What Is Your Poker Time Worth?

Everything has a cost – even things that are free.

I want to talk about my favorite tool in the world. No, you didn’t accidentally stumble on my ‘SplitSuit Goes Camping’ blog where I discuss some awesome 94-in-1 flashlight. My favorite tool in the world is money.

If you already view money as a tool, high-five! Be patient with me while I convince everyone else that it is.

If you do NOT view money as a tool, I HIGHLY urge you to start thinking about it as such right this moment. Not tomorrow, not next week – but right now.

Money is a tool. You trade money for things you either want or need. You save money so that you can trade it for things you want on rainy days. You store some extra money away for emergencies. It’s an entity that should not be worshipped, rather appreciated for what it is: a tool that you trade.

There is also another tool that we trade on a daily basis, although VERY few consider it as such: time.

poker roi

In fact, right this very moment you are trading your time to read and digest this article. Whether or not you realize it, you are hoping that the tradeoff of your time ends up being +EV. And don’t worry, I’m going to do my absolute best to ensure that it is!

So every day we trade dollars and time. Is this revolutionary?

Of course not.

But the crux of the issue is this. You have limited time, and you have a LOT more money than you realize.


You are born, you do some breathing, and then you eventually die. You don’t know when you are going to die, but you know with absolute certainty that your time on this earth will end.

Not to be a huge bummer, but it’s the reality of life.

You can replace a broken chair. You can replace one hobby for another. But you cannot replace or regain time.

Time is your most precious asset. You own it, until you don’t, and you should cherish and protect it above anything else.


Yes, I said earlier that you have a lot more money than you realize.

No, I didn’t just send you 90 bitcoins.

But your time is worth actual money.

Right this very moment you could decide to read a book that you own (+$0), go buy a new TV (-$900), or go pick up a shift at McDonalds (+$42). You choosing to spend $0 and read this article is a choice – you made it, and continue to make it with every word you read.

When you start viewing your time as money, and realizing that even your time choices have a monetary effect, you start approaching life differently.


I used to have a major issue.

In fact, if I don’t constantly keep double-checking myself I can find myself falling back into the same bad habit.

Growing up, I essentially had 3 phases of my childhood:

  • Family had some, but not tons, of money
  • Family business expanded quickly, had lots of money
  • Family business got snapped in the bubble, lost lots of money

Going from lots to little creates a sense of “I better hoard money just in case” kind of mentality. Seeing the effect that it had on my father only amplified that mentality.

So as a young adult, I did my best to not spend frivolously. My goal was to work hard, be smart with every dollar that left my pocket, and never get blindsided if things went poorly (hi Black Friday!). That’s not to say I didn’t buy stupid watches or tech from time to time – but I was protective overall.

In my mid-20’s I was doing a lot of poker coaching – like, 3hrs/day every day on top of releasing videos & article. I was making decent money but I kept searching for my next step. Given my analytical mind, and the influences around me, it seemed like day trading was the natural direction to begin moving into.

I, along with my best friend, found a great coach who was a very successful trader – and the price tag came in. This is where I differed from my friend….

My friend instantly jumped at it.

I, however, couldn’t stomach putting that much cash up.

But the real issue is WHY I made the decision that I did. I could have afforded to buy the coaching. It would have stung, but I could have gotten by and made it all work. Instead, I avoided the ‘risk’ because I didn’t want to spend the cash. I wanted to protect my hard-earned dollars instead of put them in someone else’s hand.

Notice there was no thought process of ROI (return on investment) potential, the cost of spending the time to try and learn on my own (which ultimately never ended up happening), or anything of the like.

It was a decision I made because I didn’t want to lose, err-spend, money.

I still facepalm when I think about it. Not because I regret missing an opportunity – but because my thought process was so laughably bad.


In that same example, let me show you how current-James would think about this spot. Here are some of the questions I would ask myself:

  • Does the cost put me at risk of going broke?
  • What is the upside potential if my investment works out?
  • If I don’t invest in this coaching, could I learn the material on my own?
  • How many hours do I think it would take to learn it solo?
  • What other things could I do with that time and money?

These questions keep me focused on the value of my time, the ROI of spending money, opportunity cost, etc.

Here’s the thing, we are all poker players (I can’t imagine you are reading this unless you play poker at least occasionally). We focus on making +EV plays, reducing –EV actions from our strategy, and taking profitable lines wherever possible.

So why aren’t we doing the same when it comes to real-world decisions?

Let me set this problem up in a way that gets thrown at me at least once a week…

“Your coaching is too expensive. I’d rather learn it on my own…”

Pro tip: people that use phrases like ‘too expensive’ instead of ‘not valuable enough/not enough of a return’ almost always think about money the wrong way.

That said, let’s look at this very common situation. Most players who are serious about improving have considered getting a coach at some point along the way. My rate is $200/hr. And if you take an hour of coaching it will take 1 hour of your time plus a little extra to digest things – so we’ll call it $200 for 2 hours of your time.

But this player is going to do the noble task of learning it on their own and investing $0 along the way. No stress. Let’s run some basic math…

First, how many hours do you think it would take them to learn it solo? Instead of them getting their slew of questions & hands analyzed in a coaching session they need to go source answers on their own either through forums, YouTube poker videos (no premium videos to keep that $0 budget), and free articles.

Let’s conservatively call it 60 minutes for each “answer” they come across. Some of the content will help them improve, some of it will be a waste of time, and some will just rehash stuff they already knew. So if they had 5 hands to analyze and 10 questions they wanted answers to, it would cost them 15 hours of total time (and believe me when I say this is a generous lowball).

So comparing our two options we see this:

  1. Spend $200 + 2 hours of time (confident in the answers received)
  2. Spend $0 + 15 hours of time (hopeful in the answers received)

There are some other factors too.

First, your time has value – as we established earlier. If you haven’t already thought about that, take a moment and estimate what each hour of your time is worth. You could use your $/hr rate that you can paid at work. Or another valuation. But have an actual idea of what you value your time at.

Second, is the delta. When you spend the time coaching, you essentially gain 13 hours over the person who had to spend all 15 hours self-learning. And, since you learned the material faster, that means you gain 13 hours that now have an increased value/hour. Well that’s pretty awesome.

Third, is the confidence in what you learn. Paying to learn from someone who is going to get you the right information the first time is FAR better than hoping the information you scraped together happens to be correct. For all of the times you tried to learn it on your own and actually learned it incorrectly, you end up lowering your value/hour.

Notice that both options cost you money. One costs you direct dollars and some time value. The other costs you no direct dollars, but lots of time value.

If you are able to value your $/hr, you can actually solve this whole thing just like you would any poker problem.

Say you value your time at $30/hr.

Keeping all things flat over a 15 hour period;

  • Coaching nets you $130
    • -$200-(2*$30)+(13*$30) = +$130
  • Self-teaching nets you -$450
    • $0-($15*30) = -$450

If you go the next level and account for the possibility of a worse hourly rate when self-teaching incorrectly, the increase in hourly value for the 13 hours post-coaching, etc. – you see how wild this can get.

For what it’s worth, the lesson here is NOT to say that coaching or high-end poker training is right for everyone. Nor would I ever want a player who cannot afford it to feel bad.

If you cannot afford coaching, that’s 100% OK. Notice my first question way above was “would spending this money put me at risk of going broke?” I actually wrote this guide for two reasons:

  1. To encourage intelligent investment of your money
  2. To discourage a devaluation of your time

This all boils down to ROI, short for return on investment.

If I am going to invest time or money into something, I want a return from it. That return can come in the form of joy (in the economics world they call that ‘utility’), or profit. Most people invest 8 hours per day for a paycheck and then invest the rest of their time in joy-focused activities.

The beautiful thing about poker, or any profit-possible activity, is that it can merge joy and profit.

The same cannot be said about watching TV (investing time for moderate joy and no profit return).

The same can rarely be said for golf (investing time+money for joy but no profit return).

But poker, played well, can yield a profit at the end of the day (investing time+money for both a joy and profit return).

So it’s easy to see how investing in your poker education makes sense. No different than spending $2K on a certification that would yield you an extra $5K on your annual paychecks. No different than spending $1.5K on an accountant who is able to find $9K in extra deductions that you wouldn’t have found on your own. No different than spending $200/mo on lawn care so that you can recoup an extra 12 hours each month (which makes sense when you value your time at $17+/hr).


Whenever I see a price tag my first question is always “how valuable is this for me, and what kind of return can I expect?” If I’m going to hire a designer for a project I ask myself “how many hours would I save by hiring them, and is there a return between those numbers?” If I’m going to hire an accountant, would they save me time + find me enough in extra deductions to offset their cost?

Heck, it’s the same thing when I buy a new chair for my office. Will spending a little more on a good chair reduce my back pain (thus increasing my joy) and need to be replaced less often – enough to offset the extra money spent on a mediocre vs awesome chair?

When it comes to personal improvement and training, people are hesitant to spend money. This likely stems from fear that they won’t get enough value out of it, but it can easily stem from self-sabotage. If they don’t take the gamble and invest in themselves, they always have an easy excuse later down the line for why their personal and professional life hasn’t improved. If they don’t invest in themselves they can stay right where they are in life and keep telling themselves the same lie that they are doing the best they can and they are where they are due to circumstances out of their control…

Don’t be that person. Don’t live that life.

Don’t let other people live that way either. Teach them to value their time and value investing in things that will help them progress!


We already did an example of the value of poker coaching earlier, but here are some other examples to see if we can’t really hammer this home:

Joining a training site

If you were to join the PRO Membership over at Red Chip Poker, you would spend $50/mo. The question you need to ask yourself is “if I spend $50/mo, can I recoup that playing within a reasonable amount of time?”

Honestly, that’s a pretty easy question to answer. If you play $1/$2, you could recoup that by learning 1 extra thing, implementing it, and winning an extra pot that you would have normally lost without that new info.

And remember, you aren’t signing up for $50/mo for life. You can always learn what you need right now, and cancel later on if you aren’t getting a proper return. Often time that comes in the form of not playing often enough to have the chance to generate a return – so remember to consistently review your investments since life happens and things change.

Simple example:

Right now you make $8/hr playing $1/$2.

If by going PRO you could jump that to $15/hr, then so long as you play 15 hours/mo it offsets. How did I get 15 hours? Well the money offsets after 7hours of playing. But I like to double that since watching the videos does take hours of your time as well…

Buying an expensive training course

Say that you’ve been interested in buying a high-end course, like my Hand Reading Lab. The cost is $500, so it better offer you an ROI if you are going to drop that kind of money on a training program…

Poker Range Building Course

Again, the first question I ask myself is “could I recoup that $500, and make an actual profit off that info, within a reasonable time period?”

  • If you play 10NL online a few times per month, the obvious answer is ‘most certainly not’
  • If you play $1/$2 live once a month, the answer is also no.
  • If you play 20hrs of poker per month at $1/$2 though, the answer could be ‘yes’.

The more volume you put in, the more a serious investment makes sense. This is because you put in enough hours that any improvement in hourly rate makes a staggering difference. That winrate improvement not only translates to more outright profit, but it also allows for moving up quicker – where the profit/hr has the possibility to double.

So $1/$2 players on the cusp of moving up to $2/$5 would stand to gain a significant amount.

But again, those are just some of the questions.

  1. Consider if you could learn this material on your own. If yes, how long do you think it would take?
  2. What is your time worth? If you value your time at $75/hr, it’s almost certainly better to invest and limit the number of raw study hours since sourcing info on your own takes ton more time than digesting a done-for-you course.
  3. Would investing destroy your bankroll? If you have a $1K bankroll, do not invest half of it in a course that only improves a piece of your strategy. If you invest and would need to move down right away, you lower your hourly and you need to factor that into the evaluation.
  4. Would another training source get me this information? If your options were between a $500 course and a $30 book that get you the exact same info, the question is how long would it take to digest either? Books tend to take longer to read – and do both really offer the exact same value?

At the end of the day, there are a few main things I want you to take away from this:

  1. Know what your time is worth and write it on a sticky note that you see every day. Your time is your most valuable asset, and you will protect it at all costs going forward.
  2. Products that cost very little do not guarantee they are a great value. Think about the time they would take to digest, what the real information value would be, and if other resources would prove to be a better investment.
  3. Free is not free. If nothing else, free resources will absorb your time. And remember, free things likely don’t offer the same value that a paid service/resource would.
  4. Before you spend time or money on anything, ask yourself what the ROI would be. Be smart with your money, but be WAY smarter with your time.

If this framework seems totally different from what you’ve been taught, don’t panic. Be with it, remember to consider it before spending time/money on anything over the next few weeks, and you’ll begin to see the true value of it.

This is a mindset shift. This is a valuation shift. And this shift will massively benefit you in the long run – keeping you focused on spending money in the right way, and protecting your time in the right way.

Remember, as a poker player your whole focus is to make +EV plays that offer a +ROI. Start viewing your time and money as investments, and start seeing more returns than you have in the past. Good luck!



This post was sponsored in part by Couponobox.com – Daily Coupons and Deals Website.

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