THOUGH I KNEW nothing about poker when I quit my suit-and-tie desk job, I quickly picked it up on my travels around the world. Since then I’ve played hundreds of hands of Texas Hold ‘Em and met plenty of poker players, many of them fellow globetrotters.
I guess there’s something about taking a calculated risk that links both travelers and poker players because there seems to be a lot of crossover.
Although illegal in the United States, it’s quite possible to earn an income playing poker online almost everywhere else in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, knowledge of the game, and willingness to take a calculated risk.
Is it worth it? Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons:
Good News: You can play anywhere, from Bali to Siberia
Well, anywhere that you can get an Internet connection that isn’t in the United States. In today’s globalized, wi-fi world, that’s not much of a problem.
Sites like Poker Stars, Paradise Poker and Party Poker are easy to use and offer free software that you can download and use to play against hundreds of thousands of poker players all over the world. Some companies even let you play via cell phone.
Good News: Anyone can learn to be a pro
While poker involves big elements of luck, so does just about anything. In the long run, skill will trump luck in poker.
Unlike most gambling games, in poker, the axiom “the house always wins” does not apply because cash flows from player to player rather than in the direction of the house. Most casinos make very little money from poker tables; instead, the most poker skilled players are the ones who rake in the dough.
This means that poker is actually something you can learn to do well, and there are plenty of books and websites devoted to teaching you just how to do that.
Bad News: You can’t pick it up in a day
The reverse side of this is that if you want to make money, you have to actually know what you are doing. That means putting the legwork in – playing lots of free or cheap poker to practice, reading poker guides and refining your strategy. Trying to jump to the big leagues too quickly is the fastest way to lose money.
Good News: You just have to win 51% of the time
Once you are able to constantly break even or turn a small profit at the virtual table, you can turn poker into a reliable source of income. You can’t expect to do it by winning a few big hands a day, though. Big hands don’t always come.
It’s a much better to aim for long-term profits by playing as many games as you can, with an expectation that you won’t win every single hand, but you’ll come out ahead more than half of the time. Fortunately, most poker sites let you play multiple tables at once, giving you lots of chances to maximize your profits.
Bad News: You have to put in the hours, just like a real job
In order to milk the most out of that 51%, you’ll be spending hours in front of the computer playing half a dozen poker tables at once. If you really love the game, that’s probably fine.
If you don’t, it can seem like a lot of number crunching, not that different from processing spreadsheets or balancing budgets. You might as well go back to the cubicle.
Good News: It doesn’t take a degree
Sure, not everyone will want to put in the legwork or be comfortable taking on some of the risks it takes to become a good poker player, but those willing to spend the time and do the work can turn poker into a reliable source of income.
You don’t need a killer resume, letters of reference or a college degree. You can set your own hours and work from a couch. And you never have to wear a tie.
Bad News: All you get is money — yes, that’s bad news!
So you don’t need a resume to play poker, but you can’t exactly put it on a resume either. Most “real” jobs offer some degree of professional development, career opportunities or social networking.
Some of these things do exist in the world of online poker, mostly through satellite tournaments, where players compete for a trip to play in a high-stakes game at an actual bricks-and-mortar casino, usually somewhere exotic.
The chances of winning aren’t high, though. Besides money, all you can get out of playing poker is the ability to play better poker. Considering all the other opportunities available for travelers around the world, that’s not necessarily a great investment unless you never plan on doing anything else with your life. But no one said you had to make it a career.
In the end, many globe trekkers may find it more rewarding to work their way across a country, earn their way doing volunteer work or even simply saving up for a year before taking a big trip.
On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of turning over pocket aces.