While some people are happy to play online poker as a hobby, a lot of the people who play are looking to become profitable players.
But is online poker still profitable? With the advent of new software and strategies, it's easy to become disheartened, but we'll dig a little deeper and see what you can expect if you're trying to earn while you play.
Poker Is Always Profitable For Winners
Now, this may sound a little obvious - and it is - but it's worth remembering that if you have an edge in the games you play then it will be profitable to play in. Similarly, if you don't have an edge in the games you play it will be unprofitable to play.
The challenge for people is to find the highest stakes games that they're still winners at and to be sure whether or not they have an edge or are just experiencing positive variance.
Finding the highest stakes you can beat will just take time. The best thing to try would be to start at the stakes you think you can beat, get around 20/25K hands in, look at your win-rate, and decide whether it's best to move up, stay where you are, or move down.
The harder part is discerning whether or not you actually are profitable or just experiencing variance. The easiest and most accurate answer is to put in hundreds of thousands of hands to even out the variance - but not everyone has the time to put in that amount of hands.
I believe you can get a good handle on whether you're winning after around 25K hands as that gives you a good amount of experience in the games and you can tell from how confident you are playing against the regs whether you're likely to be winning or not.
More Online Players Than Ever
One positive is that we're seeing more online players than ever and with even more sites to choose from it's a great time to jump in the games and play.
The more players that are playing, the more weak players there are to win money from. Now, the downside to more players in the player pool is that there will also be a higher number of good players. The good news is that around 90% of people who play poker are losing players so even though there will be more good players, the majority of players you'll be playing against are losing players.
With so many players online there are so many types of games to choose from. On most of the bigger sites you'll find whichever game you call your own available to play 24/7 - no more having to wait for peak times to play large-field tournaments or obscure SnGs!
We also have an article where we go into the best times to play online poker to maximize your profits - definitely worth checking out if you're interested in making the best use of your time playing poker.
Poker Is More Popular Than Ever
Sure, the poker boom of 2004 is long behind us but poker still remains a very popular game attracting gamblers and strategy game enthusiasts in equal measure. There are numerous people striving to be the next Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth.
The coronavirus lockdown has led to many people wanting to pick up a new hobby to quell their boredom and one of the most popular choices (aside from bread making) was online poker. Given the low cost of playing at the micro-stakes and the lack of sporting events, playing poker became a very attractive option for a lot of people and many are continuing it even as more entertainment options are returning.
More and more countries are relaxing their laws towards gambling and in particular poker. Michigan has just become the latest US state to legalize online poker and there is a growing optimism amongst poker players that other states will follow suit and merge player pools, creating a single US market and hopefully joining the rest of the world sometime in the future. By 2025, there will be numerous US gambling sites that offer online poker rooms or satellite tournaments for WSOP main events.
Profitability Is Very Country-Specific
The country you live in will dictate the games you have access to and therefore how profitable you can be. Even professional poker players don't earn the same baseline income because of their geographic location.
Ring-fenced markets such as Italy, Spain, France, certain US states, etc. all have a limited player pool as they are not allowed to play against players from other countries. As such, the fewer players there are the less there are to make money from, making the games less profitable. The only other option would be to play on unregulated sites which comes with its own risk/reward ratio.
However, the rest of the world who can play against each other will have access to the most profitable games. People living in the UK, Canada, the EU, etc. are all able to play against each other - and the more players there are in a player pool the more profitable that pool becomes for the winning players.
How can you profit from online poker?
Players who have an edge against their opponents can increase their win rate and make a steady earning from online poker cardrooms. This edge comes from employing poker strategies during cash games and tournaments.
Can you profit more from poker tournaments or cash games?
Poker tournaments are where you can win money if you are the last or second last player to leave the table while cash games let you stake your bankroll in each game. Both types of poker have the same opportunity for you to profit.
Do I need to be a WSOP bracelet winner to start a poker career?
Not all professional players are WSOP bracelet holders or have participated in major poker tournaments. Those who are making enough money from tournaments or cash games to cover their monthly living expenses already have a poker career.
How can rake affect the profitability of any poker game?
A poker rake is a cut that operators take from everyone's buy-ins while the rest is the pot cash prize. Rakes are only considered when computing the potential payout of a game.
Do I need to win every game to make a profit from poker?
Every professional player, even the top PokerStars Champions, has experienced losses and even a drought period where they couldn't win any games.
Despite the doom-mongering from certain people, there is a lot to be optimistic about as we can answer the question "is online poker still profitable" with a definitive YES! Keep working hard and you too can become a winning player.
This article was published on February 22, 2021, and last updated on June 23, 2022.