Hungarians play poker to make ends meet amid crisis

Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:17am EDT
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters Life!) - Peter Traply graduated from college in February, but the babyfaced Hungarian is in no rush to join the rat race for ever scarcer jobs. He is making a killing in poker.

So far this year, Traply has earned north of 100 million forints ($531,900) at poker tables around the world and online, and he shows scant sign of stopping.

In Hungary, ravaged by the recent economic crisis, poker has become something of a national pastime, and for some people, a source of income.

The Poker Association of Hungary reckons some 50,000 people out of 10 million Hungarians play poker live, and 200,000 more do it online. Most took up the game in the last few years.

That draw gets stronger as job opportunities dwindle. The crisis has sent Hungary's unemployment to nearly 10 percent, its highest in 13 years, and prospects remain dim.

By now, as many as two percent of fresh university graduates hope to follow in Traply's footsteps and make at least part of their living from poker, said Gergely Tatar, chairman of the poker association, quoting a recent survey.

"Online, you can start with a few hundred dollars and if you are good, you can make as much as $10,000 per month in a year or two," Tatar said.

The average monthly income in Hungary is $640.   Continued...

<p>A player checks his cards during a poker game at a Budapest casino in Budapest September 15, 2009. REUTERS/Katoly Arvai</p>