How Do You Manage Your First Big Poker Score?

In the first post of the PokerListings/Cardrunners strategy project John Kim teaches us how to be responsible with our first big poker score.

John Kim has played poker professionally for over a dozen years. He's played several million hands at the mid to high-stakes levels at Full Tilt Poker and has amassed over a million dollars in winnings.  

He now splits his time between the live games in Las Vegas, where he resides, and playing 15 tables simultaneously online. John is a dedicated father and husband and emphasizes work-life balance as an important trait to his success in poker.

I remember when I had my first significant score. It was in January 2005 and I won the $640 buy-in partypoker Million for about $250k. That tournament was the original Sunday Million before PokerStars introduced their Sunday Million.

I remember the final hand winning with A7o vs. K9o and the board rolling out AKxxx. The next thing I knew I was jumping up and down with my wife and calling my family to celebrate the win.

The timing was great because my wife and I just bought and moved into our very first house the previous month. Having been a professional poker player for a few years but never having won more than $15k in a single day, this was a significant boost to my bankroll.

What Did I Do With the Money?

So what did I do with the money? Well, since I placed a high priority on family, I gave some money to my parents and my brother. Also I paid off all my debts including credit cards and car payments.

At the time I was playing mid- to high-stakes cash games online and doing well. I was playing $30/$60 limit and $5/$10 No-Limit Hold’em games and was making a good living, so I didn’t feel the need to jump into higher games at the time. I’ve always been a little risk averse when it came to my poker bankroll (mainly because I was married with one child and a mortgage) and even though my bankroll had ballooned, I thought there was a better way to use the money.

I decided to read a few books on investing, and bought a number of stocks and mutual funds. I wanted to invest for the future. I did not want an investment I’d have to stay on top of all the time. My primary focus would still be poker.

So I ended up buying a bunch of shares in companies and mutual funds that were guaranteed long term moneymakers, e.g. S&P 500. To this date I still own most of the same shares I bought back then, but I may have swapped or traded some shares for others. I made sure our retirement accounts stayed healthy and they’re poised to return a good amount when we start withdrawing from them (another 30 years or so from now).

The size of your house will depend on the size of your score.

This goes against the grain of how most of the “pro poker community” would use the windfall. Many would have immediately started playing bigger to see how much more they could make. I do think this is the best route to take for winning players, but it depends on each person’s situation.

Invest in Your Future

I took the responsible route at the time by investing for our futures and would not fault anybody for taking the same route I did.

Reflecting back on it, I wish I’d taken some of the money and taken shots at higher games, although higher games back then were only $100/200 limit or $10/$20nl (UB probably had $25/$50nl back then but we all know how shady the UB games were so it was a good thing I never played on the site then).

I have always been a winning poker player and I should’ve given myself a shot at higher games to see how I did. Who knows how high I could’ve ended up playing had I taken that opportunity.

The Dangers of Playing Too High

While I could’ve been a little more aggressive with my newfound money, there is danger in being too aggressive, which I’ve seen happen when other poker players bink a tournament or come across a large sum of money.

Either they play too high, play in games they are not the favorite (just because you win 6 figures in a tournament does not mean you can beat the highest or toughest games), play negative ev games (blackjack, craps, sportsbetting, etc.), or just spend too lavishly.

Soon they are out of the large amount of money they had and are left wondering “wtf did I do with all my money?!” I would recommend finding the right medium (games and stakes) with a minimal amount of risk to maximize one’s profits with the new bankroll.

Turns out a couple of years later we would move into a bigger house and I would win another Sunday major within a month of moving. I won $132k in the FTP $750k guaranteed. Talk about déjà vu. It’s been awhile since I won a big online tournament so I’m trying to convince my wife to move again.

Nicolak is one of many instructors already blogging over at CardRunners. Join CardRunners and get instant access to their poker blog network, where you can find poker blogs by your favorite instructors and start your own blog.

Bill Ma
2021-05-15 01:58:49

How old is this article

Arved Klöhn
2021-05-21 08:39:07

@Bill: This article dates back to the times when Ultimate Bet was still a thing.

David Lloyd-Jones
2013-04-28 15:36:17


You have one interesting line n there: you still own most of the stocks you bought way back when. Good sign. Buy and hold is the way to go.

Swap in and out, look for the right time, ra the signs and the trends — these are the sure ways to pay for your brokers’ yachts.

Best — in your investing, and at the tables,


2011-03-13 02:21:26

yes,this is the dilemma the average strategy reader faces and needs guidence on the most.Where on earth was this article BEFORE i won the sunday million and ftops event 12 ? OH the wasted thousands.

2011-03-06 20:49:06

Not just a great player but a very smart invester. There are quite a few high stakes players who have invested in business, property and other instruments to secure a good income in case they wind up on the mother of all downswings and never recover from it. Three cheers for John!

2011-02-28 16:57:46

Hi John,

Thanks for your advice. What stakes do you play now, and how high do you take shots?

2011-02-23 11:11:52

Now this is what I call a smart guy. Sure, he could have taken a shot at $10/20 maybe or even $15/30 (online or live) where I bet he could have had also a nice winrate but still nothing wrong with his strategy.

2011-02-22 21:09:52

if you look up strategy in the dictionary this comes up.

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