Many people are familiar with the website Deadspin.com, which covers major sports gossip. Given the focus of their site, Deadspin doesn’t exactly do a lot of poker features. That said, the piece they turned out on Why You’ll Never Make a Living Playing Poker Tournaments was quite impressive.
The article takes off on a Bryan Devonshire CardPlayer article about how difficult it is to be a tournament pro in the US. And Deadspin breaks down the math on this subject, providing some very interesting statistics and analysis along the way. The post begins by discussing online poker star Chris Moorman, who, over the course of 39,000 online tournaments, had a median ROI of 26.5%. So if Moorman spends $1,000 on a poker tourney, he’s making $265 in profit on average.
Of course, hardly anybody is as good as Moorman at online tournaments. What’s more is that Americans can’t play at Full Tilt or PokerStars like Moorman, unless they move outside of the US. So many Americans are forced to grind at smaller online poker sites and US-based tourneys.
This creates a huge problem because, as Deadspin points out, even a gambling capital like Las Vegas doesn’t offer many weekly tournaments with $1,000-plus buy-ins. So outside of the WSOP, many grinders are left playing in $150-$300 buy-in events where it’s hard to capitalize on a good ROI.
For this reason, many US pros try to make as much money as they can during the WSOP. Unfortunately, the high level of competition leaves many players with a much smaller ROI. Deadspin gives several statistics leading to the conclusion that two-thirds of the best WSOP players are losing money each year.
The Deadspin article certainly creates a grim, but accurate portrayal of what many American pros face today. So do players give up? The problem isn’t quite this drastic, at least for semi-pros, who can still make a good deal of money on non-regulated, US-friendly internet sites. However, the big-time pros will probably keep living outside of the Untied States until the regulated online market includes far more states than just Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.