A familiar face in Atlanta nonprofit fundraising circles for Emory University, Israel Bonds, and the Anti-Defamation League, Marcus Brodzki, 38, had already gone “all in” and walked away from his more traditional career to become a professional poker player. A jovial bar mitzvah tutor and grandson of a Holocaust survivor, Brodzki mustered the courage, with a wife and two daughters along, to “gamble “on full-time.
He said, “I took a week of vacation from my job as a trial run, and it was a resounding success. I earned $6,500 that week and was more present at home. It was a huge ‘win-win.’ Shortly after returning to work, I put in my notice and took the plunge.”
Before graduating Emory in 2008 with a degree in psychology and a minor in Jewish studies, Brodzki grew up in a South Florida game-playing household.
He recalled, “I remember my grandmother teaching me to play gin rummy as the oldest of four children and highly competitive. Monopoly was banned after a fight broke out. As adults, my siblings and I have bookshelves at home dedicated to games — from Apples to Apples to Ticket to Ride and every game in between.”
Getting into poker, Brodzki watched ESPN when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. On a trip to Montana, he learned more playing a small stakes cash game in a bar in Bozeman. He won $300 that day. In 2016, he started tracking results in an Excel spreadsheet with the data points over the last seven years showing consistent winning. Improving involves tools, books, online courses, and AI-powered solvers; but his best strides have come from trial and error and reaching out to better players for advice on specific scenarios. Known to play for eight hours straight, Brodzki “games” at the nearest casino in Cherokee, N.C., Vegas, and other tournament series. There is also a local thriving underground poker community.
On practical matters like taxes, Brodzki said, “Since I decided to ‘go pro’ halfway through this year, I won’t likely file taxes as a professional gambler, but, for 2024, I likely will. I can deduct tournament buy-ins and other related travel expenses as any business. For me, a business trip might look like a vacation to some. I pay self-employment taxes like many others.”
As gambling can be addictive and financially crippling if mishandled, Brodzki reasonably stated, “I can do from three to five buy-ins for a game. After that, I have found my ability to play well is diminished from losing too much. Managing the money I have set aside for poker is one of the biggest skills I’ve developed since 2019 when I first opened a savings account at my bank dedicated for poker…I’m responsible and if the results change to the point where I don’t earn enough, then I will seek out more traditional employment.”
Meanwhile, Brodzki has won up to $4,000 profit in one night.
In terms of self-assessing, Brodzki says he’s still a student. He mused, “There is definitely a mixture of math skills (calculating hand equity, counting hand combinations, and pot odds) and in-game opponent analysis. I don’t put much faith in reading opponents’ faces, but I endeavor to define what they are doing incorrectly to gain advantages from their mistakes.”
Summarily, Brodzki said, “Poker is a fascinating melting pot of the community — from the new player, to a blue-collar construction worker, to wealthy businessmen and women…though poker is a male-dominated sport — women only make up ~10 percent of the poker players I’ve encountered…for whom the money doesn’t matter to the crazy ones like me trying to play this game to make a living — poker is a fascinating game with fun characters. I’m all in!”