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Can we provide a listing of what board games or card games are played by full-time professionals? I define such a professional as someone whose income arises primarily from competing and winning events (against other competitive players, rather than against a stable benchmark like a casino for example) and/or teaching (so, for example, a full-time coach who hardly ever plays competitively still counts). There don't need to be many - if it's possible to confirm even one such full-time professional that is enough to mention the board game or card game.

So far I am aware of:

  • Chess
  • Go
  • Poker

And possibly Shogi, Xiangqi, and Bridge, though confirmation on these would be valuable. Can anyone add to this list?

EDIT: Since this question has been reopened I will offer some further thoughts that I felt evolved from our discussion. They could be useless to someone who has already researched this and knows better:

  • We should not need to look far for these games; they are likely to have been in the public eye for decades at a minimum. Of the established examples of games sustaining full-time professionals, from chess/Go to Magic: The Gathering, every game has done so for at least 25 years now. Since full-time professional players undertake considerable risk, they would not likely commit themselves to a game without strong pedigree. (Counter-examples always welcome)
  • I will venture - from very limited experience - a list of games which seem vaguely plausible for which I'm curious whether they have full-time professionals, as a starting point for someone who doesn't feel confident to answer because they suspect they will be missing some category or the other (e.g. Asian board-games) but might know about these particular games:
(Card games with standard decks:)  Whist, Rummy (versions?), Hearts, Spades, Euchre, Cribbage, Skat, ...
(Abstract games:)  Checkers/draughts, backgammon, Othello/Reversi, ...  

Obviously an extremely incomplete list but maybe a few possibilities that occurred to me to start brainstorming. There may be some other board games (I just don't know enough about the field to even know any names besides maybe Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk) and of course whole fields I'm ignorant of, like how trading card games produced a new positive example in MTG (see answers below).

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    Given that this question was already reopened once, I feel it should not be deleted. Even if it's to remain closed, it ought to stand on the record given that several members of the community have found it interesting and worthwhile. – Mobeus Zoom Jun 9 at 18:39
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    @Nij That sad, this question is more interesting and important than 100 question about the rules of Monopoly. – Cohensius Jun 11 at 15:53
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    @Nij Wrong: deletion is not the 'inevitable result' for anything. As that Meta post makes clear, deletion is the result of a post that 'no longer adds anything to the site'; in this case the post is felt valuable by a substantial proportion of the community, and whether for that reason or because a larger still proportion vehemently feels it is inappropriate, it should remain as a signal of the community's decision in an interesting/ambiguous case. – Mobeus Zoom Jun 12 at 12:33
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    I'll add that, you can imagine, I don't have much skin in the game seeing as, deleted or not (and probably even closed or not - perhaps the fact it was opened a long time and no-one really answered in that period is some sort of vindication of the closure, though I'm not sure), it's unlikely I'll get the answers I want. However, in general I find the attitude of people on smaller SEs to VTC questions they simply don't like or personally feel is outside the type of content they are accustomed to, rather than objectively low-quality, to be quite pernicious. – Mobeus Zoom Jun 12 at 12:39
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    VTC = "vote to close" – Mobeus Zoom Jun 13 at 15:51
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Duplicate bridge certainly has full-time professional players who earn their living playing, although most of them are also teachers, and play with students for pay. There at least used to be professional players of Chemin de fer (a gambling game) and still are for blackjack and other casino gambling games.

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  • Thanks for confirming bridge. Chemin de fer = baccarat? Note that as I defined professional players, they need to win from competition with one another, not against 'the house', so blackjack doesn't count. I don't know if other 'casino gambling games' fit these terms - of course poker does, but are there others? – Mobeus Zoom May 9 at 3:43
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    Note that bridge is weird; even those that make their living from playing as opposed to teaching or mentoring don't make their money from prizes or sponsorship in the classic sense; they play team-of-4 matches at high level 5-pros-and-the client, who pays for everything. Since the clients are people like the former CEOs of Adidas, Bear Stearns, and Standard Oil, or "came back last week from Italy, where he was looking for a winery to buy", 5 pros can be paid a good living out of "petty cash". There are very few bridge events (almost none in North America) with significant prize pools. – Mycroft May 9 at 17:43
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    @Mobeus Zoom ther are several different routes to professional status in bridge. One interesting case is the famous "Dallas Aces". A wealthy bridge player (Ira Corn) wanted the US to do better in international events which had been dominated by italy for 10+ years. So he hired 6 players who were near the top of the US tourney lists and had done well in international play, and seemed likely to play well together. They were paid full-time ($800-950/Mth, 1968) to practice and play high-level bridge. Corn also paid for coaches and a dedicated computer. Some other pros followed this path ... – David Siegel May 14 at 22:27
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    ... Many other pros earn by writing and publishing books, and giving personal lessons. Culbertson and Goren followed this path, and many others after them Often such a pro will play with a client in a major event, as a "playing lesson" but if the pair or team wins, the client shares in the masterpoint award, and part of the fee is for helping the client do well. (Sometimes a team is 2 pros, each partnered with a client. – David Siegel May 14 at 22:31
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    @MobeusZoom: There are also lower-level bridge pros. Making Life Master rank in N. America requires a certain amount of Gold Points, which one earns by placing well (or at least not too badly) in Regional Tournaments. Some basically competent but far from expert players who are well-to-do but by no means wealthy will hire a pro as a partner for a Regional to help them win some Gold Points. Probably a few dozen pros make a living primarily this way, and more make some money this way to supplement their retirement. They basically get clients through word-of-mouth. – Alexander Woo May 16 at 2:44
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There are a number of Magic: the Gathering players who derive all their income from the game, whether that be:

  • A direct contract from Wizards of the Coast, given to the players with the best competitive results
  • Prize money from winning tournaments
  • 1:1 lessons
  • Writing about the game
  • Streaming-related income
  • Sponsorship related to all the above

The split between those sources will obviously vary between individuals, with others supplementing their Magic-related income with "regular" employment.

[ Update four days after I wrote this answer: Wizards of the Coast have canned their professional contracts... ]

While it may be strictly off-topic for this site as it doesn't have a physical version, I believe there are also Hearthstone pros who earn a living in a similar manner.

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    Thanks, good answer, I don't know why this question was closed - I've asked - but this is the kind of answer I was hoping for. – Mobeus Zoom May 9 at 11:43
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I won't give a list since a list will keep changing. Rather, I'll give a method to find these games.

Go to https://www.twitch.tv/, which is the most popular platform used by streamers to stream themselves playing games. Go to the categories section, and sort all categories by viewer count. If we agree that the games most likely to have full-time professional players are also most likely to have people streaming the game (seems reasonable, since these games are necessarily popular, and popular games have more streamers), then you should be able to find all the games that fit your criterion here.

You can further sort by Card & Board Games if you like (although for some reason chess isn't considered a card & board game by Twitch).

Note this methodology isn't perfect - a major tournament for one game for example can greatly inflate the viewer numbers while it is in progress, making it seem more popular than it actually is. I have not tried to see if Twitch stores the rolling 30-day average or similar of viewer data, but if that's available it should be helpful.

Similarly, because (as far as I know) Twitch is English dominated, games in which the majority of players don't speak English, like Xiangqi, might not be represented. Therefore this method would only give you a list of candidates. You'd have to do further digging to confirm if they actually support full-time professional players.

enter image description here

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    Nice idea, however it does not reveal more games on top of the ones mentioned already. – Cohensius May 14 at 10:57
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    @Allure good idea, but I'm not sure the correlation with Twitch streaming is actually there, if only because (1) my guess is (except for Poker and MTG) some of those would not be permanent fixtures, (2) this list shows poor correlation with the established positive examples (chess, Go, poker, bridge, MTG) and other games that might be thought similarly canonical on a long time-scale (shogi, Xiangqi, whist, ...). – Mobeus Zoom May 14 at 20:31
  • @MobeusZoom Chess isn't listed as a card & board game by Twitch for some reason. Poker & MtG are in that screenshot, and I also know Hearthstone & Gwent have full-time professional players. So it's not perfect, but it gives an idea for what to look at. – Allure Jun 9 at 0:31

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