There are many other players like Andy Beal, although on far lower scales. Even though poker is a negative sum game (because the casino or online site takes a percentage), there is still room for plenty of people to be overall winners. Accordingly, the boom has allowed thousands to play it fulltime. You don't often see them on TV because most prefer to play online. The primary reason for this is the ability to play multiple tables or tournaments at one time, which actually offers two benefits: Obviously, more tables means more simultaneous sources of profit, but by playing multiple games against opponents a step or two below you, it's possible to make more money with less risk than by playing one game appropriate to your skill level.
Some top internet players have shown they're quite capable of holding their own in live tournaments and games. However, most online pros plug away far outside the glare of the TV spotlights. After hundreds of thousands of hands, they know that they average a certain amount of profit per table, per hour. So, it's not unreasonable to compare them to Li. Like him, they play almost every day, often eight to 10 hours. Also like him, they can be regarded as farmers, just with cash as their direct crop.
Poker players who, like Li, live in areas of the world with low average incomes, even have an option that requires the investment of time but carries no monetary risk: "Freeroll" tournaments, which poker sites offer to attract and retain players, cost nothing to enter and pay cash prizes. The amounts are generally small, but a successful fulltime freeroller can win hundreds of dollars per month; in some places, that's enough to live on.
I've even seen a number of believable (albeit unverified) reports of players making money by selling passwords to private tournaments. Such individuals are certainly held in disdain by most other players, but here, too, if there's potential for profit, someone is probably doing it.
So, what does it mean when the line between work and play becomes hazy, or even disappears altogether? Does Li enjoy playing World of Warcraft as much as Lee? And is poker still as much fun when you know you have to put in your 35 or 40 hours a week rather than only playing when you truly feel like it? In both cases, when play becomes work, can it still be play too? I'd like to think so, but am I sure?
Richard Aihoshi blurred the line between work and play in another way. Several years ago, his hobby, computer games, turned into a career writing about them, primarily the massively multiplayer and roleplaying genres. An online poker player for about a year, he claims to be ahead overall but admits he makes far too little even to dream about playing for a living.