Play poker for a living – Is it worth the massive risk?

Play poker for a living – Is it worth the massive risk?

Warning: This involves substantial risk and will not be suitable for the majority of you.

This is gambling and should be avoided like the plague however we do get lots of people asking for information so here goes

Playing poker is emotionally and mentally taxing, but the rewards possible are immense. If played properly it will be the most financially rewarding endeavour you ever undertaken, especially from a £/hour perspective. But you must ensure that you always have a back up plan, i.e. to pay the bills etc.

The following is all true about poker & should be followed like a religion:

  • You work whenever you want, from anywhere in the world (as long as you can access the internet)
  • You have to be good with money to do it, if you cannot budget you’re screwed.
  • You must be emotionally stable before starting to play.
  • You must be ready for swings and roundabouts, you may win and lose hundreds of pounds per day!
  • You must have a true passion & enjoyment for the game.
  • You must set in place a back up plan, one that ensures you always have more than enough to pay the bills.
  • You must be prepared to have 1 or 2 other steams of income.
  • You must try to keep a balanced life, spend time with friends & family, get a girlfriend/boyfriend & get a hobby. All of these will help you along the way.
  • Poker is not for everyone, only a select few.
  • You will probably work in your underwear somedays.
Remember one minute you can be making huge profits but you can lose it all in the next hand

Remember one minute you can be making huge profits but you can lose it all in the next hand

How much can I make per hour?

The aim will be £20 to £45 an hour but you can easily lose that as well. That’s why it’s important to only play with ‘spare’ money that you’ve set as acceptable if you lose it all.
Always make sure you have enough money left / safe to pay for your normal weekly, monthly commitments.

Practice, Practice & Practice.

Becoming a semi-professional poker player will not be easy, especially if you start off trying to play big.

Don’t kid yourself you’re not a good player, you can only call yourself a good player after 100+ hours of playing & even then you’re just getting started.

Make sure you practice playing poker on free tables for a good 24 hours + before actually playing with real cash.

What is the biggest mistake novice players make?

Not folding [i.e. to stop betting when you have a weak set of cards] early enough.

I’m a complete novice, what do I do?

1. Understand the cards and their values

Poker is always played with 52 playing cards (a standard pack size), the cards are ranked in order of value from low to high in the following order: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King & Ace (always high). Aces are worth more than Kings, Kings are worth more than Queens, etc etc. The cards are also separated into suits (just like most other card games) but no suit is superior to another.

The dealer will deal 5 cards to you, your objective is to end up with the highest valued group of cards (a hand):

The above hands are in order of increasing importance, starting from bottom right to top left, so a Royal Flush is the best set of cards and High Hand is the worst.

OK, but what do they mean?

We will start with the lowest value cards, as you will probably see these the most:

High hand/card

If no one has a better hand then the highest value card wins, two being the lowest card and the ace being the highest.

If two of more have the highest card then you play the next highest card.

One pair (most common)

The clue is in the name, you have one pair of a certain suit. e.g. two kings and three random cards

The highest ranking pair wins, e.g. two kings beats two fives

Two pair

Same as One Pair but two different sets i.e. two kings and two fours

Three of a kind

Three cards of the same numerical rank, and two random cards that are not a pair.

i.e. 6, 6, 6


Five cards in numerical order with various suits.


Five cards not in numerical order but the same suit

Full house

Consists of three of a kind and a pair

Four of a kind

Four cards of the same numerical rank i.e. 5, 5, 5, 5 and one random card

Straight flush

A straight with all the cards in the same suit

Royal flush

Royal flush contains the 10, jack, queen, king and ace of a single suit.

It’s the best hand in poker and is similar to a hole in one for golf!

2. Learn the basic rules of the game

Take some time to learn the rules. Image: slgckgc

Take some time to learn the rules. Image: slgckgc

Before the game starts the players will decide a betting limit or if played online you go to a specific table with limits in place, this forces you to stay friendly and not gamble with cars, houses or money you don’t have.

  1. The players all place an ante or token bet into the pot (the cash in the middle of the table), this ante can be any amount but is generally low i.e. £1, all players place the same amount.
  2. Dealer then deals the cards face down starting at the player to his/her left. Everyone is dealt 1 card at a time until all players have 5 cards, the remaining of the deck is placed in the middle of the table.
  3. Time to look at your cards, the first player will then bet, this first player is often just the player to the left of the dealer but depending on where you’re playing they may choose it differently. After the first round the next person around the circle (cloakwise) will become the first player of the next round.
  4. So you’ve got your cards, what options do you now have (first round):If no one else has placed a bet yet you can:
    1. Open: You can open the betting by being the first to bet (any amount up to the betting limit)
    2. Check: You don’t want to start the betting but want to continue playing.
      If someone else has already bet you can:
    1. See: You match the previous persons bet
    2. Raise: To raise you must first See and then raise the bet to a higher amount
    3. Fold: You give up on that round, you place your cards face down and you lose anything you’ve bet so far. You use this when you think your hand isn’t as good as the other players.
  5. Now the first round has completed, all players still playing will get rid of the cards they don’t want (up to 3 cards). Nobody should see the cards that have been discarded or given as replacements.
  6. Betting continues again just like the first round
  7. The game ends when there are no more raises or everybody except the winner folds.
  8. Everyone turns over the cards on the table in front of them, the person with the highest hand wins the money in the middle of the table (i.e. the pot). At this point all your friends will now hate you.

The biggest mistake novice players make is not folding early enough, try and wait until you’ve got a decent hand before continuing to play but remember if you only play when you’ve got a decent hand the other players will soon realise this and fold quickly when you continue to play, so don’t always play it safe!

Poker is all about being a good liar and a superb actor but online poker is different as you generally can’t see the other players so you don’t need to worry about facial expressions, shaking hands etc etc, so playing online is actually easier.

3. Know the lingo


Knowing what everyone is talking about helps

So you’ve already learned the basics and the most common words but you’re still missing out on a few:

  • Bluff – Pretending to have better cards than you actually have in front of you, this is a basic principle of poker and is something you will do every game. The idea behind bluffing is to try and make your opponents think you’ve got a superior hand to them.
  • Aggressive Play – Someone that bets high and early on in the round, they will generally reach the maximum limit in the game and will probably wait until the very end to fold, as they hope you will fold before them.
  • Conservative Play – Someone that bets low and will quickly fold if the cards aren’t right for them. These players may keep more money in their pocket but will unlikely take home the larger jackpots because other players will easily spot a conservative player and know that if that person doesn’t fold they likely have decent cards.
  • Action – “I’m not getting much action here” i.e. not enough people are risking enough money to warrant me continuing to play on this table.
  • Tell – You know when children lie they often cover their faces with their hands, as adults we can cover this reaction up but we may do other more subtle mannerisms that give away our feelings, hands etc. These little clues can lose you a lot of money but with online poker they simply don’t exist as you can’t see a persons reactions, so it’s easier to hide them but unfortunately it’s also harder to spot them!

4. Be clever & don’t be an idiot

As we keep mentioning the biggest mistake novice players make is not folding when they have a rubbish hand, no one will think you’re an idiot when you fold so just do it, even if you do it 10 times in a row!

Poker face – Don’t give away any clues, this isn’t really needed for online poker but some people do text chat or  video chat whilst playing so if you do then be sure to remember not to show any emotion or clues when playing.

Alcohol will probably be drunk if you’re with friends and playing for fun, but online it really should be avoided as you will probably find yourself the next morning waking up to both a hangover and no money in the online account. Avoid getting drunk and playing serious poker at all costs.

The top players in the world will have a secondary career/income alongside Poker, this is to ensure they can pay the bills at the end of the month. So make sure you’ve always got 1 or 2 additional income streams before even starting to play poker.

Remember to budget a fixed amount each month to play poker with and stick to it, going over your budget will only cause you frustration, annoyance, pain, anger, sadness and even tears, so simply don’t do it.

You need to eat, drink and go to university/college so don’t risk money you cannot afford to lose and remember each lecture you miss will probably cost you £30 to £50 in tuition fees (considerably more than you probably will win in that same time)

If you’re not good at budgeting then seriously consider leaving this page now!!


5.  Some places to play

888 Poker
Paddy Power Poker


6. Bonuses & Tricks


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Important things to remember with everything we post:

  • If you earn over your personal allowance (currently £12,570 a year) HMRC need to get their % cut (even if the money is in cash or from another country)
  • If you’re working for yourself / earning an income on the side you need to let HMRC know – There are numerous benefits but also some drawbacks
  • You need to always ensure whatever you’re doing is legal and not hurting anyone else – be careful and always think twice
  • Some income streams may require you to have DBS check, licence, insurance or qualifications before you can start to profit from it, do your research.
  • Be careful that any additional income doesn’t compromise your studies or main income/job
  • If you work for a company check your contract, if you don’t inform them you’re working on other side projects outside of work they may have grounds to ownership on this work

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