Win $1 Million in a Poker Tournament? Don’t Spend it All in One Place

You finally make your first-big score in poker and suddenly it seems that you’re set for life.

Unfortunately for poker pros, actually holding on to their cash can be just as hard as winning it in the first place.

Taxes, bankroll management and investments are all aspects that every poker pro has to seriously consider after binking a huge score.

Even experienced professionals have made huge errors when it comes to their winnings so it’s understandable that new players sometimes make key mistakes. Usually the bigger the score, the harder it is to manage properly.

Not Investing Can Be a Huge Mistake

Jesse Sylvia
Jesse Sylvia regrets not investing his winnings sooner.

2012 Runner-Up finisher Jesse Sylvia, who won a staggering $5.2 million, said just sitting on money can be a huge leak.

“Do what you are going to say you are going to do,” advised Sylvia.

“I took way too long to invest a portion of the money I didn’t need for poker. I’m being really results orientated, but I missed the market going up huge.”

Sylvia estimates if he had put his extra money in the stock market the day after he won he would be up about 60% at this point.

“It’s disgusting to think about that,” he said.

That kind of advice is really better for people who make huge scores because for most players a huge percentage of a win is going back directly into the bankroll.

Fellow November Niner Russell Thomas had some much simpler advice for the players who actually manage to make big scores like he did.

“Just don’t spend it all on ridiculous things I guess,” he laughed.

It’s an easy trap to fall into and even poker icon Antonio Esfandiari admits he fell into a cycle of partying after winning his first WPT for $1.3 million in 2004.

Esfandiari says it took six years to refocus his game and get back to winning.

Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks

George Danzer
George Danzer

George Danzer, who’s won millions in the last few years playing poker, had some different advice for new winners.

“Invest in something that makes you feel good,” he said.

“I’m not even a guy that spews money. I don’t buy luxury items. I don’t even have a car or anything. But if you want to invest in something bad and it doesn’t work out than the money is gone. I don’t think you should be afraid to make big mistakes.”

With a large emphasis put on bankroll management and financial planning the modern generation of poker player is a far cry from the roadside gamblers of old.

“Most of them are pretty smart so they should be able to figure it out,” he said. “I mean there are a million ways you can get ripped off but just be smart about it.”

Interestingly, according to Danzer, money management isn’t that different than actually playing poker.

“It’s the same as being at the poker table,” said Danzer. “Just try and make the best decision. Be smart about it and if it doesn’t work out, well, it doesn’t work out.”

Investing in Your Own Bankroll

Dan Shak
Dan Shak knows more about investing than most.

Sometimes there are even opportunities in the poker world.

Old-school Australian poker vet Gary Benson started a business that helped players transfer funds from online poker sites to their banks. He also helped broker the best exchange deals in Australia.

The market is always changing, however, and the bigger online poker sites have moved away from individuals handling transactions in an official capacity.

“It’s kind of a shame,” said Benson. “I still do stuff with a few of the smaller sites.”

Meanwhile semi-pro poker player Dan Shak, who is a businessman first, was blunt when we talked to him about finance this summer at EPT Barcelona.

“Use your skills and invest in something you’re good at, instead of putting money in a business you don’t understand.

“If you are interested in poker than invest that money in poker. If you have bigger scores, buy yourself a home. That’s pretty much it.”

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