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4 Reasons Tournament Poker Pros Aren't As Rich As You Think - Poker Junkie

9 June 2015, By:

In reality it's merely the amount of money a player has cashed for when finishing in the money.

Basing the success of a tournament player solely on results is deceiving. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Tournament Poker is Expensive

Unlike other sports, poker players must pay for each and every tournament they enter.

This racks up quickly and is a major reason why some players are not as successful as they appear.

In the last couple of years tournament poker has gotten more expensive than ever despite the overall drop in buy-ins. This is due to many tournaments now offering re-entry.

In the past a $500 tournament would cost only $500. Now it can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 or more depending on the type of reentry strategy employed.

Let's assume that the same tournament player enters 20 tournaments a month and re-enters half of them. You're looking at $15,000 in buy-ins for a single month.

In a year's time you're shelling out $180,000 in buy-ins to compete in $500 tournaments. How many $500 tournament players are cashing for $180,000 a year?

2. Did You Factor Other Expenses?

Buy-ins alone are not the only expenses tournament players incur. Below are a few expenses you will incur on almost a daily basis playing tournaments:

  • Gas to and from the casino
  • Casino parking fees
  • Valet tips
  • Cocktail waitress tips (water and other free beverages)
  • Food or snacks
  • Alcohol
  • Dealer tips (when you cash in a tournament it is customary to tip the dealers)

Of course this is assuming that you live in the general area of the casino. Otherwise you will have travel expenses to factor in too.

Major tournament pros will travel around the world to play in high buy-in tournaments and rack up high travel bills.

3. Tournament Players Don't Cash That Often

The average tournament poker player will cash in only 10 to 20% of the tournaments he or she plays. Some pros manage a better cash rate but you will seldom find a tournament player above say a 30% ITM rate.

Of course, making the money doesn't mean much unless you make the final table. Even then the biggest prizes are in the top three spots.

Using our example from above  your typical min-cash in a $500 event is around $600 to $625. In many cases you will have to make the final table to achieve anything close to a reasonable hourly rate, assuming the field was large enough to make a decent prize pool.

With most players only making the money around 20% of the time, tops, it's important to shoot for the top spots. Otherwise you won't make back your investment.

4. Putting it All Together

Now that we know a bit about the expenses of a typical tournament player let's look at what your average lower-stakes tournament pro incurs in expenses.

The following figures assume that the player lives in or near a casino town and a 30-day month:

  • Average buy-in: $500
  • Average number of tournaments played in a month: 20
  • Average number of tournaments reentered: 10
  • Average daily expenses outside of buy-ins: $40
  • Average cash (min-cashes through non-top 3 finishes): $825
  • Frequency of finishing in the money: 10 to 20%

Using the above figures as a guide this pro would spend approximately $16,200 a month in tournaments. If he or she cashed in 20% of the tournaments played that would be four tournaments a month.

Should he not make a top three finish in those four cashes he's looking at $3,300 per month in returns from a $16,200 investment.

Now that you have an idea of some of the expenses that pros incur, you can apply similar concepts to your higher buy-in pros to get a better feel for some of the expenses they incur.

Looking at the numbers behind tournament poker explains a bit why some poker players aren't as flush with cash as their "profile" may indicate.

It also shows why many pros go with backers, swap percentages or employ other methods to help reduce variance.

Tournament poker is an expensive profession and for many a losing proposition.

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