I mentioned recently that my lack of entries in January was caused in part by an experiment I was conducting. The experiment actually continues, as I decided to extend it, but I will give a brief report for the standings right now.
The crux of the experiment was to see if I could make enough money to keep my current lifestyle should I play poker professionally full-time rather than merely part-time. An analysis I did last year, showed that playing only 16 hours a week, I was earning at a rate of around $10-$14/hour. Obviously, in my non-poker life, I make more than that, so this part-time job couldn't replace my full-time one at this rate.
So, I began to think about how I could increase the earn rate substantially. One thought was to move up in stakes from my usual $1/$2 and $2/$5 NL/PL (or $5/$10 and $10/$20 limit) to something much bigger. This is a dangerous move, especially if I were to play full-time hours, because I have no history (other than a few short sessions) in bigger games, even if I am adequately bankrolled.
I decided to do some more poker reading and thinking about the game. I looked for a few leaks. But, as I started my month of full-time hours, I still found myself winning around $12/hour in the $1/$2 NL HE games I was playing. It's clear to me that against reasonably strong opponents (i.e., the type who don't often stack off with one pair, and can read situations reasonably well), that's about the best I'm going to get.
So, it leaves two basic choices: move up in stakes, or find better games. I'd eliminated the former, so I was left with the latter.
I had done the first 14 days of the month playing the usual online sites. But, Full Tilt had been inundated with the Party Poker refugee sharks, and the games that were awesome in December ($1/$2, $200 max NL HE 6-max) had become, by mid-January, a constant battle to take money from the occasional weak player. Even Ultimate Bet, the once tight-weak-but-overplay-one-pair paradise has increased in its occurrence of multi-tabling pros. Other than the heads up games there — an extremely high variance form of poker — there wasn't much dead money to collect.
This brought me to around the 14th of January. I thought about focusing to live play. But, the costs are heavy. I could rent a cars (I've vowed to never use Greyhound again) to visit AC regularly, but I couldn't get away from work that easily. (I have a lot going on at my other job right now, too.) The NYC clubs are profitable, but nowhere near as good at the AC games. They are also hyper-aggressive, which leads to more variance.
So, I decided I had to become a online poker game selection specialist. I bought into every site I ever heard of. I sweated games. I found out when and where the really horrible players show up. And, my results improved. From the 14th to the 31st, I earned $79/hour multi-tabling $1/$2 ($200 max), $.5/$1 ($100 max), and occasionally $2/$4 ($400 max) NL HE. Plus, I made an additional $1,850 in online bonuses and promotions. These are results one could live on.
Of course, I don't think these will be typical by any means. I don't seem to have gotten amazingly lucky, it's really that I have found fields with opponents whose knowledge of the game is so abysmal that they cannot help but lose large amounts of money. Such fields are a rare find, and online poker moves and changes so fast (especially given the financial unraveling occurring in the USA), that there is absolutely no certainty that any good games will be available in just a few months.
However, my live sessions in Atlantic City and other casinos show that it's likely that I could probably earn a reasonable living as a full-time pro. Let's assume my results are highly anomalous (one month can't really show you a long term thing), and that if my game selection skills stay excellent, I'll earn somewhere at the halfway point between my historical results and these recent ones. That's certainly being optimistic, but it gives a good “best case” scenario of full-time pro life. If this estimate is accurate, I'd make my hourly rate somewhere $35-$45/hour. That's $75,000 to $90,000 each year, assuming normal work weeks and two weeks of vacation. That's completely without other benefits, of course.
However, even in the best case, when online poker ends, I'd doubt I'll be able to make much more than $50,000 or so a year at it unless my skill improves substantially or the games stay as easy as they are. (I think the latter is highly unlikely, and the former would be a substantial investment on my part). Even if the games stay good, much of the great EV comes from the multi-tabling and fast dealing online. Even $50k/year might be optimistic for live play unless I get much better and move way up in stakes.
I suppose I'm not giving too much about my personal finances away when I say that $50,000/year without benefits and only two weeks of vacation/sick days is not really close to my current lifestyle.
That said, I'm thinking of continuing with the experiment a while longer. I'm curious to see how long I can keep up the win rate. While it leads to very little free time between the two full-time jobs, I'd like to have a go for one more month and see how it works out. I'll keep you all posted, but it'll be sporadic.