College or Poker?

Published on Jul 22nd, 2008

I have been in the middle of many debates over the years regarding whether it is better to stay in college or put school on hold to pursue playing poker full time. Usually, the person who is in this predicament has a valid argument for choosing either option and is yearning for some solid advice for what to do. It may seem like an easy decision one way or the other, but I know from first hand experience that there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed before making a crucial life decision like this. "Luckily" for me, I did not discover online poker until I was a junior in college or my decision to finish school might have been different.

Like many online players, I quickly discovered that I could make more money playing poker than getting almost any part-time job. The freedom to "work" when I wanted, go where I wanted, and do what I wanted were all great reasons to play poker as a job instead of working for the man. Even playing low limits, it was easy to maintain a higher income than almost anyone I knew. With a tough discipline and countless hours of hard work, I found myself consistently beating the games I was playing, and the thought of giving up school to play full-time definitely crept into my mind from time to time.

Ultimately, I ended finishing school and received my degree in business. Even with the great monetary success that soon followed for me after college, including a win in the Sunday Million, I would never be where I am today without playing poker AND finishing college . Here are some reasons why I recommend balancing both poker and college to anyone who is thinking about giving one up.

1. FLEXIBILITY: Going to school and playing poker can be extremely flexible if you schedule it correctly. I had plenty of time to play poker since I only had to be in the classroom about 15 hours a week. I didn't take a single online or summer school class and I still got my degree in 4 ½ years. It would actually be a lot easier today for students that can take online classes because they have even more free time for poker. Schedule your classes around times you want to play poker and you'll be fine.

2. COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: Employers are looking for a college degree and some real world experience. If you can prove that you were successful playing poker and also did well in school, it will actually give you a leg up to someone who has just done one or the other. I am a really good example of this. By treating poker as a business the last few years and also getting my degree, I was fortunate enough to get a job in Global Wealth Management with a top 30 fortune company. I was able to easily relate my experience as a poker player to the real world, and was literally hired on the spot for a really competitive position. I can honestly say that without my poker and college experience, I would have been wasting my time even applying for my current profession.

3. SELF IMPROVEMENT: You learn a lot about yourself during the hard times you encounter during college and poker. If it were easy to play poker successfully and go to college, everybody would be doing it. The personal satisfaction you get when you finally finish school is really indescribable. It's not that getting a degree is the toughing thing in the world, but you'll be proud of yourself for sticking it out and finishing.

4. LIFE CHANGES: When you're young, single, and don't really have any expenses it is easy to live off of even small winnings playing poker. Even if you only have a relatively small ROI, you can still live the "good life" when you only need to support yourself. The reality is that life changes and even just a few years after college, your situation may drastically change. What happens if you get married? Have children? Have a bad run of cards? Expenses go up? There are tons of other scenarios that could play out where playing poker full-time could not work out as easy as it may seem sometimes. Getting your degree is a huge backup plan for the unexpected situations that could arise in the next 60 years you're alive.

My last point is probably the most important aspect to think about when making the decision to finish school or not. Even the most successful players will encounter many life situations over the years that cannot be controlled. Like I have said before, playing poker is about making the right long-term decisions and not making decisions based on what happens in the short-term. When you choose to flat out quit college for your "short-term" poker success, you're going against exactly what you have taught yourself to become a successful poker player.


  1. <p>i thought heavily about this the past 4 months, and i agree with everything you have said. I am in 3rd year engineering at UWaterloo, and desperately wanted the easy way out and to drop out and just play poker.</p>

    <p>It may be a lot harder to be successful in both, but if you can succeed in both im sure it will be a lot more satisfying.</p>

  2. <p>I actually totally agree with what you are saying, as i am currently a student in the UK and have found it actually very difficult to manage both poker and school initially but however with time, it proved easier as I grew more mature(supposedly or maybe just older! ) But I definately recommend going to college, or university as us UK students say, if only for the experience you will quite frankly never get anywhere else.</p>

  3. <p>Wow great article sir. I have 18 hours left on my degree and even though it has been pretty hard the last 3 years I am really glad I stuck it out and cant wait to finish my last year. At the same time I'm sure  I'll miss the college lifestyle and atmosphere and it something I know I would regret missing out on if I never attended. Its also great to hear that poker was an aide in securing a job in the real world.</p>

  4. <p>As someone with a career that plays poker a lot, I agree with you as well that if you care able to go to college it would be foolish to stop going to college just to play poker.  You can do both and when you graduate, you can then decide what you want to do.</p>

    <p>Too many people think that being a professional poker player is a walk in the park, when in reality there will be times when it is very trying on one's mental makeup.  Having the knowledge that you completed your degree and have something to fall back on is a great comfort when times are tough.</p>

    <p>Good luck to all of you pursuing higher learning, it will translate to the poker world.  You will have increased confidence in yourself, not to mention all the lessons that you will have learned in how to think and reason in class.</p>

  5. <p>Agreed. good article.  I dont think I would have the job i have now if i didnt kick ass at poker while i was in college...the prople that hired me were into it.</p>

  6. <p>you miss out on far too many life experiences at college not to go for at least 2 years.  I met some of my best friends that ill have for the rest of my life at school, so if your considering not going to school for the lack of interest or motivation in academics, you miss out far more on the social experiences that you'll remember for the rest of your life while gaining lifelong friends along the way.</p>

    <p>Hattrick wrote a fantastic 2 part series a while back on this topic, if someone would throw up the link it would be great.</p>

  7. <p>Wow great article bro.  I have my piece of paper hanging on my wall in my poker office.  As it collects dust, but honestly a lot of the things I learned in college help me to be a better more disciplined poker player and money manager.  It is like any other business so I recommend getting a degree in business FTW!</p>

  8. <p>Also, I'd go thru college again just for the partying and girls.</p>

  9. <p>poker monies > college social scene</p>

  10. <p>The only thing I disagree with is the initial assessment that most people have a "valid argument" for dropping out of school.  I've seen these threads hundreds of times on P5s over the years, and the argument is rarely anything more than "I'm bored, I don't like going to class."  These people are rarely making enough to be a reasonable post-college salary.</p>

    <p>But that point just makes CardXFactor's article all the more valid, and well communicated.  WP sir.</p>

  11. <p>I dont agree.Here in italy you finish university and get junior degree at 22 then u can get a crap job for 1000euros month if lucky and when u are old jobs that get you like 3000 each month aren t many and u need luck to get them anyway.Then most works are determined time.</p>

    <p>I quit university and grind midstakes rolled 100x for 5\10 and 1 year of expensis paid. if poker ends i will have collected more money than people who worked  a life.</p>

    <p>Then what if u lose job?I m sure I can give my future family a better life gaining 10k month than 2k month for example...i ve more time to stay with them also.</p>

    <p>Poker isnt easy but if you are skilled (play at least 1 year 60k hands\month) you should try at least.</p>

  12. <p>^^^^^^^^^^ if u play 1 year for 60khands/month that makes u skilled???? im sure u didnt mean that</p>

  13. <p>College is a freeroll!  Your parents, family, friends, and community will put up with you, help you out, and support you while you are in college - they are basically paying your entry fee, and 'cashing'  is almost guaranteed with a huge upside payout potential.  Stay in school, poker will be there, going back to finish a degree on your own time and dolllar is much harder.</p>

  14. <p>I mean you should play 1year at least with 60k hands\month to understand if you are a winning player at a certain level before giving up school.Variance is really sick.</p>

  15. <p>I'm so glad i found poker after i finished college.  It was hard enough finishing college with a Nintendo 64 in the living room, let alone making money playing poker!</p>

    <p>Mario Kart FTW!!</p>

  16. <p>really great article.  no one has ever wrote about quitting school to play cards</p>

  17. <p>very good article,  epitomizes my thinking </p>

  18. <p>I also strongly agree with this article. I failed my freshman year at the engineering school at colorado at boulder, and wanted to change majors, so i could continue playing poker. I took a year off, moved to alaska to work on the pipeline, and am now in the engineering school in anchorage. I am balancing the 2 much better now. Solid article sir.</p>

Page 1 of 11

Return to Articles

Quick Navigation