose.

But just imagine being able to play the same games, only with an edge.

Professional gamblers make their living off what other people call entertainment.

As I’ll cover later, this profession isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, but it’s exciting enough to keep many pro gamblers engaged in their job.

Be Your Own Boss

Being your own boss lets you set your own hours and decide your schedule. You don’t have somebody else clocking your 10-minute break or limiting you to half-hour lunches.

Those who gamble for a living get to enjoy this very perk. They can enter the casino or log in online whenever the mood strikes and stop playing when they’ve had enough for the day.

Dan Bilzerian Infront Of Portrait Of Himself

Depending upon the game, some points of the day are more advantageous than others. For example, many online poker pros work during evening hours and weekends when many recreational players are online.

But even in these cases, professionals have some degree of control over their schedule. They can choose to take a night off when they need it and set their hours as necessary.

You Control Your Destiny

Most forms of employment don’t give you a true chance to move up the ladder. You may be able to get a promotion after a few years, but you’re still at the mercy of your boss or whoever’s making such decisions.

Gambling, on the other hand, is a wide-open affair. You can improve your situation by studying your profession and becoming more skilled.

Of course, there are limitations to how much you can move up in the gambling world based on your bankroll. You can’t expect to consistently beat $1,000 buy-in tournaments and daily fantasy sports (DFS) on a consistent basis if you only have $5,000.

By and large, though, being a professional gambler gives you greater control over your destiny than most regular jobs.

Virtually Unlimited Earning Potential

I’ll reiterate again that some limitations apply to moving up the ladder in gambling. But the good news is that your earning potential is still almost limitless.

Nobody is stopping you from gradually accumulating a massive bankroll through sports betting and one day making six- or seven-figure wagers. Likewise, no one can prevent you from becoming a high-stakes poker player one day.

The key is having the patience and discipline to reach for higher and higher levels. While you may not ultimately make it to the top, you can at least improve your standing and win more money.

Become Famous

Some forms of gambling give you a platform for gaining fame. Poker, blackjack, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting have all seen certain players become well known.

Poker has especially created a number of minor celebrities. Players like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen, and Dan Cates have all gained some degree of international fame for their success.

Certain members of the MIT blackjack team became infamous through their card-counting exploits and even had a mainstream movie made about them.

Movie 21 MIT Team Walking Out After Winning

Other counters like Ed Thorp, Al Snyder, Ken Uston, and James Grosjean are also blackjack legends. You may not necessarily set out to be famous when embarking on a professional gambling journey, but it can be an interesting byproduct if you become good enough.

Travel to Interesting Places

Card counters and poker players may find themselves traveling to exotic destinations in their line of work. This especially comes into play with poker because major tournaments are held throughout the world.

The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), for example, is held at Paradise Island (Nassau), Bahamas. The Aussie Millions is staged in Melbourne, Australia, annually.

As for card counters, they often go where the games are good. If they’ve been thrown out of too many Vegas casinos, they may find more success in Europe or the Caribbean.

Of course, not every gambler wants to travel as part of their job, because it takes time and a portion of their bankroll. But those who do enjoy seeing the world will like this aspect.

Have a Cool Job

As a gambling pro, you’ll receive lots of questions from other people. They may even pick your brain about how to become a professional themselves.

This line of work isn’t common, such as being a truck driver, working in a factory, or being a salesman.

Gambling is a unique job that makes people curious.

You may sometimes find yourself the center of attention at gatherings when others find out that you gamble for a living.

Satisfaction of Being Among the Best

Again, few get the chance to play casino games or other forms of gambling professionally. Even if you only last in this field for 1-2 years, you’re still far better than the average gambler.

Any type of game you play will be a competitive affair. You’ll especially face resistance in player-versus-player games like poker and DFS.

If you embrace studying strategy to improve your skills, then you’ll fare well against opponents. With the right work ethic, you may even ascend to the top of your respective game.

Worst Aspects of Being a Pro Gambler

The advantages discussed above show why people aspire to make a full-time living through gambling. But what many of the same bettors don’t take into account is that there are some serious downsides to this type of work.

You may ultimately find that the pros outweigh the cons, but you’ll still want to be aware of the following drawbacks before throwing yourself into the matter.

Being a Pro Can Make Gambling Boring

Nobody randomly decides that they want to gamble for a living. They instead start out playing a fun casino game and decide that they’ve found a potential dream job.

But what may seem fun and exciting at first can become a drag. As a professional, you’re no longer gambling for fun.

You’re instead constantly looking for favorable opportunities and ways to maintain your edge. While this can still be rewarding, it’s not the same as visiting the casino once per week whenever you feel like it.

Poker is a great example of how boring professional gambling can be. The pros are often called “grinders” because they spend hours playing hand after hand and grinding out profits.

The rewards can be well worth the effort, but it may not seem so when you’re playing up to 12 hours per day in a multi-table tournament.

Income Isn’t Steady

Gambling is the total opposite of a nine-to-five job. You don’t punch in and earn X amount of dollars per hour.

Your income is based on a combination of your skills, how many hours you play, and if luck is going your way. The luck factor is especially tough to deal with because it means that you never know how much you’ll make in any given week.

Those who play in big DFS and poker tournaments especially know the difficulty of predicting their income. These gamblers rely on huge scores, which come very inconsistently in larger tourneys.

Downswings Are Common

Every form of gambling is subject to a degree of chance, no matter how good you are. You’ll be riding high when you’re playing well and luck is in your favor.

Unfortunately, you also go through periods where you can’t catch a break. You may make a lot of seemingly good sports bets, only to continue losing again and again.

Depressed Player Gambling Looking Into Empty Wallet

These downswings can certainly be depressing. However, they’re something you must be fully prepared to deal with when gambling for a living.

You Need a Large Bankroll

You won’t make much money through gambling if you don’t have a big bankroll. After all, your bankroll determines how large of stakes you’ll be able to play for.

You don’t have to compete in DFS tournaments with four-figure buy-ins or poker cash stakes worth $200/$400 just to be successful, but you do need enough money to cover fairly high limits and your bills.

$50 sports bets and $10 buy-in DFS contests aren’t going to cut it. You instead want a bankroll worth thousands of dollars so that you can make the type of bets that’ll bring in serious profits.

Must Maintain Skills to Succeed

Just because you become a professional bettor doesn’t mean that you maintain this status forever. You instead need to work on your skills so that you can improve, or at least remain at the same level.

You’re not guaranteed a tomorrow with card counting, esports betting, poker, or any other legitimate gambling profession. If your abilities erode, then your chances of winning also go down the tubes.

You definitely want to study your respective game in order to keep up. Unfortunately, this means putting more work in away from the gambling side.

Hard to Stay Disciplined

Earlier, I covered how gambling can become boring when you have to do it every day. This problem can cause you to become undisciplined and take unnecessary risks.

You may start out with every intention of doing the right thing and placing bets with positive expected value. However, your plans can go off the rails after you’ve been playing poker professionally for three years and are bored with the matter.

Many poker pros make prop bets with each other because they want to spice up the action. They get tired of playing numerous hands and want to try a different type of gamble with each other.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a fun weight-loss bet or challenge on how many lunges one can do. But players should never make the type of wagers that could put their career in jeopardy.

Travel and Casino Life Can Become a Grind

Earlier, I discussed how traveling can be a perk for professional gamblers. Those who’ve always dreamed of going to Europe, the Caribbean, or elsewhere will appreciate where gambling can take them.

But traveling also becomes a drain, especially when one has to do it often. Many poker tournament pros tire of constantly being on the road.

Tom Hanks Sleeping In Airport In Movie The Terminal

Even if you don’t have to go far to gamble, simply spending hours in the casino is also a grind. Card counters and live poker pros know this all too well.

Some Look Down Upon Professional Gamblers

Having an interesting job as a pro gambler is good to some degree. However, you also have to consider that general society frowns upon this profession.

The average person doesn’t realize that you’re making money through skill. They instead envision you as a degenerate gambler who sits around drinking and smoking cigars.

This stereotype is no longer as true today, but that doesn’t stop many people from seeing professional gamblers as degenerates.

You’re Not Contributing to Society

You probably won’t get much fulfillment out of gambling when considering that you’re not producing anything substantial. Instead, you’re merely winning money off the casino or other players.

Many poker pros have cited this aspect when they retire from the game.

They grow bored of simply beating other players to fund their lifestyle.

The same ex-grinders often find work in a field where they’re actually fulfilling a goal beyond just earning money.

You May Not Develop Meaningful Relationships With “Coworkers”

One benefit to working at a regular company is that you can develop friendships with your coworkers. You may even find yourself hanging out with them beyond the workplace.

Some gamblers have developed the same relationships to a certain degree. However, not everybody appreciates rubbing elbows with fellow gamblers on a daily basis.

Hard to Maintain a Work-Life Balance

The problem with making your own hours is that it’s hard to figure out where your personal life ends and your job begins. You have to gamble whenever a favorable opportunity presents itself, or leave profits on the table.

If you’re a DFS pro who makes most of your money through NFL games, then you’ll need to spend a lot of time on Friday and Saturday crafting your lineups. This is a point when you have the most information possible to make decisions.

Likewise, many online poker pros play during European evening hours. This is the time when the largest number of recreational poker players is online.

This sort of lifestyle creates problems when trying to maintain non-poker friends and a relationship with a significant other. The difficult work-life balance of gambling is another reason why many end up quitting the profession.

Is It Worth Becoming a Pro Gambler?

You really need a passion for whatever game you’re playing — at least in the beginning. Having this feeling gives you fuel to continue learning and excelling in your chosen game.

EXAMPLE

If you enjoy DFS then you not only need to like creating lineups and watching sports but also researching players and in-depth stats.

You can’t be successful when you just enjoy the fun parts and forget the rest.

Of course, you may eventually lose this passion after years of playing a specific game. Any of the downsides that I covered earlier can eat away at your desire to gamble for a living.

But you’ll only know this if you try becoming a professional in the first place. The reverse side is that you might grow to love whatever game you’re playing and embrace it for decades.

You, therefore, have to evaluate how much you really like gambling before jumping head-first into it. Try gradually increasing the number of hours you spend with a particular game to see if you still have the same feeling or if it begins fading.

I definitely don’t recommend that you go down the professional gambling path without the proper bankroll. You won’t have enough money to survive gaming’s volatility.

  • A card-counting team, for example, is advised to start out with at least $20,000 to $25,000. They only have around a 1% edge, meaning they’ll suffer losing sessions almost as often as they win.
  • A poker or DFS tournament player should have around 100 buy-ins for their respective stakes. Big tourneys are extremely volatile, meaning one needs a large number of buy-ins while they’re waiting for sizable scores.

You also need to be okay with the lows of professional gambling discussed here. Ideally, you want to feel like the pros outweigh the cons.

Conclusion

Being a pro gambler isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be in the movies. You won’t constantly be involved in dramatic games or win six or seven figures on a regular basis.

Daniel Craig Casino Royale Poker Scene Going All In On Hand

Instead, this job is about getting an edge, maintaining it, and slowly grinding out profits over time. As long as you know and accept this going in, then you may be right for this profession.

Of course, everything begins with having the necessary skills to win on a regular basis. You can’t call yourself a card counter or pro esports bettor when you lose over half your money.

You need to dedicate yourself to learning strategy and improving your skills. With enough time and effort, you may eventually have what it takes to succeed.

Gambling as a pro definitely has its benefits. You can set your own hours, control your destiny, have an interesting job, and win lots of money.

However, this profession also comes with drawbacks. Your favorite game can suddenly become boring, the income is volatile, you have to maintain your skills, and travel may become a regular thing.

Not everybody is cut out for this line of work. That’s why so few people actually gamble for a living. But if you want to be a pro bad enough, then the opportunity is there in several games.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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