Online poker: Between ruin and quick riches

Online poker: Between ruin and quick riches

“All-in”, “raise” or a disappointed “I’m out!” – the poker fever in Germany is still unbroken. But can online poker be used not only to make a quick buck, but also to really secure a lasting livelihood?

Living from online poker – is that possible?

According to a study by Pokerolymp, there were more than 357,000 registered, so-called real-money players in Germany in 2013. Playing on the computer and earning money at the same time – a dreamlike idea for many. TECHBOOK explains: How exactly does this work and how quickly does the dream become an illusion?

Martin S. (31), a professional poker player from Berlin, answered our questions. Why he lives like many other German players in the exile has a simple reason, he explains: “As for example also in Austria play profits obtained here in Stockholm do not have to be taxed.” This freedom of movement in terms of tax law makes countries like Sweden and Austria a gambling Mecca for countless players from all over Europe.

At the poker tables of the virtual world, however, it is mainly the inexperienced beginners and recreational players who cavort alongside the accomplished professionals. Many of them just want some entertaining entertainment, but some are looking for financial success.

In order to play successfully a player would need with the Pokern above all willingness to learn, discipline and perseverance, so Martin S.: ?At first it concerns with the Pokern perhaps still luck, however much more the ability is crucial. Means therefore: Play, play, play. Never give up and above all: never stop learning.”

Online providers such as “Pokerstars” have been a household name in this country at least since “Die TV total”. With this event, Stefan Raab managed to make poker a hip lifestyle.

Online poker portals

Online poker portals

Only those who are clever and know their way around have a good chance of winning big at virtual poker. To prepare, poker expert Martin suggests, “Before visiting one of the online poker portals such as Pokerstars, Partypoker or Everest Poker for the first time, attending a basic course at a poker school is highly recommended.” Like the poker portals themselves, the schools can be found by the hundreds on the net. There, for example, game videos teach how to play poker and win hands. Analogous to other tutorials and instructions, similar instructional videos can of course also be found on YouTube.

Warm-up with play money

Another tip that Martin emphatically emphasizes: “Play poker with play money!”. Learning strategies is best practiced and internalized by beginners in rounds with play money stakes. All popular poker schools offer such an option. This gives you the opportunity to learn how to safely assess and improve your own skills. In play money mode, you can safely test your skills and in some cases even win real money in the end.

True to the motto “practice makes perfect”, the formula for success is that the player’s chances of winning increase with increasing experience.

Start low and make it big

“To avoid quick losses, beginners should always start with low limits first,” Martin recommends, “also because there are quite significant differences between play money mode and real gaming that need to be gotten used to.” So if the player doesn’t want to run the risk of having to fold prematurely right after an all-in, it’s better to approach the bigger pots slowly.

Risk management through clever BRM

“Staying in the game for longer periods of time and perhaps playing a little higher poker later in the game is not a question of luck but one of proper management!” explains Martin. Through so-called bankroll management, poker players can reduce their risk of losing their entire deposited capital. This reduces total losses to a minimum.

A golden rule for this is: Online poker players should have at least 30 full tournament buy-ins before taking a seat at the virtual poker table. In the so-called cash game, a game in which every bet is made with real money, a factor of 100 is recommended. This means that with a big blind of one euro, it is best to go to the table with 40-100 euros and have at least 2000 euros in your account. If this is not the case or if the player has already fallen below this limit due to losing rounds, then it is time for him to leave the table in order to increase the remaining capital again at tables with lower limits.

Understanding variance

Anyone who wants to play tournaments should be aware from the start that they are subject to enormous variance. “Most amateur players are already overtaxed to even reach an adequate level of play to not only participate in mid/highstakes tournaments, but also to be able to win them,” Martin judges sharply. An appropriate mindset and the aforementioned bankroll management are absolutely necessary for this.

What utilities like HEM are good for

Utilities are an absolute “must” in online poker, they make themselves indispensable by helping the player with active game analysis. Examples would be: Holdemmanager (HEM) or SnG Wizard.

What are tracking programs

The program records the hand histories of the played hands during the game. That is, it analyzes what cards the players were dealt, how they acted, and how much money was circulated in the process.

Tools for professionals

Tools for professionals
  • Bankroll Management (BRM)
  • Discipline
  • Mindset
  • Poker knowledge
  • Understanding of variance
  • Legal and psychological risks

A risk always remains in the game and therefore in the player. This applies both to the poker table itself and away from it. Poker professionals move legally as well as psychologically on thin ice. 

Generally the consumer protection Germany warns on-line before these five player traps:

  • (According to the current legal situation) there is a criminal offense due to participation in prohibited gambling.
  • Malware poses a high security risk.
  • Possible misuse of data when making deposits to the player account.
  • Bonus credits cannot be paid out and there is also a risk of theft of amounts already deposited or won.
  • In the event of damage (e.g. fraud), no legal remedies are possible due to the gambling ban.

In addition to the danger of gambling addiction, there is even the threat of trouble with the authorities in extreme cases. As soon as a player is playing poker commercially, i.e. actually earns his living from it, he must pay income taxes to the tax office accordingly.

From hobby player to professional

Just like lotto and casino games, poker is classified by the state as a game of chance. This results in a tax advantage, as income from legal games of chance that can be attributed to private assets is tax-free for the time being (this includes even a million-dollar win in Las Vegas). For the same reason, however, no losses can be claimed, which had to be raised in the context of the winnings, such as for travel expenses, game stakes or losses of these stakes.

Note: Capital gains such as interest or dividends, which are generated by means of gambling winnings, must be declared in the tax return and thus taxed.

The situation is completely different for professional gamblers, who generate commercial income from their gambling in accordance with § 15 EstG. In the case of professionals, the amount of tax is calculated in exactly the same way as for normal employees, on the basis of the income actually earned (less income).

The classification as recreational player or professional depends on a number of different factors. The most important factors are whether there are serious profit intentions, whether the time spent playing online poker can be categorized as working time, and whether or not there is any other income.


It is often forgotten that according to estimates, only about 5% of all poker players are Winning Players in the long run. Conversely, this means that in order to be successful as a professional, 95% of all players must be left behind in the long run and even if this should be achieved. A cautious playing style is advisable especially for beginners, even experienced professionals often rely on the strategy of “grinding”. This is a special style of play in which small, secure profits are continuously brought in over a long period of time with minimal risk.

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