The dream of many gamblers is to be able to quit their boring regular job and gamble for a living. They know that some people do it, so why can't they do it to?
The truth is that many people try to make a living by gambling full-time, but only a small percentage of gamblers are able to do it. You'll face many challenges, but if you can take the pressure and learn how to make the correct wagers, the dream can be real.
I've put together a step-by-step plan of how to make $50,000 a year gambling. It includes everything you need know, including the good and the bad.
$50,000 isn't a random number. I chose it because it's $1,000 a week if you take two weeks off during the year. Some people would be happy gambling for a living and making $1,000 a week. Others might want or need to make more.
The key thing to understand is if you can build your skills to the point where you can make $50,000 a year you can probably keep working and increasing your bankroll so you can make more.
In 1997, David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth of Two Plus Two Publishing, released a book titled How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living. It isn't one of their most popular books, but it shows that there's a market of people who want to know more.
The good news for you is you can find out everything you need to know on this page for free, so you don't need to buy the book.
If you want to make a living gambling you have to have a bankroll. All forms of gambling have ups and downs, and nothing you do is going to cause you to win all of the time.
Your bankroll is the life blood of your gambling career. If you don't have any money to risk, you can't make any money.
It's important that you have enough money so you can ride out the winning and losing streaks and let the long-term edge work in your favor. The first mistake most would-be professional gamblers make is not having a large enough bankroll.
You need to have enough money in reserve to live on while you build your bankroll enough to ride the ups and downs, and eventually start taking profit from it.
In the case of making $50,000 a year, you need to be able to take $1,000 out of your bankroll every week. This means that your bankroll needs to be big enough to make bets large enough to make this much money with the edge you create.
The required bankroll depends somewhat on the variance in the gambling activity you choose. The three realistic gambling activities for professional gamblers, each with their own section below, include blackjack, poker, and sports betting.
The required bankroll for each varies, but you can follow some guidelines to help you get a good idea of how much you need. I cover these guidelines in each of the game sections below.
In order to make $50,000 a year gambling, you have to find situations where you can get a long-term edge. Casino and gambling games are designed to give the house an edge. So your choices are limited when it comes to finding an edge.
Blackjack is designed in a way where the house rules change the edge. It also is played with a specific set of cards. This gives you an opportunity to keep track of the ratio between high and low cards and vary your bet sizes so you can get a long-term edge. This is called card counting, and you're going to learn more about it in the blackjack section.
Poker is a unique game in gambling, because instead of playing against the house, you play against the other players and the house takes a small cut from each pot. This creates an opportunity where you can get a long-term edge if you can play better than most of your opponents.
Sports betting is the other area where a few people are able to create a long-term edge. The betting lines are set by the bookmakers and sometimes change based on the amount of money bet on the game.
This can create opportunities for smart sports bettors to find games that offer value on one side or the other. If you can identify enough games with value and can bet enough on each game you can turn a long-term profit.
Other possibilities to find an edge include a few video poker games and other advantage play opportunities like arbitrage, hole carding, shuffle tracking, and ace tracking. These are more difficult in many cases than the three gambling opportunities listed above.
Some gamblers are able to combine two or more opportunities to get an edge, but you should focus on mastering one area before looking to add a second and third option.
The numbers behind making $50,000 a year gambling are fairly simple, but they also show why most players fail to make a living.
If you learn how to count cards playing blackjack, you can usually achieve a long-term edge of between a half percent and one percent. Knowing this, we can determine how much you need to wager each week to reach your goal of $1,000 in profit.
If you want to make $1,000 a week in profit playing blackjack with a half percent edge, you have to make $200,000 worth of bets per week. This means that if your average bet is $100, you have to play 2,000 hands. At an average of 50 hands per hour, you need to play 40 hours per week.
This seems like a realistic number at first, but card counters have a hard time playing in the same game and at the same casino for too long. When the casino figures out that you're counting cards, they stop you from playing.
Also, blackjack players that average $100 per bet are watched closer than ones that make lower bets. But let's look at a few different situations.
If you can get a 1% edge, you can play 20 hours a week with an average bet of $100 and get the same outcome as playing 40 hours at a half percent. Or you can play 40 hours with an average bet of $50 with a 1% edge.
It's not easy, but with the proper bankroll and card counting skills, blackjack is a real possibility.
Poker gives you the opportunity to play as many hours per week as you want to, because the casino or poker room doesn't care if you win or lose. Good poker players can win one big bet per hour in limit games, so if you play 10 / 20 and play 50 hours per week you can grind out $1,000 in profit.
Good no-limit players can win more per hour in some situations, so you might be able to turn a $1,000 profit playing $500 buy-in no-limit Texas hold'em playing fewer hours. It's even easier for a good player to make $1,000 a week in $1,000 buy-in games.
For these reasons, poker is the best option for many players who want to make a living gambling.
In many ways, sports betting is the most challenging of the three possibilities for gambling for a living.
The profit margins for winning sports bettors are usually thin, and large amounts of money must be bet in order to show enough profit to make a living. As a sports bettor, it's almost impossible to win over 55% of the games you bet on in the long-run, and the vig takes a chunk of your profit.
In order to make $50,000 a year, you need to win $4,167 a month. If you can find 100 games a month that offer value and win 55 of them, here's how the numbers work out:
If you bet $1,100 on each of the 100 games for the opportunity to win $1,000, your total investment is $110,000. On the 55 bets you win, you get back your $1,100 and the $1,000 win. This means your total return is $115,500.
This creates a profit of $5,500 for the month. It sounds like a workable situation, but there are a few challenges. The first challenge is finding 100 games a month that offer value.
The second challenge is the short-term variance and how it can hurt your bankroll and profit. If you only win 50 to 52 out of 100 games, you lose money for the month. And if you only win 53 or 54 of the 100 games, you don't make much.
And when you have a month where you lose money or don't make enough to cover your bills, you still need to pay the bills. This money has to come out of your bankroll unless you have money put back for expenses.
Of course, if you're a good sports bettor, you're going to have months where you win more than 55 games, but don't count on this happening often.
If you can't find enough games to bet on each month, you need to bet more per game. This is usually a better strategy because it's easier to find games that offer value if you don't need to find so many of them. But it also means you need a bigger bankroll to safely make larger bets.
It's fun to play blackjack or poker or bet on sports in your spare time. But it can quickly become a grind if you have to do it to pay the bills. Many players find that it's as bad as a job when they're forced to pay hour after hour to grind out a living.
Let's say you learn how to be a decent poker player but can only make $10 an hour. If you want to make $1,000 a week, you have to play 100 hours. It's possible to play 100 hours a week but it's hard on you mentally and physically and you're probably going to burn out quickly if you try to do it.
Card counters often need to spend as much time looking for games and moving from game to game as they do playing. So if you need to play 40 hours a week to make $50,000 you might spend another 40 hours finding games and keeping from being thrown out.
In the last section, you learned how many games you need to bet on each month as a sports bettor, so it can be a full-time job evaluating and betting on games.
I'm not telling you to forget your dream of gambling for a living, but you need to be aware of what you're getting into. If you don't have a large bankroll that lets you make larger bets, you're forced to spend more time gambling.
A good poker player playing $1,000 or higher buy-in no-limit games will be able to make $1,000 a week faster than one playing $200 or $500 buy-in games. And a sports bettor who can bet $5,000 a game or more doesn't need to find as many games offering value as one betting $500 a game.
The constant stress of playing with an edge and needing to make a certain amount of money each week can take a toll on you. Make sure you're mentally and physically prepared for the grind before you start. Gambling for a living isn't for everyone, even if you have the skills to do it.
If you want to make a living as a blackjack player, you need to learn how to count cards. It's not as difficult as many people think, but you also need to be able to do it in a way that keeps the casinos from figuring out what you're doing and have a large enough bankroll to survive the downswings.
Even the best card counters have losing days and weeks. The edge is so small that short-term variance can and will go against you often. This means that you need to be able to keep playing the way that gives you a long-term edge no matter what happens.
The amount of money you need in your bankroll to make $1,000 a week in profit involves many variables. This isn't an exact estimate, but I wouldn't try to do it with less than $20,000 if the average bet is $100. $50,000 is even better.
The mechanics and how-to of card counting are deep subjects. Dozens of books have been written covering the subject, and thousands of pages of information are available. I suggest learning about the Hi Lo counting system or one of the unbalanced systems like the K O or Red 7.
The basics behind every card counting system are tracking the ratio of high and low cards remaining in the shoe or deck. You raise your bets when the ratio is rich in high cards and lower your bet when more low cards remain than high cards.
This is done by adding and subtracting a small number, usually one, from a running count. Just about anyone can learn to be a card counter with a little effort, so don't be afraid to look into it.
You also need to learn about camouflage, which helps you learn how to count without getting caught.
Just like blackjack, you can find a wide range of books that can help you play winning poker. It also is a game that lets you get started with a smaller bankroll than blackjack or sports betting. For these reasons I always suggest poker to anyone who thinks they want to try making a living gambling.
To be a winning poker player you simply need to learn how to play better than most of your opponents. Realize that this means that you can try to find worse players while improving your game at the same time.
Here are some rough bankroll guidelines for poker players. You need to understand that until you learn how to be a winning player, no bankroll is large enough.
For limit poker you should have 200 to 300 times the big bet. For no-limit ring games you need 20 to 30 times the buy in amount for the normal game you play.
This means that if you play 10 / 20 limit Texas hold'em or Omaha you should have between $4,000 and $6,000. $10,000 is even better.
If you play $500 buy-in no-limit games you should have between $10,000 and $15,000. Once again, more is better, so $20,000 is even safer.
You can also specialize in tournament poker, but the ups and downs tend to be bigger in tournaments. I suggest having a big enough bankroll to buy into at least 20 tournaments at the average buy-in you play.
I suggest learning how to play winning limit Texas hold'em or Omaha first. Mistakes cost less in limit play, and as your skills progress, you can start consistently winning a percentage or multiple of the big bet every hour on average.
Once you master limit play you can consider playing no-limit or pot-limit, but you might find it more profitable to play higher limits and stick with limit play.
You've already learned why sports betting can be beat, and the challenges that sports bettors face in finding enough games that offer value, as well as why you need a big bankroll. In this section, I'm going to get into more details about the size of your bankroll.
Most recreational sports bettors place bets of $100 or less per game. But it's almost impossible to make a living with small bets, even if you can evaluate games and find value.
I don't recommend trying to make a living as a sports bettor until you can afford to make $500 or $1,000 bets per game. I also recommend betting a maximum of 1% of your total bankroll per game. This is a conservative suggestion. But remember that your bankroll is the life of your career as a professional gambler.
This means that you need a $50,000 bankroll to make $500 bets and $100,000 to make $1,000 bets. Some bettors are good enough to stretch their bets to 2% of their bankroll, but I don't recommend trying it until you have a long track record of successful results.
When you gamble for a living, it's just like when you own your own business. You don't have health care and other benefits that some jobs offer.
This means that you're either going to need to have health care provided by your spouse or purchase it. This can be a large expense, and if you need to buy health care, you might need to be able to win more than your original goal.
Before you start your professional gambling career, consider your options and find out how much things are going to cost. If you're young, you might be tempted to go without health insurance, but this can be a costly gamble.
The other thing you need to think about is that if you don't play, you don't get paid. You can take time off whenever you want, but the bills don't go away and you don't have any income when you take a break.
You also don't have retirement benefits that many jobs offer. You need to put some money away for your retirement as you earn.
Can you make a living as a full-time professional gambler? Many players can. But the real question is should you try to do it? Only you can answer this question, and it's not simple.
After reading this page about how to make $50,000 a year gambling, you know how to get started and the many challenges you face. You can use what you just learned to decide if you have what it takes to be a professional gambler.