Poker players addiction to the game
September 10, 2009 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Are mostly of Professional Poker Players addicted and ready to gamble everything (including personal property) or a large percentage handle it as a business, a career?

I’m very aware that there are exceptions on everything. But I'm asking about the general rule...
posted by 3dd to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They handle it as a business by-and-large. They follow bankroll management guidelines to ensure that they have sufficient "capital" to keep their business going, even during streaks of misfortune.
posted by ignignokt at 11:20 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Professionals are, by definition, someone who makes money at a particular endeavor. If someone is not a professional, then they do not make money at it... so it is here. If they are gamblers, then they're bet-the-farm types who are either very lucky, or very broke. Pro poker players don't gamble so much as play a game of skill against other skilled players.

Most pro poker players grind it out, hundreds of hands a day, every day, for eight to twelve hours at a stretch, against gamblers and amateurs and other tourists. Casinos like them, because they make the game interesting for visitors, and a good pro will draw a lot of traffic to a table so people can test their luck or skill against "a pro."

Pros make decent money, but not fantastic money, unless they are at the very top tier of the game, and either have an enormous bankroll they won at tournaments, or they're playing with money invested by a third party who has confidence in their ability to turn a profit with it. As this "investment" is usually from very shady sources, not many go this route.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:22 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

A large part of being a successful (read:professional) poker player is money management, or knowing when to use the money you're playing with to your best advantage. To that end, very few players can last long enough to be long time pros without having an extraordinary sense of discipline as it pertains to their money on the table. I would say that most, if not nearly all, professional poker players (read: people who pay their house payment with their winnings) are not addicted in the classical sense.

(That said, I know a lot of pros who will spend a night winning, then lose it all at the craps table, only to return to the poker room for more "fuel".)
posted by ASoze at 11:23 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think partially it depends on who is included in your sample of professional players for one thing.Certainly prop bets and other gambling (roulette, craps, black jack, etc) are sources of amusement/income or loss for a number of professional card players but I think it would be very hard to say that it is an addiciton.
Many poker players have agents (just as sports figures and entertainers do) and managers and do treat their playing as a career. There are a number of players who have been around long enough, decades in some cases, who haven't gone bust and seem to be doing well with their bankroll management.
If I lost a 100K at a craps table in a night, I'd have Guido the Killer Pimp on my case (because i would be uber uber in the red), for someone like Phil Ivey, that's probably the equivalent of me dropping $40 at the cosmetics counter. It's all relative, in a sense.
On preview, Slap*Happy makes a good point about the skill involved; it's also worth noting that in casinos, poker players are playing other players, not trying to beat the house (which profits by taking a rake of each pot). I know some grinders who only play poker and not other casino games for this reason.
posted by pointystick at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2009

Gambling addiction is a specific diagnosis; it's a compulsive behavior. It's unlikely that someone who has managed to stay competitive as a professional player is also a gambling addict who is compulsive about the game of poker (as your question's title implies). Successful pros manage themselves as businesses, both in order to keep their bankroll growing and to stay on the good side of the IRS. Even the pros who swing wildly in cash games (like Tom Dwan or Patrik Antonius, for example) are well aware of how they're doing and what the implications are for their bankrolls.
posted by catlet at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2009

As a data point, I know a small group of professional online poker players - about 5 people. They treat it very much as a business, with strict self-imposed rules about bookeeping, data sharing, how much of the winnings get re-invested, even regular(ish) working hours. They say it's not actually that much fun, but it's their only job and they're able to pay themselves fairly consistent and very comfortable wages. "Rakeback" - a cut of the table's profits paid to them because they're so active on the site - helps to add stability to their income.

They say that they get the impression that other "sharks" they encounter on the tables work in much the same way.
posted by metaBugs at 11:31 AM on September 10, 2009

Are mostly of Professional Poker Players addicted and ready to gamble everything (including personal property) or a large percentage handle it as a business, a career?

Note that any small business involves some amount of risk that the business could fail and the owner could go broke. So while risking a large bankroll as a professional poker player might not be like going to a 9 to 5 job and getting a paycheck every week, it is a lot like opening a restaurant and hoping that it won't be one of the 60% that fail. And it's actually less risky in some ways, because it's relatively easy for a small business to operate on credit, whereas poker players usually use their own money for their bankroll, so poker players can at least just walk away and not worry about direct effects on their debt or credit rating.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2009

All of these answers are true ideally and for a significant portion of pro players. But this is like asking about whether everyone who cooks food makes good food.

You don't have to be any good if you're a chef. You could be a really really terrible chef in a shitty restaurant who is good at borrowing money--in fact you could be a lot worse of a cook than some random Mom/Dad. Some professional players (particularly new ones) are addicted to gambling in the worst possible way and will eventually go bust. Some are addicted to gambling and manage it within limits and stay afloat. And some treat it as a business in which risks are to be accepted rather than pursued. If you want % I'd say based on my 5 years as a semi-pro player, for people who call themselves professionals it is:

30% hopeless addicts
50% smart addicts
20% businessmen


The smartest pros of course all got real jobs at the height of the boom in late 2006--we could see this recession coming a mile away!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:57 AM on September 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

I think you need to make a distinction between the average professional poker player (i.e., someone who makes a living playing poker), and the superstars at the top of the game. Yes, there are many average professional players that treat it like a business and nothing more.

Daniel Negreanu (I'm pretty sure it was him) wrote an article about the superstars, though, where he said that yes, most of them are degenerate gamblers--only they're so good at the gambling that they manage to make money off of it. He said that someone who's just in it to make money will find some mid-level poker game he's comfortable at, make enough money to live on, and be happy. The ones at the top, though, are the ones that kept trying for the bigger stakes, kept getting their asses handed to them and losing all their money, went to lower stakes to grind out another bankroll, went up to higher stakes and lost it all again, until eventually they started doing okay. In other words, they lost lots of money playing for ridiculous stakes until they got good enough at it that they're not bankrupt.

So, to summarize: Plenty of non-degenerate professional poker players. Much lower percentage among the superstars.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:12 PM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I haven't had luck tracking down the article I was looking for, but I did come across this.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2009

Stuey Ungar would constantly go broke making ridiculous prop bets on golf games, or on sports betting or horse racing. From what I can remember from reading biographies, guys from that era (like Brunson and Amarillo Slim) were also big on sports betting/horse racing. Not sure about the more recent players.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:30 PM on September 10, 2009

Anecdotally, I know two professional poker players personally. Both treat it more or less as a business, are successful, and don't seem to have any compulsive gambling issues. Neither seems to be interested in gambling for the sake of gambling.

On the other hand, the high stakes poker world is full of stories of people who are both good at poker but are also compulsive gamblers. If you've ever watched the show High Stakes Poker, you may have noticed that in the first few seasons most of the players were constantly engaged in large "prop bets" which were games of pure chance. Eventually the producers had to tell them to stop because it made for poor television since the audience had no idea what these various side bets were.

Probably a better place to ask this question would be the two plus two forums, which are filled with poker players, both amateur and professional.
posted by justkevin at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2009

From personal experience, the friend of mine who plays poker professionally has no gambling problems. It's just a good use of his math skills and people reading skills that he acquired during his former teaching career.
posted by Hactar at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2009

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