Why Some People Make Millions From Poker But Most Never Will

poker millionaire

Poker is a tough game to consistently win at. And it is even tougher to consistently win at it over the long term, years and decades.

So often we hear about some high stakes poker pro winning a bunch of tournaments. Or some cash game player posting a few months of results absolutely killing the games.

They are the talk of the poker world. Everybody wants to be their friend. Everybody wants to "pick their brain" and figure out how they are doing it!

But then suddenly we don't hear a peep from them for months or even years sometimes. Did they quit playing the game?


So what happened? I will tell you what happened. Variance happened.

Variance is that funny little thing in poker where you can feel like you are the 2nd coming of Phil Ivey one month and then feel like the world's biggest poker fish the very next month.

This is the craziest game on earth to handle mentally because the swings are so severe. And that is why so few people will ever make life changing money from poker.

But there are a few ways to give yourself the best chance to make millions playing poker.

The Unstoppable Combination of Statistical Outliers and Skill

You see here is the thing about poker. Anybody can get lucky over the course of a few sessions, a week, a month or even a year sometimes.

You can run lights out, hitting every flush, getting all the setups in your favor and so on. We often call this a "heater" in poker slang.

We see these heaters all the time with miracle tournament runs for instance when one guy wins multiple million dollar tournaments in the same calendar year.

I don't think I even need to name the names if you follow poker closely. Some recent examples are guys like Justin Bonomo, Fedor Holz, Dan Colman and Bryn Kenney.

A post shared by Fedor Holz (@fedorholz) on

In fact these 4 poker players are currently ranked #1, #4, #5 and #10 respectively on the all time tournament poker winnings list with combined winnings well in excess of $100 million dollars.

The oldest player in this group is just 33 years old by the way and two of them are still in their 20's. Absolutely incredible.

Now please don't get me wrong. All 4 of these guys are world class professional poker players. They are very, very highly skilled winning players. In other words, they don't need luck to succeed.

However, if you analyze the hands in the tournaments they won you will often find that they got incredibly lucky again and again and again. In other words they were hitting absurd statistical outliers over and over.

Not only did they get very lucky to have their big hands "hold" again and again, but when they needed that miracle two outer on the river, they got it. When they needed to hit that gutshot on the turn (that also gave the other guy a worse straight), they nailed it.

And so on. You get the point.

Now since these 4 players are already so highly skilled at poker, they literally become an unstoppable force at the poker tables when they are running like this.

This is the kind of stuff that never lasts forever in poker though. And believe me, it will eventually swing violently in the other direction on you.

These are the years when we don't hear a peep out of these players.

Fortune Favors the Brave

There is more to it than this though.

Because if you play enough poker you will eventually go through heaters like this as well. And if you work hard on studying and improving your game, then you can also become highly skilled as well.

But you also have to put yourself in the right situations to have massive success, to make life changing money in poker.

Going back to these 4 world class poker players once again, it is important to remember that the tournaments that they were winning had buyins ranging from $10k all the way up to $1 million US Dollars.

These are not your run of the mill $10 tournaments online! No, these are games that are only reserved for some of the very deepest pocket poker players in the world.

This is why so many of them these days will end up selling a considerable amount of their action before they even enter the poker tournament.

For Example:

Say a certain high stakes poker tournament costs $100k USD to enter. This is a lot of money even for most high stakes poker players these days due the incredible variance of poker tournaments.

So a high stakes poker pro may put up $25k of his own money and sell the other $75k to other poker pros and wealthy backers who want to invest in him.

If the poker pro winds up cashing in the poker tournament then all the backers take 75% of the profits. The poker pro takes 25%.

This is a very popular way these days for highly skilled players to enter extremely high buyin poker games without risking enormous sums of money. It's also a win for the backers because they get a piece of a world class player who has a solid edge against the field.

So even though these 4 players above did not have all of themselves in many of the poker tournaments they won, they still put themselves in this position to win and win big.

Fortune favors the brave in life and at the poker tables as well.

As I have mentioned countless times on this blog before, nobody gets rich playing the micro stakes. If you ever want to truly give yourself a chance to make life changing money in poker, then you need to step up the plate and play in much higher stakes games.

Getting staked like this is one very smart way to go about it.

The Art of NOT Losing it All Back

There is one final reason though why some poker players are able to make massive amounts of money in this game, and even go pro, when most others will struggle to even break even at tiny stakes.

And this is arguably the most important reason of all.

It is because once they go on that big heater (win the big tournament, steamroll the cash tables etc.) they don't lose all that back when the mighty pendulum of variance eventually swings back in the other direction.

You see here's the thing. Anybody can win at poker when you always have the nut straight and the other guy has a lower straight. Anybody can win at poker when you always have the AA and they have KK.

But eventually its going to come back on you one day. You are going to pay a heavy price for all those fortunate hands. Even just having your AK "hold" when you hit top pair a few times in a row takes a lot of luck.

You can't trick the math in poker over the long run though. Poker is a brutally honest game and it always evens out in the end. This is one of the most beautiful parts of it in fact.

And so this is why the real "skill" in poker is how you handle yourself when you are running like absolute dog crap at the poker tables for days, weeks or months on end.

Coolers are simply a part of the game:

You are going to lose and lose often even if your name is Daniel Negreanu. But the most important question is how much are you going to lose?

Are you going to go on tilt and start playing terrible, throwing away your money by making awful calls and irrational bluffs? Are you going to be able to know when to quit and just walk away for the 12th day in a row?

These are the skills that the very best poker pros in the world have mastered. And they aren't flashy, they don't make any headlines and nobody hears about them at all.

Because it really just boils down to discipline which as I have mentioned before is the #1 skill to have in poker. Poker pros tend to have way, way more discipline than the average poker player.

You see, whether you make $1 million dollars a month playing poker or something more realistic like $1000 in a month, if you insist on giving it all back the very next month when your luck inevitably runs out, you can never win at this game.

The best poker players in the world all lose when the cards go south on them. But they don't lose anywhere near as much as the average poker player.

This is the biggest difference between them.

Final Thoughts

There are a few people in poker who make life changing money playing this game, millions and millions of dollars in some cases.

And I should mention that there are tons more guys killing it in the cash games where the results are not public like with tournaments.

For instance, we can only speculate how much money is won or lost especially in some of the biggest cash games in the world in places like Macau or Las Vegas.

But the vast majority of people who play poker will never achieve anything close to winning millions of dollars. In fact most people aren't even winning poker players, at all.

So why is this the case?

Well first of all, this very small group of poker players who make life changing money in this game have world class talent and skill. This is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for huge success in poker and there is no way around it.

But secondly, they also regularly put themselves in positions to win big, whether that is big buyin tournaments or a high stakes cash game with a big fish.

Lastly, when their luck inevitably runs out and they can't win a hand to save their life, they focus intently on minimizing their losses by staying disciplined or simply quitting for the day if they are feeling too tilted.

If you want to know how I achieved some of the best results in the history of online poker at the micros, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Let me know in the comments below if you have made the millions playing poker yet. Do you think it is possible?

poker millionaire


  1. i remember running quite +ve ev from -$130 to $158 within 328 games within 2 weeks, within a week later i lost back $150 playing 122 games, it just feels disheartening i cashed it out all b/c i couldn't handle the pressure. In fact, i came back by only depositing $20 after that -$130's mark

    1. Ya the swings don't even seem believable at times. Many times in my poker career I have just had to stop looking at results completely and just trust in the process.

      This is why I often create a yearly graph and just make it my desktop wallpaper to remind myself of what is actually real in this game.

  2. Google reciprocality and Tommy Angelo

    1. Ya I have talked about that concept of his in a number of past articles. Tommy is bang on with that.

  3. Nothing really to do with above, but just bought your book and the video conntent with the purchase. Watching you play in the 1/2c game was really interesting, understanding now much more clearly why you fold so much. Will watch the videos first, then on to read the book. It is really nice to listen to you and understand what you are teaching. Cheers Nigel

    1. Glad my book and videos are helping Nigel! :)

  4. I went on a heater years ago, it lasted 100k hands, rose up stakes from 2nl cash games all the way up to 50nl but then the doom switch got turned on, combination of coolers, bad beats, card dead, and simply tilt, so the next 100k hands crashed back down to 2nl, it was soo brutal I quit poker that day.

    Now I'm back into poker because I want quit my job which pays half the minimum wage an long shitty hours, playing 2nl deposited $10 and over 10k hands up to $40 my winrate exact same as it was years before 8bb\100. But this time I have daily stoploss as well as stars cash out system, it's awsome no more bad beats and no more losing 20BI after tilting.

    1. Glad to hear you have got back into the game. I have also made the venture back in to try one more crack at eventually giving up my day job. One thing in your post I didn't understand was your stars cashout system. Do you mind explaining this ti me if its not too much hassle? Thanks