Have you developed a real passion for poker and are thinking about becoming a professional poker player? Then you’ve come to the right place! While not everyone can become a pro, let alone make a living at it, it is a perfectly attainable goal.
In this article, we will explain how to get there and all the risks and requirements involved. We will also give you our tips on how to achieve your goal and develop your business legally.
The business of playing poker professionally
Since its emergence in the 90s, the game of poker has been attracting more and more people. The appearance of online poker has democratised the game completely, giving anyone the opportunity to play, learn, win and sometimes become excellent. So much so that some people are considering making a career out of it as a professional poker player.
However, it is a complex business with a lot of risks, so it is important to know exactly what to expect before deciding to go all in, especially legally.
The difference between an amateur player and a professional
Since the professionalization of poker is still new, it is necessary to make the distinction in order to understand and know the obligations related to the profession.
In the first case, the player is only playing for fun and does not make any recurring profit. In the other case, he is good enough to generate income from his winnings.
The amateur poker player
The amateur or regular poker player plays occasionally and their income is derived from their main activity and not from poker. Thus, this type of player has a tax status that allows them not to have their winnings taxed.
The Conseil d’Etat has however made a distinction between 2 categories:
- The occasional player: he does not play much and if he wins a large amount during a game, he will not be taxed on it.
- The regular: he plays regularly and has a monthly income, even if it is minimal. In this case, the income will be taxable not because of the amount but because of the regularity. The tax authorities consider poker as a regular secondary activity.
The professional poker player
The professional poker player is one whose main and lucrative activity is playing poker. He therefore plays poker full time, regularly and earns his living solely from this activity.
He will be considered as a professional and therefore taxable on his income, if he meets the following 3 criteria established by the Council of State:
- He makes significant and regular winnings
- He has a regular practice of poker
- Thanks to which, he has developed a know-how allowing him to master the random nature of the game.
His tax status means that he is taxed on his income from poker. He can therefore consider creating a legal structure (auto-entrepreneur, micro-enterprise, etc.) to fix the tax rate.
Qualifications to become a professional poker player
Becoming a professional poker player is not for everyone, and for good reason, you need to have certain skills and qualities. Firstly, it requires patience and endurance. Indeed, the games can last several hours and go on for days for the pros. Secondly, because it takes a lot of practice to acquire the minimum experience and knowledge to win more games.
The player must also show composure during his games. That is to say, he must know how to manage his emotions so as not to reveal anything about his game to his opponents. It is also important to avoid any rash and just daring decisions. This is one of the casino player errors that is all too common among amateurs.
Even an excellent poker pro cannot guarantee to win every game. Chance, when dealing the cards, is everything. Instead, a good player will stand out for his ability to fold, bet and win on a very large number of hands.
You also need to have a good basis in mathematics, especially in the analysis of statistics. Poker is one of the few casino table games that does not rely solely on luck. Using probabilities will allow you to refine your strategy, which will give you the different poker playing styles and refine your own strategy.
Finally, there is a whole part of analysis, both psychological and behavioural, of your opponents and their games. This allows you to make the best decisions according to the evolution of the game. But also to observe and study the bluffs and techniques of other players.
Where to play poker to go pro?
To practice, the pro player can play in physical tournaments around a table for example. Another possibility is to play in online tournaments 24/7 on secure online casino platforms.
Every year many tournaments are organised, all over the world, some more demanding and prestigious than others and for all levels. This is the perfect opportunity to compete against other professional players, to improve your skills and sometimes to win big.
Note that most tournaments require an entry fee. The amount varies according to the reputation and level of the tournament.
Steps to becoming a professional poker player
Now that you know more about being a poker player, let’s take a closer look at the different steps to go from amateur to professional.
Learn to play and practice
To begin with, the game of poker is not considered regulated. Therefore, there is no diploma or training required for poker. Professional players usually learn on their own and develop winning strategies by watching their opponents.
However, don’t believe that poker is innate or that you only need to be good at it. The principles of the game, and in particular the rules of poker, must be learned and mastered perfectly if you want to turn pro. Continuous learning and practice are necessary to acquire the basics and then develop and refine your strategy throughout your career. Indeed, analysing your game after each game allows you to improve significantly.
There are many ways to learn to play poker. You can watch videos on the internet (youtube), streamers (twitch) or specialised websites or read specialised books on poker. This will help you learn the basics, the rules and the poker vocabulary. An excellent way is to take a paid training course with the most experienced players in the form of poker coaching. These pros will give you lessons and will guide you with their experience to develop your game strategy and correct your mistakes to make you progress faster.
Finally, there is no secret, the best way to learn and improve your skills is to practice. So don’t hesitate to participate in tournaments in your city or region or on online poker sites. Playing in a real situation is the best way to progress quickly thanks to the analysis you will make of your own game after each game.
Declare your activity
Once you are sure of your decision, your skills and that you live only from this, then you have to declare your activity from a legal point of view. Since 2010, the professional player is obliged to declare if he fulfils all the criteria.
You will have the choice between two legal forms of status:
- The auto-entrepreneur status (micro enterprise)
This is often the most commonly used status, particularly for starting out. On the one hand, because it is very easy to set up and because it has a simplified and advantageous social, tax and accounting system.
However, in the case of a micro-business, the turnover cannot exceed €72,600 per year at the risk of being overtaxed. However, the winnings generated by poker can be significant and easily exceed this threshold.
- Company status
Whether it is EURL (Limited Liability Company), SAS (Simplified Joint Stock Company) or SARL (Limited Liability Company), the procedures and formalities are more complex than the micro-business. On the other hand, this will provide more security for the “managing” player and better prospects for the future.
Here, there is no ceiling on turnover and it is possible to deduct taxable expenses. The tax regime will also differ depending on the form chosen. For EURLs, you will pay income tax and for others corporation tax.
It is strongly recommended that you declare your activity. In the event of a tax audit, if the income you have earned from poker is sufficiently high, this will be considered as not declaring income. This can lead to heavy fines and tax audits have become extremely severe.
Getting known in the poker world
Now that you are legally recognized as a poker player, you need to make yourself known in the poker world. In the world of poker, it is necessary to get people talking about you in order to gain notoriety.
Register on social networks, create blog or video content to share your experience and knowledge. Also participate in events such as tournaments to meet other players and share your passion with professionals and amateurs. Awareness is very important in this business, as good recognition from the community will give you the opportunity to diversify your work.
Integrate new sources of income
When a poker player’s skills and experience are proven, most of them will look for new sources of income. Most will look to expand into other exercises to vary the sources of income and enjoyment.
For example, in addition to continuing to play in physical or online tournaments, some pros who are well known to their community will :
- Become a coach and train novices and amateurs
- Be invited as a “headliner” of major tournaments and earn a substantial fee
- The same principle applies to certain gaming or igaming brands.
- Create and monetise a poker website
- Or share their knowledge via books, videos and training courses.
The risks of the professional poker player
When choosing this job, you must also take into account the possible risks associated with entrepreneurship and gambling. Indeed, it presents 2 types of risks: the financial risks inherent to those who manage their own activity as well as the psychological risks related to the danger of gambling, such as gambling addiction.
Getting into poker requires a certain investment, both financial and personal. Keep in mind that it is a risky and stressful occupation because you can win and lose big in a very short period of time. Financial risks, especially the risk of debt, are not to be taken lightly.
Starting with the variance phenomenon of poker. As it is a game of chance, even the most skilled players can suffer several losing streaks and lose a lot of money. In addition, they have no job security and therefore no safety net in case of big losses. Professional poker players need to be financially secure and think about saving enough money to support themselves in the long run.
Psychological and health risks
In addition to the financial risks, poker as an activity is extremely time consuming and energy consuming. Pro players often spend several hours a day, and days or even nights, playing intensively in front of their screens. This requires great efforts of concentration and self-discipline. If not, they face a drop in motivation and sometimes stop playing for several days.
There are therefore precautions to be taken to avoid psychological risks such as the tendency to isolate themselves or on their health. They often find themselves in a situation of emotional stress, with ups and downs, losses and gains that are directly linked to their decisions. Secondly, poker remains a casino game with a risk of addiction and harmful consequences for personal and professional life.
To mitigate these risks, we recommend that you first play poker as a side job. Once you feel comfortable and have started to build up a secure bankroll, only then can you consider making it your main job.
Our tips for becoming a professional poker player
Now that you’re aware of the demands and risks of tying, we’ll give you our top tips to help you become a pro poker player.
Find your specialization
Some players will be strong in tournaments, others in cash games, and still others will excel in certain poker variants like stud. By focusing on a game mode that suits you, you will quickly become more successful.
To do this, we recommend that you try every possible combination to find your area and style of play. It is recommended that you play variants such as Omaha, 7 card Stud or 5 card draw to improve your thinking skills and game experience.
Play against strong opponents
You will learn more about yourself, your game and the game of others by playing against more experienced opponents. While your chances of winning will be lower, these opportunities are a goldmine for learning more about poker. If you only play against novice players, then you may pocket more winnings but you won’t improve your game. The day you run into a tougher opponent you won’t be ready.
Find out how to become a professional casino player here!
Manage your bankroll
Poor bankroll management is still one of the biggest mistakes made by gamblers. It is important to make sure you have a small bankroll so that you can make several rounds of losses without putting yourself at risk. You should also think about budgeting and forecasting expenses in advance to anticipate the unexpected.
Your emotions and therefore yourself can be the worst enemy of your bankroll. In the professional category, it is essential to know how to control yourself, to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to make the right decisions and not act on impulse.
Diversify your poker income sources
Even if you are a very good poker player, the game is still partly based on luck and chance, so it is not very reliable in terms of resources. That’s why many pros with good stats and a good reputation will look for other sources of profit besides tournament winnings.
For example, many of them will become coaches or trainers and offer courses to improve the level of other learners. Some even go so far as to develop entire training programmes for all levels. Others still choose to share and transmit their knowledge via audio and video content, sometimes freely available.
Poker pros even become expert consultants for other professionals, whether in gaming or in online sports betting. They use their skills and analytical abilities to help others for a fee. When players are of an excellent level, they are offered sponsorship by brands or even online casinos or bookmakers.
This way, if you have a bad game, you are guaranteed a minimum of profit while still doing what you love. In addition, it allows you to maintain a minimum payout per month, even when you decide not to play without giving up your status as a professional poker player.
Finally, our best advice is to always keep practicing and playing. The danger is to rest on your laurels or never get used to the fast pace of tournaments. So play, play against other players of all types on the court, win, bet, lose, but above all learn!
FAQ : Professional poker player
Do I have to declare my activity?
If you intend to make a living from poker, you must declare your activity as an auto-entrepreneur since 2012. In this case, your turnover must not exceed €77,700 and the amount of social contributions to be paid is 21.1% of the turnover.
When should I declare my poker income?
According to article 92 of the General Tax Code, income from poker or other casino games must be declared as Non-Commercial Profits (NCP) in the case where:
- The practice of poker is habitual or regular
- If the winnings are significant
Professional poker players must therefore declare them. It doesn’t matter if it is their main or additional job as long as they receive money from it every month.
How much does a professional poker player earn?
The amount of money a poker player earns is obviously fluctuating and will never be the same every month. Indeed, depending on the games won, the good hands or the big losses, the professional himself cannot guarantee the same income every month just on his game.
However, it is estimated that the average poker player earns between 10 and 20,000 Euros per month.
Is it legal to be a professional poker player in France?
It is perfectly legal to be a professional poker player in France, as long as you have declared your activity and your income.