Sofia Lövgren: Moving up the levels and building a bankroll

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Moving up troubles

After ten long years I think my cash game play is moving into proven winning player territory. I know that you play online cash professionally so I trust your judgement. I am currently a winning player at $0.05/$0.10, but I want to know how much of a difference there is between this and $0.50/$1.00? I am sure I read somewhere that the difference in skill doesn’t really kick in until you reach $1/$2 or even higher.
Mike Bennett

There are less fish at $0.50/$1.00 than $0.05/$0.10 but you will also find some soft tables there. I guess players at the lower stakes are almost always just playing for fun while you can find some regs using a HUD on $0.50/$1.00. You definitely shouldn’t underestimate them.

As you say you are a consistent winning player at $0.05/$0.10 I’m quite sure that it will be profitable for you to step up. Take it step by step, starting with shots at $0.10/$0.25 and if you win constantly, take shots at $0.25/$0.50 and so on. Even if your win rate decreases a little you should still win more money due to the higher stakes. Just make sure that you play with solid bankroll management.

Building society

How did you build your bankroll and how would you recommend I build mine up?
Dan Nicholls

I started out by just playing freerolls. I won several tiny $0.30 prizes and when I had $2, I started to play the lowest micro-level cash games and built a bankroll from that. After a year and a half, I had $4,000 in my bankroll and played NL$50. I continued to play full-ring cash games in the evenings after school, and after another year, I had $60,000 in my bankroll!

I started playing poker full-time in 2009. I play more live tournaments nowadays as a sponsored pro but I always try to find time for multi-tabling online cash games up to $5/$10.

I would suggest you build a bankroll playing cash games too. There’s less variance than tournaments and it’s ‘easier’ to make a steady profit. I would recommend you always have a minimum of 20-30 buy-ins for the level you are playing to ensure you don’t go broke.

Ruling the roost

I was playing in a £40 freezeout tournament at my local casino a while back and we were on the final table when this incident occurred.

Some guy limped in preflop UTG+1 and the player in the Hijack (a short stack) shoved all-in. He didn’t announce it, he just slowly shipped his chips in. It got to me in the small blind and I had chips in my hand to limp in. My hand went across the line but the chips never left my hand. I started to say ‘call’ but realised there had been a shove. I moved my hand back and folded my cards.

The player in the big blind and the player who limped in both quickly folded but the player who went all-in started shouting.

The dealer called the floor over but he also agreed with the dealer who said I could fold. The argument went on for a good 20 minutes and the player got more and more angry about it. He showed everyone pocket Kings. Ten minutes after this had calmed down I busted the player and went on to win the tournament! What are your thoughts?
Craig Blades

Once someone is all-in the dealer has to announce this clearly and put the all-in mark forward. It’s obviously a clear mistake on the dealer’s part here. I have to admit I’m a bit curious how you could start to say ‘call’ and not finish it – it’s quite a short word!

Joking aside, if you dropped the chips and announced an action then the bet has to stand. In this case if you were just halfway through the action I agree with the decision since the player’s actions weren’t clear.

Pot shots

What guidelines do you use for bankroll management? Do you ever take shots?
Christopher Osagie

Personally I have always played with solid bankroll management as I consider it the most important thing for a professional poker player. When I am playing NLHE I never play with less than 20 buy-ins for any level. If I was playing heads-up or PLO, games with much higher variance,

I would want a bankroll double that size. When I feel confident and I am winning I step up and take shots at higher levels. It’s crucial that you don’t take shots just to hunt losses!

Balancing act

Can you explain what the phrase ‘balancing your range’ means please? I see it written in strategy articles a lot but I’m not sure I fully understand what it means!
Stan Burns

If you always play strong hands in a specific situation, your range is unbalanced. Playing a balanced range means that you play exactly the same way with a wide range of hands in a specific situation. The simple reason you do this is that it makes it more difficult for your opponent to put you on a specific hand strength.

Every good player has to understand this and implement it in their game. Having said this, balancing your range is only really relevant when you are playing against decent players that don’t just play their own hands.

Tough handling

I seem to have problems playing a 20-25 big blind stack in tournaments. I’m never quite sure what to do with hands like A-9, 4-4 and K-J when it’s folded to me. Should I raise and fold to a shove? Fold preflop? Or just shove it all-in? I always seem to get in trouble so please help!
Rob Duggan

This can vary massively depending on what stage of the tournament you are in, the average stacks and who the players are. However if you are in early position just fold these kind of hands when you have 20-25BBs. If the
table is tight you can open raise in mid-late position, but don’t get fancy  if players call you and you miss the flop.

If there are aggressive, loose players behind then you have to tighten up and raise with only your strongest hands – the ones that you are prepared to call a shove with.  You can also try to pick good opportunities to squeeze and steal preflop in late position versus loose passive players with any hand.

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