The life of a professional gambler looks glamorous from the outside. It certainly can be at times, but the reality is a little different than the romanticized version many recreational gamblers envision. It’s not all Atlantic City or Las Vegas suites, sports cars and champagne rooms.
The life of a pro gambler is simply a dogged pursuit of profit. It takes incredible knowledge, discipline, planning and relentless fortitude. Those are just the base requirements. Professional gamblers amass countless hours of experience and hard-learned lessons from gambling losses. Only the very elite gamblers have what it takes to consistently make enough profit to turn a hobby into a career. But the payoff for those select few is usually well worth the effort.
What is a Professional Gambler?
A professional gambler is someone whose main source of income is gambling profit. There’s no official test or license required to become a professional gambler. You just need to know what you’re doing, accept the accompanying risk and go for it.
All professional gamblers are different, too. Some stick entirely to casino games such as blackjack while others branch out to sports betting, poker rooms and slot machines. Sounds great, right? It’s not that easy.
The important thing to remember is that professional gamblers are not like recreational gamblers. They don’t usually get drunk with their buddies and randomly bounce around to different casino table games, unsure how much they’re willing to risk or which strategy they’d like to employ. It’s not a leisure activity or fun night out for true professional gamblers. And it isn’t card counting or other betting tricks looking for a quick win or payday. Professional gambling a job. And it’s nearly impossible to be successful long-term in the profession without treating it like a job every day.
Professional gamblers have their own strategies and money management systems. They almost never go against those principles. It’s strictly a numbers game. The margin for error is small and the house edge is such that gut instinct and suddenly deciding to double your blackjack bets isn’t a sustainable way to play.
Recreational gamblers might view a trip to the casino like a fun break from reality even if they lose money. Professional gamblers treat the casino like the office, and they need to show up ready to work every day in order to keep the bankroll where it needs to be. They take emotion out of it, just like a professional sports gambler or a professional poker player.
Why Aspire to be a Professional Gambler?
Most gamblers have at least wondered if they could make a living at the tables. It’s a tempting thought, for sure. Professional gamblers are living the dream in many respects. Most have gambled the majority of their adult lives – perhaps doing occasional sports betting in addition to playing casino games – and get to do something they love every day.
There are a ton of reasons someone would aspire to become a professional gambler, but the main one is easy – money. Lots of money. The best professional gamblers can bring in seven figures each year with lavish lifestyles comparable to professional athletes or rock stars. Steak dinners, VIP tables, courtside seats – it’s all there for the taking if you make it.
It’s also a cash business if you work out of brick-and-mortar casinos. Anyone who has waited tables knows how good it feels to leave a Saturday dinner rush with wads of cash in their pockets. Professional gamblers take it to the next level. You don’t have to wait two weeks until the next paycheck. Those profits are in your pocket or bank account almost instantly. No need to run to an ATM to tip the valet guy at the casino. You’re handing out bills and taking care of those who take care of you. That will not go unnoticed nor unappreciated, and it’s why a lot of professional gamblers generally get the hook up wherever they go.
That’s not the case for everyone. Some professional gamblers pull modest salaries and pay their bills like any other middle-class suburb dweller. But they also enjoy many of the benefits that come with the territory. You can also do it online at the growing number of legal and licensed online New Jersey casinos you’ll find on this site.
Professional poker players and sports bettors have a great working environment. You are your own boss and work on your own schedule. You don’t take instructions from an employer and you don’t get trapped into mindless small talk with co-workers at the coffee machine. It’s not the type of job where you bounce around pointless meetings all day, counting the hours until you get to escape at 5 p.m.
If you’re a night owl, you can sleep until 5 p.m. and work the casino table games until 4 a.m. Early risers can get there at 5 a.m. and call it a day before lunch. Your office is always open and there’s no need to punch a clock or stick to a rigorous schedule. You can do it at a casino or do it from home.
You can’t discount the cool factor either. Yes, it can be a grind at times. Professional gamblers have bad days with wagering losses measuring in the five figures. But the good ones understand the risk. They’re living the dream of gamblers everywhere and doing something very few have the understanding or persistence to pull off. Professional gamblers are following in a long line of iconic characters and renegades, making a living off one of America’s oldest pastimes.
Downsides to Being a Professional Gambler
Many aspirational professional gamblers have learned downsides the hard way. Often they’re significant enough to knock them out of the business.
One of the biggest downsides is the financial uncertainty. This is still gambling, and even the sharpest players run into colds streaks. Those can last days or weeks or months. It can be extremely stressful to watch the bankroll dwindle no matter how confident you are that things will turn around soon. Perception is also in play here – you’ll be met with sympathy if laid off from a normal job through no fault of your own. If you can’t hack it as a professional gambler and blow your bankroll, you’re viewed as a failure who took an unnecessary risk.
It can be a lonely existence as well. Very few understand the profession or lifestyle, and it’s tough to find a sympathetic ear who can relate.
Professional gambling also removes some of the fun factor. Even the big wins tend to lose steam over time as professional gamblers fall into a routine of the daily grind. And professional sports bettors are at the mercy of the sportsbooks – most legitimate operations will take their action, but some sportsbooks actively shut down sharp bettors once they’ve won big. This means finding runners or driving around to multiple sportsbooks each day to bet the amount you need to follow your system.
Where Do Professional Gamblers Typically Live?
Most professional gamblers live in Las Vegas, where there is access to dozens of 24-hour casinos, sportsbooks and poker rooms.
There are some pro gamblers and poker players who play mostly online and can live anywhere. The amount of state taxes you’ll pay on gambling winnings varies. The federal taxes are dependent on your tax bracket.
5 Steps to Become a Professional Gambler
Every professional gambler followed a unique path into the job, but there are a few general principles that apply to pretty much all of them.
Step 1: Build a Bankroll
You can’t jump into the gambling game with a few hundred bucks and expect to last. Professional bettors need a significant amount of money to start. The profits add up over time if you do it right, but nothing is guaranteed. The number will vary for everyone, but a pro gambler needs to start with enough of a bankroll that they can afford to take some early hits.
Step 2: Create a Money Management Strategy
This isn’t a bachelor or bachelorette party. You can’t just show up to the roulette table and throw $500 on black because you’re suddenly feeling it. Professional gamblers don’t bet on hunches or instincts. They have a system and stick to it with unwavering discipline. You can’t go against the plan and start chasing losses. Trying to do it without a money management plan is a sure way to fail.
Step 3: Know Your Game
A professional gambler must have a total understanding of every casino game, sport or poker format they plan to wager on as part of their livelihood. Hitting on 14 with the blackjack dealer showing five won’t cut it. Pro gamblers know the house edge on all their games down to the percentage. They know exactly how to play every hand to give them the best statistical advantage. That’s the only way to build profits over time whether you’re gambling on the roulette wheel or the NFL.
Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice
Before you set out to become a professional gambler, it would be a good idea to practice with a social casino, online casino or online poker site. Social casinos have free games that work just like land-based casino games with no risk of any gambling losses. Online casinos have demo play options. This will help you build strategies and a money management system. It will also expose anyone who won’t be able to hack it. If you can’t get it done at a social casino, in demo mode or in an online poker room, you won’t be able to cut it as a pro gambler.
Step 5: Stick to the Plan
Do not let your emotions get involved. It’s hard to walk away from the table when you’re having a bad day, but diverting from the plan you set out is a good way to lose your bankroll in a hurry. Pro gamblers are ruthlessly efficient and count every penny. Going away from these plans is not smart if you want to stick with it for years.
Is Gambling Skill or Just Plain Luck?
Most casino table games are entirely luck. The roulette wheel and craps table are purely about the wheel and the dice with no decision-making from the player. Professional gamblers stay away from these games of chance for the most part.
Blackjack is different in that players make decisions based on the cards. The house edge is also the smallest of all casino games, though it is still tough to consistently win at blackjack over time. The exception here is blackjack tournaments, where players pay an entry fee and compete against each other rather than the house. The reason is you won’t get busted for counting cards or using other techniques the house would never allow in a normal game.
Poker and sports betting are different. Poker is certainly a game of skill, which is why a lot of the most well-know gamblers are professional poker players. And it’s possible to beat the sportsbook over time with consistently sharp bets.
Those who aspire to become gambling pros need to understand all these things and have a firm grasp of numbers and finance. They also must remain humble by sticking to the game plan and money management system no matter if they’re cold as ice or riding the heater of a lifetime.
Gambling Games to Choose From
Professional gamblers play a variety of games, but there are a few that will give them the best chance to be successful. These are the most popular options.
Professional poker players such as Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey are some of the most well-known gambling pros of all time. Ivey amassed more than $20 million in career tournament winnings before his 40th birthday, to give you an idea of the type of money these poker players can pull.
Poker is undoubtedly a game of skill. Enter any poker room at a land-based casino and you’ll quickly see the difference between the sharks and the marks. Playing in tournaments like the World Series of Poker is one of best ways to make a living gambling. Ability to read people and quickly analyze numbers and probability is a must.
It is tougher than poker because there is still a house edge. Even if you play the hand correctly 100% of the time, it’s tough to build steady profits in the long run. Some have made millions counting cards before casinos caught on, but it’s almost impossible to get away with that now at land-based casinos, and random number generators make it impossible in online blackjack.
Blackjack tournaments, however, are a little looser with the rules. You can probably get away with counting cards because you’re competing against other players instead of the house. But counting cards takes years of practice for most people and is risky to try anywhere outside of a tournament.
The house still has the edge here due to the juice, but many professional gamblers make sports gambling their primary source of income. The odds at sportsbooks in Las Vegas and online are pretty tight for most sports like NFL betting. But gambling pros are coming up with new algorithms and systems every day to try to beat the sportsbook.
There will be inevitable bad runs here as well, but a sharp player who knows what they’re doing can build steady profits over time.
Should You Try to Become a Professional Gambler?
If you’re passionate enough to even think about becoming a professional gambler, you’ll need to consider a few other factors. Do you have enough of a starting bankroll to ride the wave on early wagering losses? Can you handle the lifestyle with unusual hours and work environment? Can you keep a level head at all times and minimize risk as much as possible?
Making a living betting is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Just remember that a lot of pro gamblers earn a modest amount and multimillionaires are the exception.
There are a number of risks and reasons to think twice, which we’ve outlined above. But if your dream is to become a professional gambler and you think you can handle it, give it a shot. At least you can say you tried if things don’t work out rather than wonder what might have been. And the rewards for those who make it are extremely tempting.
FAQ for Becoming a Professional Gambler
Is being a professional gambler a real job?
Yes, being a professional gambler is a real job for many. They keep financial records and pay taxes like any other job and treat it like a business.
How much do professional gamblers make?
The best professional gamblers can earn millions in a single year. Others earn more modest incomes like $50,000 per year.
What qualifies as a professional gambler?
A professional gambler is someone who earns the majority of their income from gambling profits. They can even write off business expenses on their taxes like any other job.
Do professional gamblers pay tax?
Yes, professional gamblers pay taxes. They are classified as a business and taxed differently than casual gamblers. They even pay a self-employment tax.
Can gambling make you rich?
Yes. Good professional gamblers can get very rich off poker, sports betting and other casino games. But the pros making more modest salaries outnumber the multimillionaires at the top of the profession.
Who is the richest gambler in the world?
Bill Benter is believed to be the richest gambler in the world. He reportedly earned roughly $1 billion betting on horse racing thanks to an algorithm he developed in the mid-1980s.