Money Matters

We explain how to build a bankroll from $10 to $10,000, and why this is achievable

If you are in the bankroll building stage of your career, you have to pick the games you are good at and stick to them firmly

One of the great things about playing online poker is the potential, if you are patient, to build up a substantial bankroll from what seems like nothing. The wide variety of games online gives the average starting player the chance to make very good money without investing what they cannot afford.

This doesn’t mean there is a fast track to riches for everyone – far from it. You need to work on your game before you can reasonably expect to make good money from it. In fact, I would say that for the beginner, the $10 investment should come with the expectation of losing it and learning fast. But, for the intermediate or advanced player, the end result can certainly be much more profitable in the long run.

The reality is that you do not have to play high stakes to make very good money at online poker. But, your motto has to be: patience, patience, and more patience. Many players will take the $10 and play either a $10 tournament, or a couple of $5 tournaments with hopes of a good score. But, this is not a reasonable or usually successful way of achieving a large bankroll. Unless you get really lucky in that tournament, you will almost inevitably go broke.

To turn a small bankroll into something substantial will take time, effort and discipline. Being a full-time professional poker player with no other backup for income has found me many times with a short bankroll situation for various reasons. I have to be able to play through that shorter bankroll and profit from it. What you must do is lower your sights, be disciplined in your play and in time build your bankroll slowly with as little risk as you can possibly achieve.

I came up with a system for myself a few years ago that has worked very well and I haven’t really wavered all that much from it to this day. The system that I use is somewhat regimented, but it works for me and I have always been happy with the results.

Play patient poker

This is crucial. If I have $10 in my account I would stick to the games that suit me best. I am a very good tournament player, but I know that variance can wreak havoc on me and my bankroll, whereas sit&gos are my strongest games and I have the highest expectation of achieving my goal by sticking to them. That said, I would still not buy-in for more than a dollar, and certainly not move up in buy-ins to $5 until I had achieved a $50 bankroll. I would slowly, but surely, increase the buy-ins, or the stakes, as my bankroll builds but would not put a large portion of it at risk trying to achieve a higher risk score. What is critical is that you cannot let your ego come into play. Playing the bigger games most certainly works for many players’ egos, but does not do wonders for their success or their bankrolls.

Have a starting point

One of the best tactics I have employed is picking a starting point to play at each morning and not changing it regardless of how good my previous day had been. I will start fresh everyday and use the same strategy, usually starting at a $100 sit&go – either a heads-up match or a six-to-ten handed game. I will stay at that buy-in level until I have made at least four times that amount. Only when I have achieved that $400 mark will I step up to a $200 sit&go or heads-up match. If I lose that match I step back down to the $100 level and rebuild. The competition is usually easier the lower you play and the expectation to make money becomes higher. If I have done well at the $200 level it’s time to step up to the $500 matches, but only when I’m up about twice the higher buy-in amount.

If I lose, then I start over again at the lower buy-in amount. I apply the same principle to ring games. I will play one to three $0.50/$1 no-limit ring games with a capped $100 buy-in and build from there. Only when I’m up around five times the original buy-in will I move up to $1/$2 no-limit. The higher you see me playing in a day, the better my day is going and not vice versa. Without question, the biggest mistake you can make in trying to build your bankroll is to chase after losses in bigger games.

Have an ending point

I usually have an approximate daily profit goal, which includes buy-ins for the tournaments I want to play in at night. That way, if I don’t cash in the night time tournaments I have still made my goal for the day. If I cash in the tournaments at night, I have basically freerolled into them with my winnings during the day and it is like a bonus. I learned a long time ago that every time my ego came into play – which would result in me playing in bigger games – I almost inevitably got clobbered. When I have built up my winnings during the day, I seem to play better at the table as well as play with much less fear. If you ever see me in a $1,000 buy-in game, whether that’s a ring game or a sit&go, you can rest assured that I have had a very successful day.

Stick to what you know

If you are in the bankroll building stage of your online poker career you have to pick the games that you are best at and stick to them. Personally, when I have to rebuild my bankroll, I will play 90% heads-up matches, as they are my best games. When I really need to rebuild, that is what I stick to. I move to the higher variance games when I am comfortable with my bankroll and comfortable with my confidence level. By being patient and disciplined you will be able to take a very small bankroll and turn it into a healthy one in time. Just do not waver from your plan and do not take big risks regardless of how soft you think a table is. Bad beats can always happen and at that level, on a small bankroll, it can be crippling. If you are going to play in tournaments, make sure that you satellite into them rather than from a direct buy-in. That alone will save you money over time.

Don’t get ahead of yourself

One of the keys to being disciplined is not to start off in a bigger game following a very successful day. A good run does not last forever and you have to be prepared to start over again. By starting afresh, regardless of the previous day’s results, you decrease your risk and increase your win expectation. It all goes back to what I mentioned earlier: after winning big amounts online in tournaments, my ego has got the better of me and I have needlessly stepped up to play in bigger games – losing more than I would ever deem reasonable.

Sure, by stepping up you can have big days that lift your bankroll, but you can also have big losing swings. By controlling the betting amounts that you start each day with you can help control the nasty swings that accompany playing poker. The reality is that I do not swing very much at all because I stick firmly to my game strategy. In fact, by sticking to my tactics and strategy, my results have always remained very consistent.

Keep a clear target in mind

Some players have huge wins day-to-day, with some numbering into the thousands or tens of thousands. But, they have as many losing days over time with the swings being mind-numbing. I do not like that drama or the feeling of such huge swings, so my strategy tries to reduce this to a minimal risk. My point is, over time, if my goal was to make $500 a day then by sticking to my system I would usually achieve this. That $500 a day all adds up over time. Some players that play very high levels may have days that eclipse my daily goal, but they will have losing days that ruin their bankroll. Over the long run, acting and playing with a level of consistency will make you more money than by taking big risks. Believe me, if you play over your head and bankroll abilities, you’ll seriously suffer as a result.

Jim ‘KrazyKanuck’ Worth is a hugely successful online pro who has won millions from the comfort of his own home. He is also the online tournament ambassador for UltimateBet

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