Poker Tournament Wages

Making Money Playing Tournaments

Play Poker Tournaments"Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways: women, gambling, and farming. My family chose the slowest one." -- Pope John XXIII

Even after years, the big majority of regular poker players never seem to come to grips with exactly what the heck they are doing -- or, more precisely, what they are trying to do. Today let's just focus on poker for money. Forget anything having to do with relaxation, the challenge or fun. Just consider poker playing and the making of (or losing of) money.

Middle-limit ring game players are notorious for crying like two year olds whenever time collection charges are due. There are lots of anecdotal stories about high limit players who shriek at dealers or waitresses who assume a dollar chip was meant as a tip. But at the same time, very few players seem to understand that they win (or lose) money just like a worker punching a time clock. You put in the hours, and you make or lose your expectation. You apply and re-apply your advantages endlessly, and you accumulate dribbles and droplets of profit from everything you do in, around, and in preparation for poker games.

But that just sounds like hooey to most players. All they see is pots... big pots, small pots... big winning days, crappy losing days. They fall into the trap of thinking money is made in lumps. They think it springs full-grown from Zeus' forehead. But that is not how it works. Money is made by planting seeds, nursing seedlings, and cultivating the resultant crops.

All winning poker is simply a matter of putting in the hours when you have the best of it. Hopelessly un-sexy, but there it is.

Poker tournaments are no different, even though the wrong thinking of most players is at its peak when thinking of tournaments.

Because they have a relatively low rake, and because skill is more highly valued, tournaments will always be extremely profitable and a good use of time for top players. But tournaments major brick & mortar tournaments do not run around the clock. You simply cannot put in all that many hours in a year playing major tournament poker. And if you do put in a lot of time, you have to travel all over the planet, with the resulting high expenses. Low rake and high skill make tournaments more profitable than parallel ring games for skilled players, but travel costs raise the effective rake of being a tournament player. Think of the edge you would need to have to fly from San Jose to Las Vegas for one $1000 tournament. Parking, airfare, cab fare, hotel, restaurants... this all is de facto tournament rake. Of course, most players travel for a block of days, but still the concept is the same. Overhead is a different kind of rake. (Obviously the same idea is true for traveling ring game players.)

Skilled players must pay rake to Southwest Airlines and Hilton Hotels. This takes a lot of poker money out of circulation too. As do satellites, an ingenious way for casinos to essentially charge rake on the same money twice. Tournaments by their nature bleed off money that ends up in the pockets of non-poker players.

But that doesn't alter the fundamental profitability of the tournament format for winning players. It just means that players need to understand that their time is money, and that all their expenses are rake. A large number of players will never be suited for tournaments simply because they can't get their brain around the concept of not winning for months at a time, and then reaping a big windfall. That windfall is simply payment for all the hours put in while not winning. All those hours were compensated at the same rate (assuming the player always played roughly at the same quality level). Winning isn't a big score, and, big news flash, you should not spend money like a sailor when it happens. That win is merely a lump sum payment for the hours you ground out over many days, weeks or months. All your expenses must be factored against that win, and the time commitment it took.

Both the tournament and ring game poker worlds are riddled with talented but busted deadbeats who don't understand that poker is a lifetime game of milking small edges.

Winning poker is a methodical process of cause and effect, of seeds and crops. Suckers think of tournaments in terms of "the big score". Don't fall into the trap. Tournaments are hourly wage labor, where your own skills and your own ongoing frugality determine the wage.

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