Published on May 2nd, 2007 1:01 am EST

You read about a big-name professional poker player winning a million dollar first prize in a poker tournament, and you figure that they are set, and living the high life. Someone took down the World Series of Poker a few years ago, or maybe a World Poker Tour event recently, and you figure that they are pretty much set for life. Wrong.

why are so many top poker players broke?Without a doubt, there are so professional players that are extremely well-off, but you would be surprised at how few there actually are. Run down a list of the top 100 most recognizable names in poker, and you would be astonished by how many are penniless and owe money to various backers and lenders. Pick any major tournament, and probably half of the well-known names are being backed in the tournament. Why is this?

There are varying reasons for why most well-known pro players are broke. Here is a list of the most common reasons for a busted bankroll; almost every broke player fits on this list somewhere, and most of them have fallen victim to most of the reasons on this list for a depleted bankroll.

1. Sports Betting. Betting on sports is seemingly the Kryptonite for many a professional poker player's bankroll. Most of the well-known players bet on sports, and they bet big. Most do not do well betting on sports, but they just can't keep away from the action. Sports betting is the top reason why many players are broke.

2. The life. Living in Vegas, it is hard to keep your head on straight. There are easy drugs, hookers, expensive dinners, bottles of champagne; it all adds up, and most players have found that after they win a big tournament, they can easily party half of their winnings away.

3. Sidegames. Whether it's craps (T.J. Cloutier will tell you about the dangers of playing craps), blackjack or roulette, for some reason these mathematically inclined poker players think that they can beat games where the house always has an edge.

4. Staking. Most players don't have the money to finance their own entries into these tournaments. A big name player wins $1 million in a tournament? Well there is a good chance that they are paying a backer at least half of this. After the tax man and the backer get their $$, there is not much left.

5. Cash games. Many a successful tournament player have fallen victim to the allure of the big cash games. Often times, success in tournaments does not translate to success in the cash games.

6. Divorces. Many players live a degenerative lifestyle, and oftentimes after they hit it big, they lose their wives and families. Divorce settlements and child support costs quite a bit of money.

7. The golf course. You would be surprised at how big the action is on the golf course, and how many of these pros with money get taken by professional golf hustlers.

8. Drug / alcohol abuse. Ruined many a promising poker career, with Stu Ungar probably being the most famous of them. Drug and alcohol abuse leads to poor business and bankroll decisions.

9. Backing friends. Being a successful backer means making hard and painful business decisions. Unsuccessful backing usually stems from entering 2-3 of your friends into the World Poker Championships after you took first place in a World Series of Poker Circuit event.

10. Unsuccessful online cash game play. Ask Mike Matusow about this, who has dropped over $2.5 million dollars playing online. Sometimes, successful live player just does not translate to successful play online.


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