Top 10 Earning Poker Players (2021)
Average Poker Players Yearly Income
Depending on what stakes they play, professional poker players can make as little as $10,000 a year up to $1,000,000 or even more.
We’ve gotten some real numbers from real pros in Florida and found that a semi-top tier live poker pro playing $5/10 NLHE can make $100,000-$250,000 a year. If you go down a rung to $2/5 NLHE, that number dips a bit, but not too much. Players at that level can average $70 an hour while players at $5/10NLHE can average $100 an hour.
Cash games give players a steadier and more predictable hourly rate, but professional tournament players go through big swings throughout the year. Some professional tournament players can go months without a big score and then have one year-saving tournament win.
How much pros make depends on how much work they’re willing to put in. That’s one of the similarities poker shares with sports betting. The more work you put into your game, the more successful you’ll be in your poker career. There will always be ups and downs, but a strong foundation will help boost the highs and mitigate the lows. Many pros often set goals for themselves. If you want to make $20,000 a month, you should frame your stakes and play style to achieve it. Don’t make it a frantic goal though, always make sure to employ proper bankroll management and always be careful when taking shots outside your bankroll.
How Much Do Professional Poker Players Make?
Top professional poker players can easily make over $5,000,000 per year playing poker. Only a handful of players are capable of pulling off results like these though. These players know the math better than anyone, they’re feared at the tables and read any situation exceptionally well. Players at this level include Daniel Negreanu, Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius and Phil Ivey. But even these players have tremendous swings throughout their careers. It’s hard to calculate exactly how much these players win since you have to factor in the buy-ins, stakes, swaps and other bets they make throughout the year.
Dan Bilzerian says he won $54 million off a single player and Bryn Kenney famously became the highest-earning player in history after having a phenomenal 2019. Kenney scored multiple seven-figure wins that year and won a whopping $30.3 million in a single year. He now tops the charts with $56.4 million in live tournament earnings.
While their results can vary, there’s no doubt that these guys are some of the best players in the world and have gotten there by working incredibly hard. Very few players can make it to this level and there are struggles, hard times and tons of trial-and-error on the way to the top.
Things are getting tougher too. In poker, you make money when your opponents make mistakes. There’s more poker knowledge and coaching than ever before and games are harder than they were just a few years ago. If you really want to reach the top tier these days, you’re going to have to work harder than ever.
Pros & Cons to Being a Professional Poker Player
|Competition – stimulating
|No set income – pay isn’t guaranteed
|Flexibility – make your own hours
|Exhaustion – can be mentally draining
|Money – big early potential
|Stigma – people don’t consider gambling as an ethical way to make income
|Life Skills – money management, deal with stress, risk vs. reward
|Less social time
· Playing poker takes serious commitment, especially when trying to play at a professional level.
· The games can be repetitive when practising all day every day.
· Online win rates today are minuscule compared to the past.
How to Become a Professional Poker Player
There aren’t any prerequisites or educational route one can take when wanting to become a professional poker player. However, there is a ton of research, studying and playing that is required to even begin scratching the surface. Those aspiring to be pros will need plenty of patience, savings to support themselves while they learn, and a good amount of self-discipline as it is a self-taught.
Top Ten Richest Poker Players
1. Dan Bilzerian – $200 Million
Bilzerian is an Instagram icon and claims that most of his fortune has come from poker winnings, specifically won by playing ultra-high-stakes poker games. Bilzerian has made some big statements about his poker playing abilities, including that he made $50 million from poker in 2014 alone. He has never won a major tournament, instead insisting that his money comes from cash games only. Many are dubious of this claim though, as he received an unknown sum of money from a trust fund and has many business ventures. Regardless of how he got his money, he’s still the richest poker player in the world by a long shot.
2. Phil Ivey – $100+ Million
Many consider Phil Ivey to be one of the greatest players of all time. The American has won 10 WSOP bracelets. He has won one WPT title, plus he has reached nine final tables and appeared at the final table of the Main Event, finishing 7th place back in 2009. Ivey has won numerous large prizes at tournaments, including AU$4 million for placing first at the 2014 Aussie Millions LK Boutique AU$250,000 Challenge. He’s also a superb high-stakes cash game player, once winning $16 million in three days playing against Texan billionaire Andy Beal.
3. Sam Farha – $100 Million
Sam Farha has bagged three WSOP bracelets over the years and although he does play tournaments, he’s better known as a high-stakes Omaha cash game player. Farha is also known as the man who lost to Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 Main Event. Farha’s biggest tournament win, not including his prize for finishing second at the WSOP Main Event, is $488,241, which he won when finishing first at the 2010 World Series of Poker $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship.
4. Chris Ferguson – $80 Million
Chris Ferguson is not the most popular man in poker. He was accused of being one of the people behind a massive Ponzi scheme at Full Tilt Poker, which stole approximately $444 million from players. Despite his shady behaviour he is still a great player, having won the WSOP Main Event in 2000 in which he scooped a $1.5 million prize. Ferguson has finished in the money 90 times at the World Series of Poker, which contributed a large amount to his overall earning of $7 million.
5. Doyle Brunson – $75 Million
Doyle Brunson is one of the greatest names in poker history. He’s won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets and won the Main Event twice, in 1976 and 1977. Brunson also regularly played cash games at Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, including a limit mixed poker game with $4,000/$8,000 blinds and has earned over $6.1 million from live tournament winnings; however, the total he earned while playing high stakes cash games is unknown.
He is also famed for writing his book Super System, which is regarded as one of the best poker strategy books ever written.
6. Bryn Kenney – $56 Million
Bryn Kenney is an American player best-known for winning the highest prize ever awarded at a poker tournament. He won over $20.5 million at the 2019 Triton Million charity event in London. He has only won one WSOP bracelet, however, he has finished in the money 32 times with winnings of over $55 million.
7. Daniel Negreanu – $50 Million
Daniel Negreanu is the most famous poker player of all time. He is a massive hit with fans and his skill locks in the title of one of the richest poker players around. Nicknamed ‘Kid Poker,’ he’s won six World Series of Poker bracelets, is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, and is the only poker player to be named WSOP Player of the Year twice.
His fame and earnings of nearly $42 million in tournament prize money. He also landed himself many sponsorship deals, most notably, securing his place as the face of PokerStars until 2019.
8. Justin Bonomo – $49 Million
Justin Bonomo has found huge success in both live and online tournaments. At the World Series of Poker, he’s cashed 55 times and won 3 bracelets. He’s won many online events, notably, the Super High Roller Bowl Online in 2020. However, his biggest win came when he won the “Big One for One Drop” tournament in 2018, which added $10 million to his bank account.
9. Tony G – $36 Million
Antanas Guoga, or, Tony G– is an incredibly outspoken poker player. He is a businessman and a European Parliament politician. While he’s never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, he has finished in the money 15 times and has also won many six-figure prizes.
10. Antonio Esfandiari – $27 Million
Antonio Esfandiari is one of the best-known players on the poker circuit. Formerly a magician, he’s won three World Series of Poker bracelets, three WPT titles – his most notable being his 2012 when he won the “Big One for One Drop” tournament at the World Series of Poker. At the time, he’d won the largest live prize ever which consisted of $18,346,673.
Top 10 Female Professional Poker Players
- Liv Boeree – $40 million USD
- Jennifer Harman – $15 million USD
- Vanessa Selbst – $12 million USD
- Victoria Coren – $10 million USD
- Annie Duke – $9 million USD
- Kathy Leibert – $6.89 million USD
- Vanessa Rousso – $6.5 million USD
- Maria Ho – $4 million USD
- Annette Obrestadt – $3.9 million USD
- Joanne ‘JJ’ Liu – $3.4 million USD
Where Can I Play Poker Online?
If you’re ready to start your journey, you can check out our top recommended US online poker sites. From BetOnline to Bovada, we have in-depth reviews for each US poker site that you will see ranked. Check out the best US poker sites here! If you’re looking to get your poker career started for free, then check out our freeroll page for more information.
Where Professionals Play
Bankroll Management & Yearly Income
No matter what stage you’re in your poker career, responsible bankroll management is essential. Effectively managing your poker bankroll will determine your success as a player and allow you to efficiently rise the ranks in the poker world. Bankroll management can be tough even for some top players. It’s easy to get bored and then get carried away at higher stakes while risking too much of your bankroll.
If you stick to proper bankroll management you can blossom from an average to a good player, and maybe even a great player. Soon enough you could be one of those players on television scooping up huge pots at the World Series of Poker. Like all great things, that takes time and you have to put in the hours and master the game.
Stay in the Driver’s Seat, Don’t Get Complacent
Good players can make tons of money, but they can also lose tons of money. If you play games beyond your bankroll, you extend beyond your safe zone. There’s really no limit to the kinds of games you can find out there. So no matter how much money you have, you can always outspend your means. Even if you win a big tournament for $100,000 or more, you can go broke fairly quickly if you play beyond your means.
The difference between a consistent pro and a one-hit-wonder is bankroll management while establishing a solid reputation. Some players end up getting sponsored by major sites to play in big poker tournaments. These deals are becoming rarer as the years go on though.
Most good poker player’s yearly incomes could easily exceed $50,000. It might even approach $100,000 or more. If you’re a disciplined player who’s studied the game, you should be a favorite to win, whether you play poker tournaments, cash games, or sit and go’s.
The biggest part of poker is to be consistent while adjusting to your opponents. If your poker table is aggressive, play passive. If your poker table is passive, then play aggressively. Good players understand that doing the opposite of what your opponents want is a good strategy.
Money is Just a Way to Keep Count
There are lots of ups and downs in poker. That’s why you should focus on your long term growth and profit over short term results. Big wins or losses early on could be misleading. You could be playing perfect poker, but a stretch of bad cards can put you in the red. This doesn’t mean you should adjust.
Keep playing solid poker, work on your skills and you’ll eventually have an upswing. Poker can be incredibly difficult some days, yet very easy others. Focus on your approach to the game. Good players know when they made the right decision, even when they lose the hand or bust out.
Game selection is also important, but it requires a balance. It’s profitable to play against soft fields and weak players, but you also want to play against legit competition. This can make you a better player; iron sharpens iron. Selection is easier online than for live poker events, but you should always play the right limits. Even at the lower stakes games, there’s a lot of money to be made if you put in the hours and play solid poker.
Constant improvement is key. Even Daniel Negreanu talks about how hard it is to keep up with the next generation of poker pros. The best poker players re-evaluate themselves constantly. They analyze their failures and successes, always looking to see how they can improve. That takes an ability to self-assess with a critical, objective eye. It’s not easy, but doing that will put you ahead of the crowd.
5 Tips on Becoming a Poker Pro
- Pick Your Game
This doesn’t mean that you only play that game, it means that one game is your primary focus. This is the game you will study and understand in-depth. This will improve your game performance because you can better concentrate on what matters and get a good amount of experience.
- Master Your Game
Poker is all a game of math so it’s important to understand 4 key need-to-knows about your game:
- Learn the odds of hitting a winning hand when you are behind.
- Figure out how to compare it against pot odds you are getting so you can make an educated decision if you need to continue with your holdings.
- Learn to count combos and frequencies so you can put your opponent on a range.
- Learn to think in terms of ranges, not specific hands.
As well, don’t forget to observe your opponents and their behaviours when playing and know your odds.
- Invest in You
If you’re serious about becoming a professional poker player, then it’s important to invest in that future. There are many options to choose from including courses online that are probably cheaper than a coach. However, a coach is a more personalized experience and you have someone with lots of experience and (hopefully) credibility right there teaching you.
- Continue Learning
Poker is changing all the time and just because you’re winning today, doesn’t mean you’ll be winning tomorrow. Some tips on how to stay on top of things are:
- Always analyze your game.
- Observe opponents when playing.
- Mark hands that you are uncertain of how to play and discuss them with your coach or your friends.
- Join a training site or get a coach if you want to take it seriously.
- Manage Your Money
Probably the most important tip to becoming a pro (and staying one). It’s been highly recommended for anyone looking play poker professionally to do the following:
- Separate your poker bankroll from everyday money.
- Do not withdraw money too often.
- Have savings to cover living expenses for at least six months.
- Be ready to move down the stakes if needed.
It is absolutely vital that you can cover your living expenses and a big bankroll to outlive the swings. These are two things you should definitely be practicing to become a poker professional.
Pros and Cons of Being a Professional
Money: There is potential to make big, big money playing poker professionally. This helps with financial security which really helps with mental and emotional stability. As well, you get to keep all the rewards to yourself!
Travelling: You get to travel all over, from Las Vegas to Macau to play, exposing players to different places, cultures and maybe even some relaxation time.
Flexible: You make your own hours – when you train and when you play.
Doing what you love: Always a bonus to any path you might pursue.
No job security: One bad game really could end it all. There isn’t severance and there’s no notice. It’s important to follow money managing tips to ensure you always have something to fall back on worst case scenario.
Patience: This one can be hard. Things don’t happen overnight and that ca be frustrating. AS well, time isn’t always on our side, so patience is an important thing to have when pursuing a professional poker career.
No set income: There is no guarantee that you’ll make or win big money, let alone winning enough to keep you (and potentially family members) afloat. Managing your money is going to be important throughout the entire process, from day one until retirement.
Frequently Asked Questions
This completely depends because there are many different variables involved. However, professional players can sometimes make anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per month, but this is not guaranteed.
You should have a bankroll that covers at least 100 buy-ins, but this is also dependent on living wages and the stakes being played.
Like any working professional, players will usually play, study or train for 8 hours a day – sometimes more.
Whether it’s emotionally, mentally, or financially, it’s time to stop playing once you’ve had enough. Only you will know when that is, but listen to yourself and your bank account and you will find the answer.
It is definitely possible, but not guaranteed. This will depend on many variables, as well as how much you put into it. You’ll have to do the math based on things like buy-ins, living wage, and stakes.