Getting Paid to Play Poker

Actress Shannon Elizabeth - Not a Poker Prop!. Photo Courtesy (Getty Images Entertainment)

Ever wish you could get paid to play poker? You can if you have experience, a bankroll, and love playing poker. It can also be frustrating, exhausting, and the only job you'll ever have where you can work all day and lose money! If you didn't know it, some poker rooms hire experienced players to prop-up their games, which means the props help start games and keep games going that might break down.

The Scoop on Being A Paid Poker Player

If you play poker, you know every player is different, plays for different reasons, and has to approached in varying ways. That's good because it makes the game exciting and it also means that if you do your homework and study your opponents you will have a little extra edge over them. The ability to read your opponents and to reduce your own poker tells is very important if you want to succeed, but first, let's look at a few players you might have overlooked.

The Poker Shill

Early in the morning when a poker room is opening a few games, there may be a time when a game is suddenly just four or five-handed. To keep the action going, reduce the speed of the incoming blinds and antes, and make the game look busier, a shill may sit at the table. Usually this is just a poker dealer, on duty, who takes up a seat and has a very small stack of house-owned chips that they will use to put in blinds (or antes) and fold their hand if there is any action.

Don't be afraid of the shills. They are just filling a seat. If they are forced into a hand as the blind and then bet, they probably have a monster - toss your hand and wait for the next hand. You can also run over a shill, usually with a single bet, and they will toss their hand. You won't win much, but at least it's something.

Shills are playing on house money.

The Proposition Player

A proposition player is different. They are being paid by the house to keep the games going, and they are playing on their own money. They are likely to be fairly tight players, only entering pots on quality hands, but don't expect to fake them out. They know how to play poker, and the pay they get from the casino is only a fraction of what they will risk in a day. Their hourly pay might be $10 or a bit higher, so they are backed by the house to a degree, but if you ask, the floor supervisor might say "everyone here is playing their own money," that doesn't mean they aren't prop players.

Can You Be a Prop Player?

Now consider yourself as a proposition player. We can assume you know poker inside and out, or your wouldn't want to play poker all day, and that means you need to know how to play every game the poker room offers. You can't say to your boss, "I just want to play Texas Hold'em, not that Omaha Hi-low split game." So rule number one is that you have to be versatile.

The second rule of propping is that you have to have a large bankroll. Sure, you'll get that regular paycheck, but you need to know what game limits you will be playing.

If your manager keeps you in low-limit games, that's safe, but your income from playing will be small, perhaps 1x the average upper limit bet. Playing $1-$5 limit stud and hold'em won't break you if you have a bad streak, but you'll want a bankroll of at least 25 times the table buy-in. Ideally, if the buy-in is $100, you'll have a bankroll of $2500. This is assuming you are a winning player. If you aren't a proven winner, this is not the job for you.

If you will be playing no-limit games, your bankroll needs to be double. That's just the way it is. No sense taking a prop job if you might go bankrupt before the week is out. If that happens you are both out of money, and out of work! If you survive, here is what you can expect:

  • Playing six or seven hours of poker on the clock
  • Getting moved from one game to another at any moment
  • Playing hold'em one second, Omaha the next
  • Getting stuck (losing money) on a game and then being moved
  • Playing a juicy game where you know the players and then losing your seat
  • Getting blinded to death on short-handed games
  • Playing card-dead and not being able to change tables
  • Getting off the clock and still wanting to play in the room

If those things sound like fun, being a proposition player may be just right for you. Many props find a room they love, get to know the supervisors and the manager, and then approach them for a job.

What Managers Look For in Poker Props

The number one thing managers look for in a proposition poker player is an even temperament. The second related element is stability. They want someone who comes to the room happy, ready to play any game, any limit, and with any other players. They won't hire you if you have anger issues, can't handle your bankroll, or tend to go on tilt! Basically, you'll have to play your cards right to prosper as a proposition poker player!