The Reality of Today’s Poker Job Market

Recently I’ve been getting more and more emails from professional poker players who are thinking about getting a more conventional job working for an online poker room. I’m here with some bad news, folks, being a poker professional doesn’t qualify you for a lot of jobs in the online poker industry.

Right now the online market is going through a lot of changes. Some positive and some negative. Since BlackFriday, PokerStars and Full Tilt have had to exit the US market. UB/Absolute has laid off nearly all of their staff and may hire back a small percentage if they end up coming out of Black Friday without going bankrupt. And with Full Tilt owing approx 50% of it’s pre-Black Friday business and Stars 30%, there are going to be quite a lot of people reassigned or out of a job soon.

Poker Job Market

Even the non-US facing sites have been seeing continued declines in poker numbers. Sure Black Friday gave many of them a small boost but for most, at best, that just puts them back where they were a year or two ago.

Are sites still hiring? Yes. But they’re going to be hiring one of two types of people:

1. People experienced in the online gaming sector as demonstrated by previous work experience in the industry.

2. People with very specific job skills (i.e. database administrators, AR managers, etc) that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the online gaming industry.

If Stars and Tilt (and even some non-US facing rooms) are laying off staff that means there will be somewhat of a glut of experienced people in the areas heavily affected. Anybody who is hiring will have access to lots of quality job candidates.

And if you have a very specific job skill like HR manager or Linux Administrator then you can find a job anywhere. There’s no specific glory to fixing laptops at an online poker room than there is fixing laptops for any other company. Focusing on a specific industry segment doesn’t seem like a ideal job search strategy. Not that you might not want to take a job if it’s available but to focus on the online poker industry for these kinds of jobs would be very limiting.

But the truth of the matter is that despite the fallout from Black Friday this has always been the case. When I first started in this industry at Full Tilt I wasn’t hired because I liked playing poker and could grind limit games. I was hired because I had over a decade of experience working as a software engineering project manager. Over the years I expanded into other areas but I would have never gotten my foot in the door without a solid resume showing relevant non-poker skills.

Likewise when you look at many of the top poker journalists today most weren’t poker players who became writers. They were writers who played poker. Some didn’t necessarily start out as writers per se but proved themselves on blogs first and used the quality of their previous work to get their foot in the door.

And as I look back over all of the people I’ve worked with over the years I can’t think of very many (i.e. less than 10) who only brought their poker playing passion or abilities as their only marketable job skills to the table. In fact, most brought almost zero poker playing experience to the table. Because they were hired for their expertise in non-poker related skills. It doesn’t matter if your head of PR knows a straight draw from a flush draw as long as he has a lot of media contacts and can get your message out there in front of the right people.

Are there any jobs for pure poker players? Sure. But unfortunately most are lower paying entry level sorts of positions. For instance, someone recently asked me about becoming a VIP host since they know a lot of top players. But a VIP host usually either has experience as a brick and mortar VIP manager or they’re brought up from customer support after having proven themselves. They don’t necessarily need to know poker though it’s obviously nice if they do (and many will learn the basics via the job). They’re there to take care of players. If a VIP player wants a bonus he doesn’t care if you know anything about poker as long as you can get him the bonus. If the VIP player has won a trip to the WSOP ME he’s calling you to sort out problems with his hotel room or asking for a different size t-shirt not whether he should have called that river bet.

So my advice to any former or transitioning poker pros out there is to go light on your poker qualifications and heavy on what value you can provide the company. Sure, mention that you’ve spent the last three years playing professionally but it should be a mention and not the crux of your CV/resume.

Try to focus on what value you bring to the company outside of your ability to play poker. Are you kick-ass graphic artist or website designer? Sell that in your CV. What was your major at university? Sell that on your resume. Anything is probably better than selling yourself as a professional poker player.

Because at the end of the day nobody cares what limits you played or how many tournaments you’ve won (if you’re not a well-known pro, and why would you be looking for a 9 – 5 job if you were). All they care about is how you’re going to help make the company money.

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