Poker is Just for Fun – Don’t Rely On It For Extra Income

I started playing poker about 4 years ago, and quickly got addicted to the game. The strategy involved, and the thrill of the bluff were fantastic elements that kept me coming back for more.

Initially, we’d start off playing $20 buy-in tournaments. We then progressed to 25 cent/50 cent blinds and then to $1/$2 blinds. At one point, there was a foray into $2/$5 blinds, but people lost way too much money to keep the game friendly. Poker has gotten so popular, that in many circles, poker has replaced golf, or drinking as the client entertainment event of choice. I don’t recommend ever playing high stakes with clients. It’ll only end in tears and resentment.

Despite 4 years of experience, I would rate myself a very average poker player. The main reason for this is my fear of losing money and getting bad beat. A bad beat is where you have significant odds of winning, and you still lose. Pocket Aces all in vs. Pocket KKs means you are 80% favored to win. Yet, 20% of the time you lose, and it is the worst feeling out there. 2008’s World Series of Poker Champion won via a bad beat. He runner runnered (4th and 5th card) to catch his gut shot straight vs. his opponents AQ with a Q on the flop. How unlucky.

We play $1/$2 blinds, and the individual buy-ins have gotten progressively bigger while our individual net wealth have all gotten smaller. The average buy-in used to be $100, now it is $300, with pot sizes surpassing $1,000 on a regular basis. Yet, I still only buy in for $100 or less at a time, for reasons stated above. I can regularly take on $50,000-$150,000 stock positions, and yet I can’t buy in more than a measily $100, nor can I call a $31 bet when I have a flush and gut shot draw on the river if my odds are not correct.

I lost $200 bucks last night when my QQ call all-in lost to A-3 b/c my opponent caught a 10 on the river for a straight. How do you go all in with an A-3, I don’t know. I had QQ again and went all in for my remaining $65 bucks and lost b/c my opponent caught his K on the river. It sucks to lose, but all I can do is make the right bets, and hope that my odds hold up in the long run. Because if you play incorrectly and call or bet without the correct odds, you will eventually lose all your money.

If you decide to play poker, you must set a loss limit and walk away once you reach that limit. Don’t let revenge, or the mania of gambling get in the way of what you must do. You must walk away and regroup your mind, b/c a tilting player will generally tend to lose even more money.

Poker is a zero sum game. If you win, it’s at another’s expense. Do not rely on poker to fund your food budget, or pay your rent. I promise you, there will be sessions where you will lose all your money, and you start skipping meals just to save $5 bucks. Those “poker pros” you see on TV have all gone BUST AND BROKE at one point in their careers. Don’t believe the hype. you may get lucky and win a big tournament, but you’ll make much more money using that time to focus on your career and job at hand.


1) Identify the type of game you are joining. Is it a loose, or tight game? Generally, if it’s loose, play tight, and if it’s tight play loose.

2) Observe each opponent and characterize them in different buckets: Playing for Fun, Super Tight, Animal on the Loose, HotSh*T, or Ringer and play accordingly. Be cognizant of who you are, and what other players think you are.

3) Treat a $200 bet the same way you would treat a $2 bet. In other words, if the odds are in favor for you to put all your money at risk, do it.

4) Realize that poker is a zero sum game. You can only make money if you risk money with favorable probabilities. If you get bad beat, just brush it off and focus on the next hand.

5) Just have fun and don’t take the game too seriously. It’s when you start getting addicted to the game, going beyond your loss limit, and taking buses to the casino where you start getting into trouble. You may win a lot in a hot streak, but at what cost to your general well being?

6) Finally, If you really want to make money, you should probably target the one who’s just playing for fun (but that’s not cool), the animal on the loose, and the hotsh*t 20-something year old who think he’s so great. It’s important to feed their egos and make them think you are weak and timid. Just be patient, and let them talk and strut all they want until you have something to clean them out. When you win, just brush it off to luck and move on. They’ll never know what hit them, and really attribute their loss entirely to bad luck.


Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. Anonymous says

    What's interesting how seemingly very poor looking people at the local card room bust out a thousand dollars in cash and play at th $3/$5 no limit tables all the time! Back in the good years, when i was making multiple six figures, there's NO WAY I would buy in for more than $200 bucks at the $1/2 tables. I guess i just have a low risk profile.

  2. says

    It sounds like you have a general grasp of how to be a winning player, yet you totally lack a few needed elements – You should never be playing with “scared” money. You shouldn’t be scared to lose any money you bring. You lost $200 on a bad beat? Who cares, you made the right move right? It’s all about making profitable decisions. As soon as you become results oriented you are screwed.

    And you say you are in trouble once you start taking buses to the casino because you are taking it “too seriously”? Amazing! If you are in it to make money you should take it just as seriously as you would investing any money. Basically it’s an investment, and it takes time and it takes commitment. You are only in trouble if you don’t take it seroiusly, unless you are playing for fun (which it sounds like you kind of are and kind of aren’t?)

    Needless to say, I have two friends who have made well in excess of $200,000 each in a matter of a few years playing poker. One actually won a WSOP circuit event cashing in a quarter million. And he’s a cash game specialist. Enough said.

    If you’re gonna write an article about making money playing poker, it confuses me why you would say you are in trouble when u take it too seriously???

    • admin says

      David -The article is not about making real money in poker. As my title describes, play it for fun, and don’t rely on it for extra income. A lot of people start thinking they are invincible, and play until they go broke. Ask any one of the famous pro players out there, I bet a majority of them have gone broke before. Good for your friends for winning. I wish them success in the long run.

      The reason why I buy in for $200, is exactly b/c I’m NOT scared of making the right moves. Whether it is $200, or $20,000 I would still call or push if I had the right odds. Even when you’re an 80% favorite, you lose 20% of the time, and that’s just life. But, losing 20% of the time making the right move is too painful for me, and that’s why I play for fun b/c I actually have a lot of cash in the bank to lose.

      Don’t get me wrong though, I do enjoy playing against young players who have enormous confidence, with small bank roles (i.e. sub $50,000). Eventually, they all seem to lose most of their money.

  3. says

    “The reason why I buy in for $200, is exactly b/c I’m NOT scared of making the right moves. Whether it is $200, or $20,000 I would still call or push if I had the right odds. Even when you’re an 80% favorite, you lose 20% of the time, and that’s just life. But, losing 20% of the time making the right move is too painful for me, and that’s why I play for fun b/c I actually have a lot of cash in the bank to lose.”

    Wouldn’t you actually win over time, tho? It sounds like you have ‘mastered’ (i use that word lightly because it means different things to different people) basic strategy and play in such a way that over time you would win. So you shouldn’t lose over time, but win. So why do you do it for fun and not for extra income? I play to win every time I play – I might lose with aces (which has happened many, many, many times) but over time I win. Why would I play for fun? It’s people who play for fun who lose over time, and those who play for income that win over time.

    I would reccomend to people to not play for fun, unless you like losing money. If you like making money, play to win – learn strategy, learn statistics/odds, and play to win.

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