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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Live Tournament Poker – a Hard Way to Make an Easy Living

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When you see someone win over a million dollars for a poker tournament and think about all the tournaments you've done well in online or locally, you probably can't help but think to yourself “I could do that. I could play on the tournament circuit for a living.”

It's much harder than it looks though and beyond all the glitz and glamour people see on television is the harsh reality that tournament poker is, for a shocking majority of players, a losing proposition... even if they are consistently making the money.

Why is this the case? Poor bankroll management is probably the number one reason. Too many players don't take into consideration the additional expenses they will incur by playing on the tournament circuit. Additional costs will include the airfare, hotel rooms, taxis or rental cars, and meals.

Let's say that you plan out your entire year to include one major poker tournament a month including the preliminary events. Your schedule might look something like this:

January: World Poker Open
February: L.A. Poker Classic
March: Bay 101
April: Foxwoods
May: Mirage
June-July: World Series of Poker
August: Legends of Poker
September: Borgata
October: North American Poker Championship
November: Foxwoods
December: Five Diamond

Even if you live in Las Vegas, you are going to have to fly out 8 times and spend approximately (assuming a 15 day trip for each event) 120 nights in a hotel room. Most of us aren't living in Las Vegas... or even Los Angeles for that matter and are going to have to fly out 12 times and spend 180 days in a hotel room (half a year in a hotel... imagine that). Your travel budget might look something like this:

1. Airfare (12 round trip tickets): $6,000
2. Hotels (180 nights): $10,000 (that's being cheap too)
3. Food (180 days): $2,000 (even with potential comps, that's a realistic number)
4. Transportation (taxis, etc.): $2,000 (this number could be even more if you aren't staying at the host casino)

$18,000 right from the get go but I would think that $25,000-30,000 is a more realistic number. We haven't even started talking about tournament entry fees yet (or your primary bills like rent, car payment, etc.).

Tournament entry fees? If you play 5 preliminary events and the main event each tournament you go to, you're going to be looking at approximately $20,000 a month or $240,000 a year in entry fees.

This means your total outlay at a MINIMUM for the year is going to be approximately $275,000. You're going to play 60 tournaments over the course of the year. Let's say you are able to cash in 15 of the events, at an average cash of 3 times your buy in amount. That's a 25% cash ratio... pretty good right? If you did that you'd win approximately $180,000. That's right, you'd be operating on a 100K loss for the year.

Unless you manage a couple of significantly deep finishes, you're going to struggle to break even. Yes, the potential for the “big” score is there. If you win a WPT event or a large field preliminary or WSOP event, you're going to be looking at 500K+ and will be freerolling. But what if you don't get that win until the end of the year? Do you have a 250K bankroll to be able to sustain you until that point?

Yes, there are opportunities out there for poker players on the tournament circuit. The point I'm trying to make is that you need to be realistic and look at it from a long term perspective. Don't think that you can just pack up your bags and make it. Look at the costs involved and plan your schedule accordingly. Play in events that make sense for your bankroll and travel budget. Don't go flying off to Europe or go on some elaborate cruise just because everyone else is doing it. If it doesn't make financial sense, don't do it.

If you're smart about the decisions you make in poker, you should be just as smart about the decisions you make with your bankroll.

*Try free rolling your way to many major tournaments through online poker. Duplicate Poker is running freerolls to the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event $12,500 package freeroll series. The package consists of entry to the main WSOP 2008 event and $2.500 of travel and accommodation money – some restrictions apply*

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