Why after 7 years I’ve decided to quit online poker

November 1, 2014

Back in January 2007 I played my first hand of online poker and I loved it. Since then I’ve played over a million hands online and been through a myriad of experiences that only poker grinders can understand. I was thinking about many of these experiences last night while sitting at a bar waiting to go dancing with my girlfriend. By the end of my time sitting at the bar I had come to the decision to quit playing online.

The State of the Union

Recently I’ve been taking a good look at my life and have started to analyze my behavior, habits, and relationships in an attempt to improve my life. I feel this is something everyone should do once in a while because we all get stuck in routines which are often very toxic. During my analysis I had a long and hard look at how I’m using my free time to help me accomplish certain personal goals. Some of these goals include living a healthier life, spending time with the people I care about, learning new things, and growing my personal brand. Playing Poker takes up a large percentage of the time I have to dedicate to these goals so the next rational step was to do a cost-benefit analysis. Below is a breakdown of all the online poker I’ve played since January 2013.

Cash game results grouped by month

Cash game results since Janaury 2013 grouped by Month

tournament results

Tournament results since January 2013

You can clearly see that I’m no millionaire from Poker, in actual fact according to the data in the two tables I’m making less than $1 an hour (actual figure is $0.55 an hour). These results are not taking bonuses into account but then again it also doesn’t take into account the many hours I spend each month analyzing hands, watching videos, talking strategy with my poker friends and staring at the different reports in Holdem Manager. I could add one or two filters and start explaining that if I eliminate 100NL from my results my win rate dramatically improves but the truth is I’m a break even player which hasn’t been able to break through 25c/50c and hasn’t cashed more than 1.2k in an online tournament.

Opportunity cost

If you look closely at the two tables above you will notice that I’ve played over 1,000 hours of online poker since the beginning of 2013. 1,000 hours is a hell of a lot of time that I could of used to do many different things. It is very easy to say such a thing in retrospect but the data doesn’t lie and it is very clear that the time investment is simply not worth it. Every time we decide to do something with our time there is an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost involved in me playing online poker is simply too high.

So what’s next?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be selling off my online bankroll. I’m sitting with roughly 1,800 dollars in my account. I will use the money to supplement my bank account and I’ll put a bit a side for a long weekend somewhere in Europe. Cutting out online poker from my life will free up around 40-50 hours a month which I’m going to use to build up this blog, spend more time with my friends and reach more people through my writing. I plan to write more frequently and do my best to grow The Great Grind into a top blog on online marketing, user optimization, entrepreneurship, social media and life hacking. I’m excited for this new chapter in my life and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you.

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Justin Butlion

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Welcome to my blog. My name's Justin Butlion and I'm the owner of The Great Grind. At The Great Grind I share my thoughts on beating the game of poker. The blog covers poker strategy, game theory, poker related statistics and the psychology needed to grind out consistent profit at micro and low stakes online poker.
  • Tomer Tagrin

    Great post man, really great post!

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

      Thanks Tomer, I appreciate that.

  • Andrei Averkin

    Sounds like a great optimization hack.
    Good luck Justin!

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion


  • FlushhDraw

    Just found your blog really great read but i must say if your decision to quit is because your passion for yhe game is not there thats one thing if its because of the earn rate consider the following.

    From January to August 2013 you earned in excess of $1800 and for the time invested was a bit over $4/hr closer to $4.50/hr. Something happened to you after August 2013. You don’t go from making making 1800 in 8 months to losing 1700 over the next 14 months unless something changed.

    You added more tables or you weren’t focusing or you lost your passion for the grind I don’t know what, but something had to have changed in your poker playing to cause this for this is not a typical downswing nor can it be explained as a downswing. The question remains what was the change that you made to cause this to happen. Find out the why and you may question whether or not you really want to quit this

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

      Thanks for the comment. Around August 2013 I had started to beat 25NL and decided to start moving up. My aim for the year was to beat 50NL for a decent sample size. I ended up showing a profit for 50NL by the end of that year but my sample size was quite small. My focus for 2014 was to beat 100NL. I managed to do nicely at the start of the year at 50NL and by June I had taken 2 shots at 100NL, both failing. The reason I showed such a long breakeven streak was because of these shots at the higher stakes. Just so its clear, $4.5/hr is way below minimum wage in Israel so I couldn’t afford to stay at 10/25NL.

  • Adam

    Hi Justin,

    Have you managed to stay quit from poker? I’ve played about 1 million hands myself since 2009 – break-even with rake-back & bonuses. Obviously a total waste of my time in terms of cash earned. I quit about 50 times but, well, I played 2,500 hands this morning so quitting is about break-even too…

    It is really good to see someone put so much of their poker life online honestly. There is so much BS talked about online poker it is difficult to know what’s real. Having read your blog and seen the effort and intelligence you’ve brought to your game I no longer feel bad about failing to crush online games myself.

    It was particularly sobering to see your multiple 50K+ hand stretches of break-even at stakes you were clearly beating. I’ve used variance simulators so I know what’s theoretically possible but seeing actual data makes it much more real.

    I’m going to keep playing for now but following your advice on here I’m going to stick at stakes I’m beating for much longer and be much more cautious when I take shots. I think I have to ultimately accept that poker is never going to generate significant cash for me though and just be happy with playing the game and taking whatever wins/bonuses I get.

    I agree with your decision to quit on an opportunity cost basis but one thing you left out is this: what do you feel you’ve gained from poker apart from paltry amounts of money?

    I’m not a calm person naturally but poker has moved me to more fits of apoplectic rage than anything else in my entire life. However, in the long run I’ve started to realise that I’m becoming a calmer and more controlled person. Poker has forced me to address aspects of my psyche I’d never have consciously worked on otherwise.

    Hope you stay quit, hope I quit and stay quit one day too, just got to take one more shot first though…


    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

      Hey Adam, thanks for the nice, long comment. To answer your question, yes I have managed to stay quit. Since writing this blog post I haven’t played a single hand of online poker. I do on occasion play live poker but its quite rare these days and I’ve mostly lost my love for the game. In Israel it is difficult to find a nice game with nice people. Poker here attracts the worst of society unfortunately.

      I understand you completely. I also “quit” many times before writing this post always to return with a new strategy, approach and sometimes even different mindset altogether. I do believe the game is beatable but based on my experience it requires far more energy, disciple, time and professionalism than most realize. I simply decided that I wasn’t in a place in my life where I could make the sacrifices I needed to break through 50NL and get to a point where I could make enough to sustain my current lifestyle.

      I feel that Poker has given me a huge amount outside of the actual game. I’ve actually been meaning to write a post about it for a very long time.

      Some of the things Poker has taught me:

      1. Small changes add up quickly in the long run – This is a lesson you can apply to many different areas in your life.
      2. Poker helped me realize that many people, even people that anyone would consider as highly intelligent, can be extremely irrational.
      3. Play each hand you are dealt the best you can – Also able to apply to multiple areas of your life. Try and cut out the emotion and do your best with the opportunities which present themselves. If you do that you are already doing more than most.
      4. Progress happens when you stop doing the things which are causing you harm – Most people look at what new things they can do to improve in life. Start by looking at what you are currently doing and identify what is causing you harm. To become break even at Poker you have to stop doing the things which are costing you money.
      5. I can go on forever.

      I wish you all the best Adam and I invite you to subscribe to my blog so you can get all my future posts.

  • Hunyango Balbakwa

    good decision. poker is dead. it has been dying since 2010. and the poker community is full of scumbags. it was all a giant marketing scam by poker brands and promoters. search the internet and you will find the a huge majority of the recognizable names in poker are already broke. damn this game to hell..

    • David Bronaire

      I’ve quit online poker since it became regulated in Spain. I don’t trust the software and RNG and just totally lost interest.

  • http://www.pokerbaazi.com pokerbaazi

    thans justin its really great artcile for poker players thinku about onlinr poker game.

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion


  • https://www.pokabunga.com/online-poker-india Poker Games

    All the information you provided are very informative. Thanks for sharing.

  • Astra Sleepz

    This article should not discourage people to take online poker as a means to make a living. From what I see here is that you are not playing your A game and you just don’t put enough time (can be seen from avg hands/ mo is just around 30k hands), which suggests that you are not a pro?.

    A good player can play 10k hands in one day! I am not trying to make a statement but I rather choose to stick to your game and add more volume. When you have played more than 100k hands/ mo in a consistent basis, then you can call yourself a pro.

    I don’t agree with the cost-benefit things. I agree that poker takes a lot of time within the day, but it is easier for you to manage your time because you don’t have to deal with all the bullshit things in the world like meeting clients, suck up to your boss, do things you don’t wanna do. You WILL get HEALTHIER, because you can now safely say that HEY, i wanna go to the gym at 4pm everyday, without having to worry that your boss might fire you for leaving the office to early 🙂

    It’s a taxing game because you have to be on top of your meta mind game everyday, but trust me if people are dedicated and putting 1000% of effort to this game, the rewards will be AMAZING. Just like any other things in life 🙂

  • Kiran Nair

    Such an amazingly written post! Looking forward to some more thoughtful content. Cheers from India 🙂

    • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion