Build bankroll

Build a proper poker bankroll or die trying

Some of them are pulling down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and beyond

I recently returned from Las Vegas where, if I’m honest, I had a fairly torrid time at the poker tables. Cold decks, bad beats and, admittedly, some bad play prevented it from being the pay-for-my-entire-Vegas-holiday-with-poker- winnings trip I’d envisioned.

But as with all experiences at the poker table, it’s essential to learn from your mistakes. In this case, I realised I’d been playing too high, and in turn too scared; that my live play is nowhere near as good as my online play; and that despite my life revolving around poker, I still haven’t acquired anywhere near the experience (in terms of hours played) that many of the American college kids and live Hold’em veterans have.

As I was in Vegas with an American friend who plays poker for a living, I got introduced to a lot of high stakes players from California and Vegas, a lot of them still shy of 30, and asked them how they made their living. Virtually all of them had the same answer – limit Hold’em ring games. Lots of them had simply grinded their way up from $3/$6 and $4/$8 to $15/$30, $30/$60, $50/$100 and beyond. These weren’t ‘star’ players, but regular cash-gamers plying their trade in the Commerce Casino, LA, or the Bellagio, night in, night out. Some of them are pulling down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and beyond. And most of them started out with nothing.

And it got me thinking. How does someone with a normal job, social life and limited finances actually build a bankroll? If these self-made poker almost-millionaires had the guts, skill, and means to do it, surely I could, too…

I decided upon my return to try to build a proper bankroll by playing a few hours online every night, and as much as possible at weekends. And to follow the US kids’ route to riches I’d try out low stakes limit Hold’em to see if I could grind out a living by building up gradually.

Down to business

Upon my arrival home I fired up the laptop and realised I’d already got a handicap – my initial bankroll wasn’t big enough. I had around $500 in my account while, generally speaking, to play limit Hold’em at whatever level, you should have about 300 big bets – as a minimum – to allow for variance and swings. Which means I’d need $1,200 to play $2/$4 limit.

Sod it, I thought, I’ll just play and see how it goes. Fortunately, I got off to a good start, winning a couple of hundred after a couple of weeks playing. While that doesn’t sound much, it’s worth bearing in mind that a ‘good’ player expects to make two to three big bets an hour over the long-term. Now while that’s fine at $100/$200, where said ‘good’ player is turning over $400-$600 an hour, it’s a slightly different prospect when playing $2/$4 and only earning $8-$12 an hour.

In order to try and give my bankroll a kickstart then, I also decided to incorporate playing small field MTTs on a particularly easy site. I’m mentioning no names but it’s part of a big network and it’s really soft. Straight away I came sixth in a $100 MTT for $560, which took my bankroll up to nearly $1,200.

So now I’ve got the ball rolling, and I’d like to see my first month’s profits exceed $1,000, and grow as I move through the levels. Of course, this could take some time… But if you’re also thinking of going down this route – of trying to build a proper bankroll to play poker seriously with – I have three pieces of advice.

1. Seek out the softest games around – there are lots on the web. You’ll need to try out a few sites to find out which is the easiest.

2. Don’t play too high too soon. You’ll only panic and get despondent if your first couple of sessions are bad and you have to reload your account.

3. If you’re trying out the slow grind method on low stakes limit Hold’em tables, but are good at MTTs or STTs, play them on the side to help your bankroll at the outset. After all, it makes sense to play to your strengths.

And hopefully, if you’re successful, in a few years’ time I’ll see you in Vegas, playing among the wealthy ‘kids’ for a living. Well, so long as I’m successful, too…

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