Former Poker Pro Says Learning Poker Isn’t Worth It

Jeff Meyerson poker not worth it

Vanessa Selbst is one of many prominent poker players who have cautioned against taking up poker as a career. (Image: Global Poker Index)

Playing poker professionally isn’t for everyone, and most people who start learning the game have no dreams of turning the hobby into a career.

Still, it seems as though most people who study the game feel as though they can learn a little something that applies to everyday life, from improving their decision making skills to better understanding the math behind taking risks.

But not everyone shares that view, something that was made abundantly clear last week when the Huffington Post published the opinion of software engineer and former poker player Jeff Meyerson.

The article was a republication of an answer Meyerson gave on Quora after someone asked a straightforward question: “is learning to play poker worth it?”

Meyerson Says Lessons Don’t Translate to Business World

“Learning to play poker is not worth it,” Meyerson said. Despite the fact that the person asking the question wasn’t specifically looking to make money from poker, Meyerson also said that the benefits from poker weren’t enough to make learning the game a worthwhile use of someone’s time.

“Poker is a negative sum game,” Meyerson wrote. “This provides damaging lessons for anyone looking to develop in the business world. The best businesses today offer win-win scenarios, and the market punishes highly competitive thinking.”

The answer given by Meyerson touched on a number of ways in which poker could (and could not) be said to offer worthwhile training for the business world.

On the negative side, he notes that poker today is a game about scarcity: there aren’t as many good games as there used to be back at the peak of the poker boom, making it harder to find spots for win.

This, he said, was the opposite of the current business climate.

“Today’s business world is one of abundance,” Meyerson wrote. “Compute power is cheap. It’s easy to raise money. Individuals have leverage which grows at pace with Moore’s Law.”

Some Skills May Help in Specific Industries

On the other hand, Meyerson pointed out that in certain industries, the way in which online poker players have utilized heads-up displays and built complex simulations and probability frameworks to better understand the game could be translated into useful skills.

Still, Meyerson said that these benefits were limited, and that “the opportunity cost of dedicating lots of time to poker is immensely wasteful.” That led into his conclusion: that there were many better ways to spend one’s time if they wanted to develop skills that translated to the world of business.

“If you want a game to learn from, consider Dominion, Magic, or Pandemic,” Meyerson said, referring to three popular tabletop games. “If you want to learn about risk and consequence, you can read about World War II. If you want to learn about Markov models, you can intern on Wall Street. There’s no reason to play poker.”

Selbst Cautions Students Against Poker as a Career

While Meyerson’s take on the subject may have been harsher than most, he isn’t the only poker pro to suggest that maybe people shouldn’t consider poker as a career.

Last month, Vanessa Selbst spoke to a science camp in New Jersey about math and the game of poker.

Selbst told the 85 high school seniors in attendance that her interest in math and probability did help her to become successful in poker.

However, she cautioned the students against taking up poker as a profession, due in large part to how much tougher beating games has become over the years.

Ed Scimia
Written by
Ed Scimia
Ed Scimia is a freelance writer and author from Bethel, Connecticut. He is the author of Catching Fish: Your Practical Guide To Beating $1/$2 No-Limit Texas Hold'em Games, which once spent a few hours at #1 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list for poker books. Ed also serves as the Chess Expert for In the winter, Ed enjoys curling, which really is an Olympic sport.


Johnny Cabral wrote...

The game will never be the same like it used to be in the new millennium. In the early go of poker online the game was so easy and the amount of fish was huge. The well has basically gone dry and there is so much software , books and more skilled players out there. The money was easy and the fields were so small in comparison to now . In a year you could make a easy Million dollars if you put in the time and determination , also of course the skill and luck.

The old school players like Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negraneau and many others I could name but the list is fairly long. Those players took all that easy money , those days are gone.

The game is much harder, but if you got the skill you could still make a small profit in cash. In tournaments its become so much harder , but still can be done with a lot of hard work.

veltins wrote...

I agree completely with Johny here.. spending countless hours in poker studing is waste f time. just Play and learn whenever anyone have time. if we spend that time spending learning poker in some other Thing like Business, then we ll be very successfull . poker has become extremely hard no matter what Level game is. most top poker pros are saying same Thing.

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