How to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker (2021)

How to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker can be a profitable hobby and can even earn you a considerable side income. But what if your ambitions are bigger than raking in a few hundred dollars a month? 

This is a question that I get asked a lot. So today we are going to do a deep dive into it. How much can you actually earn from poker? 

Let's find out!


Can You Really Make $100k Per Year From Poker?


The short answer is: yes, absolutely. 

It’s not unheard of and it is feasible. After all, poker is a skill game, and like any other skill game, the top performers are going to be disproportionately rewarded with thousands, if not millions of dollars. 

And aside from the world class professionals, there’s also a number of professional poker players around the globe whose yearly income falls well within the six figures range.

Also, there are more ways than ever to make a significant income from poker these days away from the poker tables, sometimes far in excess of $100k, which is something I will discuss near the end.

So making a 100k a year playing cards is not nearly as far-fetched as it might seem at a first glance.

Here’s the caveat, though. 

100k is an extraordinary amount reserved to people who put in an extraordinary effort over the span of years, if not decades. And the amount of effort is incomparable to most day jobs. 

Not to mention the necessity of the strength of character, the discipline, the mental fortitude, and even an outright disregard for conventional social norms.

But I’m certainly not here to dissuade you from aiming high. I’m all for dreaming big. 

In fact, BlackRain79 made a video just last week explaining how he became a poker pro starting with absolutely nothing, $0.


So where there is a will, there is always a way in poker. 

With all that said though, this article is more of a speculation than an actual how-to-guide, so take it all with the grain of salt.

Because the vast majority of people who play poker will never come close to making $100k a year, for a variety of reasons, which are simply beyond the scope of this article. 

I’ll also skip the part about all the cutting-edge strategies and crushing the game in the first place. 

The assumption is that if your ambition is actually earning 100k a year, you already have the necessary skill set and the know-how to make it happen.

In other words, I will be assuming that you already approach the game of poker like a professional does.

This means studying off the felt to fix your leaks, investing in good poker software and advanced training materials (maybe even coaching), and keeping track of your hourly and expenses, filing taxes, contributing to your pension fund and so on. 

You know, like an actual job, minus the benefits. 

As far as taxes go, the regulations vary wildly from country to country, so I’m not opening that particular can of worms. 

You should consult a professional legal or accounting expert in your country of residence for these matters. 

If you’re still reading by this point, congrats, and let’s get into the actual how-to of making $100k per year from poker.


1. Play Live Cash Games


A 100k a year equals an average monthly income of roughly $8400 per month, or $2100 per week. 

Let’s say you play a $2/$5 live cash game in your local casino. You’re absolutely crushing the limit with an average winrate of 10 big blinds per hour. Your average hourly rate is $50.

You have to put in an average work week of 40 hours (you are a professional, after all) for an average income of 2k per week, 8k per month, and 96k a year, which is slightly short of our desired six figures, but I rounded it up for simplicity’s sake. 

Let’s not be nitpicky. So there you have it. 

All you have to do is consistently crush the $2/5$ cash game for 40 hours a week, day in and day out, 52 weeks per year, without a week of vacation. And you’ll need to work nights, and sleep during the day.

How to Make $100k a Year From Poker

Easy peasy right?

You can try playing the higher limits, of course. 

If you can consistently win the $5/10$ cash game for an average of, say, 8 big blinds per hour, you can achieve the same result with just 25 hours per week. 

That’s only 5 hours a day, plus the weekend off. You’ll want to play Saturdays and Sundays, because the games will be the best then, so you might need to move your weekend rest to Monday and Tuesday, for example.

And if you can crush the $10/25$ game with an average winrate of 4 big blinds per hour, you only need to work 20 hours a week.

Or you can play online and save up time from actually having to physically go to the casino. You also don’t have to spend money on gas, tipping the dealer and so on.

Let’s assume you’re playing NL100 with an average winrate of 8 bb/100. If you play about 100k hands a month (which could be done with multitabling), you’ll cash in about $8000 a month, or 96k a year. 

By the way, for all the best online poker winrates these days, check out this previous article here on the blog.

So this is again slightly south of a 100k though, but hey, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home, so there’s that.

And of course these numbers are all before rakeback and bonuses, which can be significant in online poker.

Here’s the reality check again though. The calculations above rely on ideal circumstances, and life is anything but ideal. 

Crushing the game consistently will not only require you to be on top of your technical game, but mental game as well. 

And that’s extremely hard to do without taking a break here and there. 

Poker is very intellectually challenging, and when you add to it the pressure of always having to perform at top level, it can also be emotionally debilitating, especially when cards don’t fall your way. 

Not to mention that the skill level of your competition increases as you climb the stakes, so even if you can theoretically get away with playing less hours, it will take a toll on your winrate, and your bottom line. 

But again, extraordinary results require extraordinary effort.

By the way, for more on live cash games check out the BlackRain79 ultimate guide to $1/$2 live cash game strategy.


2. Play Mid or High Stakes Tournaments


Maybe you don’t want to grind an insane amount of hours day in and day out. You want some semblance of a work/life balance. You want weekends off. You want to take a vacation whenever you feel like it. 

After all, what’s the point of making six figures if you don’t even have time to enjoy it? 

So you might be more enticed by tournament poker, namely the multitable tournaments, where the prize pools offer a considerably higher potential return as opposed to other game formats. You only need to win one, and you’re set, right? 

It’s true the biggest poker fortunes have been made by winning huge tournaments, but you have to take the survivorship bias into account. 

For every one winner, there’s thousands and thousands of losers, and they don’t get the spotlight. But they do exist, and most of them lose money in the long run.

That’s not to say that playing tournaments can’t be as profitable as cash games, and potentially even more so, but it’s a higher risk, higher reward play. 

While the average player pool is less technically skilled on average, and tournament play is arguably less complex than cash games (mainly due to the shallower stacks and more straightforward decisions postflop), there are also a lot more hurdles to jump through to get to the prize, no matter how skilled you are. 

It’s like the most talented gunslinger in the wild west up against a hundred clueless goons who barely know which end of the gun to hold. 


He might be a deadly sharpshooter, but he’s still outnumbered. All it takes is one lucky shot, and he dies just like the rest of them. 

The bigger the prize pool, the bigger the player pool, and the harder it is to win. The tournament payout structure is very top-heavy, meaning the top three finishes win the most money. 

So even if you make it to the final table here and there, you’ll still be breaking even at best if you don’t finish in the top three. 

The variance in tournaments is also considerably bigger than in cash games, and even world class professionals can go months, or even years losing money or breaking even. 

With all that said, if you like playing tournaments, and are comfortable with taking on more risk, there’s no reason not to give them a try. 

Play them long enough, it’s certainly possible to take down a huge prize sooner or later. You only need to win one, after all. 

For example, if you play a hundred MTTs in a given year with a buyin of $100 or $200, and you win only one percent of them, you could take down a prize pool of $50,000, $100,000, or even $200,000, depending on the payout structure. Not too shabby for one day of “work”.

Here’s the rub, though. 

Even if you get lucky and take down a huge tournament prize, you still have to account for the expenses in the form of the price of buyins, rebuys, addons and so on, not to mention the hours you will actually need to put in. 

When all is said and done, grinding tournaments can be just as time consuming as cash games, without the luxury of being able to stand up and leave whenever you feel like it. 

Let’s say you are a world class tournament player, and your average return on investment (ROI) is 20%, which is considered excellent for MTTs. 

In order for you to net in a profit of a 100k in a given year, you’d need to cash in a whopping 800k of winnings, with the cost of buyins of 700k, for an ROI of about 14%. 

This is just an example, of course, and it doesn’t take rakeback into account. 

It just serves to illustrate that winning tournaments with relative consistency doesn’t require just the technical game expertise, but an extreme confidence in one’s own abilities, a monk-like patience, and a big fat bankroll to endure the variance.

At the end of the day, you’d still probably need to grind out a bunch of tournaments to win consistently, so it’s no easier feat than cash games by any means. The upside is considerably bigger, but so is the risk. 

If your goal is to make six figures, there is no easy way. It’s a lot of hard work, not unlike any other 9-5, except you aren’t guaranteed a paycheck at the end of the month.

For more on tournament poker strategy, from the early stages, to the bubble and final table, check out the BlackRain79 complete guide to tournament poker strategy.


Start Learning How to Make $100,000 From Poker With My Free Poker Cheat Sheet


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How to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker 

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3. Get Creative, Think Beyond the Game


Let's face it though, earning money from playing poker is not easy these days, but there’s more than one way to go about it. And this is something that nearly all smart poker pros understand these days.

Multiple sources of income are always better than one, especially if your primary income source is so volatile. 

If you are a winning poker player, chances are you can monetize your knowledge in a number of different ways besides playing. There are more ways than ever before in fact.

One of them is content creation. This is something BlackRain79 discussed in detail in his popular 10 years as a poker pro post.  

And of course the poker blog that you are reading right now is a perfect example of that. 

By creating regular poker content it generates a lot of traffic, and therefore plenty of revenue from a variety of means including affiliate marketing, digital product sales and countless offers from potential advertisers.

Now, you might think the market is overly saturated, and you can’t contribute to it in any meaningful way, but that’s not the case. 

There are a ton of creators out there, to be sure, but poker is a huge and rapidly expanding industry, and there is always a demand for fresh content. 

There are a myriad of strategy videos and articles online, but an overwhelming majority of it is written in English. 

If you live in a non-english speaking part of the world, chances are poker isn’t quite a widespread phenomenon, and the market isn’t as saturated, especially when it comes to content creation.

And this is where your edge lies. 

This is an example of the blue ocean strategy, a business idea from the book of the same name, written by RenĂ©e Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. The idea is finding a potentially profitable market with a few or no competitors. 

But even if you are a native english speaker, it doesn't mean you can’t create content as well. The competition is bigger, to be sure, but so is the audience, and there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look for. 

You can write a blog like you are reading right now, make youtube poker videos or even stream on Twitch. Or you can get even more creative and create short form edutainment content on Instagram or TikTok.

How to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker

Tons of online poker players are choosing to livestream their poker sessions these days on Twitch.

This is incredibly smart if your goal is to make $100k per year from poker because you are essentially killing three birds with one stone.

1) You play poker, earning you money. 

2) Live streaming on Twitch helps build up your poker name/brand (more on why that is so important below, but it definitely means $$$).

3) You can earn even more money by streaming on Twitch once you gain a reasonably sized audience, through subscriptions, ad revenue, affiliate offers and so on.

In other words, this is a win/win/win for you!

And this is something by the way that absolutely any poker player can start doing literally today with zero experience at all.

Basically though, the choice of the medium is not as important as choosing something that fits your preferences and skillset outside of poker. 

If you are an outgoing and creative person, you might go with Youtube, if you’re inquisitive and analytical, you can write blog posts, if you are empathetic and communicative, you can offer coaching. 

The point is figuring out where your particular circumstances give you an edge over everybody else, and in what way can they be valuable to a potential audience. 

If you have an idea, but don’t have the necessary skills to make it a reality, you can learn just about anything online these days.

After all, at some point in your life you didn’t know how to play poker either, but you figured it out, and here you are now trying to figure out how to make six figures out of it.

And lastly of course, for poker pros who have successfully built their brand through content creation for example, this opens the doors to tons more offers including sponsorship deals and other endorsements which can be worth far more.

This is why you see literally every single poker pro has his/her name attached to some online or live card room as an "ambassador" these days.

This is a paid position and can be quite lucrative depending on how big of a name you have in the poker world. 

In addition to this, nearly all top poker pros these days do some sort of coaching on the side, make training videos or have even written poker strategy books like BlackRain79 did for example.

Again, all of this can add up to a significant side income from the game of poker, where all you are doing is using the knowledge that you already have gained at the poker tables, to earn more.

And of course all of this is just smart if your goal is to make $100,000 or more per year from poker.
   

Can Anyone Learn to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker?


Making a 100k a year playing poker is quite a tall order, but it can be done with the right amount of effort.

You will certainly have to take this game very seriously though and be up to date on all the latest advanced poker theory.

I would also highly recommend using a good poker tracking program to study your game away from the tables, find your leaks and fix them.  

The problem is, that amount is way bigger than most people realize at a first glance. Like they say, poker is a hard way to make an easy living.

Still, it can be done, and there are a ton of professional poker players who earn six, if not seven figures in a given year.

The simplest way to go about it, relatively speaking, would be playing live cash games. Not only will your competition be much softer than their online counterparts, the amount of money involved will also be significantly bigger. 

So it’s quite possible to make an average hourly of say, $50 or even $100. Multiply that with your desired monthly income and figure out how many hours you’ll need to put in.

You will want to put in more hours during the weekend because the games will be softer on average, so you’ll want to plan your weekly rest some other day.

You can also try playing multitable tournaments online. While they will mostly be a hit or miss, the potential upside is huge, and well worth the risk for some people. 

You will want quite a large bankroll, though, due to the significantly larger variance in tournament poker as opposed to cash games. 

One hundred buyins should be the absolute bare minimum. So if you’re playing tournaments with a buyin of $100, you should have no less than 10k in your bankroll.

Finally, if the prospect of grinding out an insane number of hours or riding the wild variance rollercoaster is making you queasy, you can get creative and find other ways to supplement your poker income. 

If you’re skilled at poker, chances are there are a number of ways to monetize your knowledge aside from actually playing the game. 

Depending on your preferences, you might want to create content like videos, blog posts, or even books, stream your sessions, offer coaching and so on. 

You might need to brush up on some skills, but everything can be learned online these days. It may take some time, but it will be worth it not just financially, but for the process itself. 

The prospect of earning six figures from doing something you love is certainly enticing, but it’s not about the end goal. 

Developing your character and your skill set that can actually achieve something that sounds ludicrous at first will be your biggest reward. 100k is just the byproduct.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy for crushing poker games online or live, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How to Make $100,000 a Year From Poker