Subtitle: How dirt poor Mississippi white trash can build a respectable bankroll starting with very little (and learn about the game along the way).
I have seen many posts asking about bankroll building on these forums. It’s obviously a very important issue for newer players. Probably the most common non-strategic question for newer players is “how do I build up my bankroll?” Several great posts have been made about this topic, most notably Homer’s post about building up a bankroll for newbies. However, I don’t believe Homer’s advise is feasible for all newer players. Now I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to slam Homer here at all. Not only do I have a lot of respect for Homer and his contributions, but also I have that page marked among my favorites specifically so I can recommend it for newer players. However, when providing a link to that page I usually include the disclaimer that the post offers good guidelines, and there are a few steps that I really think the newer player with a very small bankroll should not undertake. Having been one of those players that built my roll up from little of nothing, I think my opinions in this regard are valid. The guidelines presented in this post reflect my experiences in building a bankroll, including not only things I did right, but also some screw ups I made along the way.
I feel confident that if you stick to these guidelines I present here you will accomplish a couple of things. First, you will gain valuable table experience. This is not a “get a bankroll” quick scheme, but involves earning money slowly but surely. My approach emphasizes less taking advantage of bonuses (at least initially), and more getting money the old fashioned way: by dragging in pots. Second, you will learn something I believe is key to being a winning player: bankroll management. Some people might scoff at this, but I think a goal of every player should be never losing his or her bankroll, no matter what. You will not be a winning poker player if you are bad at bankroll management.
This entire post does not apply to everyone starting in online poker. It may only partially apply, but I do believe that it will apply to most people just starting out playing. My own start in online poker was very meager. I started with $50 from my checking account, which I deposited into a Neteller account. I then deposited this into a poker site that offered nanolimit games. What is a “nanolimit game?” I think I was actually the first poster to ever use this term (though I could be wrong), so I will take the initiative of offering a definition: a nanolimit game is a real money game in which the stakes are so small that there is no rake.
PHASE ONE: for those starting with about $50
I will start with nanolimit games. There are several sites that offer nanolimit games, which go as low as $.01/.02. I would recommend not starting that small, but go to a site that starts at $.02/.04. For this, I think that Pokerstars is the clearly the best choice. (The games are not as soft as the nanolimits at Paradise, but I think you should forgo Paradise for the time being, and I will explain why later.) I would start either at the .02/.04 tables, or the .05/.1 tables. The reason most poster recommend large bankrolls is because you will have some negative variance – that is poker. At the nanos though, you can get away with less of a bankroll because nanolimit games are not raked. 200bbs (big bets) should see you through, not only because of the lack of rake, but the games are particularly soft. A solid game should see positive results fairly quickly.
You will probably pay your dues here in the nanolimits for a little while. The next level at Stars from .05/.1 is the .25/.5 game, which are no longer nanolimit games, but legitimate microlimit (they are raked). The problem here is that it takes a long time to accumulate enough winnings from .05/.1 to play .25/.5. The gap is larger than any other in limit hold em. Now, Paradise Poker does have .1/.2 games (which are raked, and thus is the lowest microlimit), but instead I would recommend sticking it out at Stars. You want to save your initial deposit at Paradise Poker to fully take advantage of a later deposit bonus. Another advantage of this is that it allows you to get in a lot of hands.
Does this mean that you should keep playing .05/.1 until you have 300bbs ($150) to play at .25/.5? Not necessarily. You can take what I call a “safe shot.” This is a calculated risk of playing a limit underbankrolled while being willing to move down if you do not do well. I would recommend at least 150bbs ($75) to try this, though I went in with 200bbs, and you should go into doing this with the discipline to move down if you run poorly. With some solid play and a little luck you will do well at these games, which are very beatable. If you do have to move down, remember, there is no shame in that. The negative side of variance bites us all in the ass sometimes. I think your danger zone should be $50, after which you can build it back up and try again. If you average 5bb/100 hands at .05/.1 you should build back up $50 after 10k hands. That might seem like a great winrate, but it’s very doable at .05/.1 since, remember, those games are not raked. If your shot to .25/.5 is successful, you want to play this limit until you have $200.
PHASE TWO: when you have $200
This $200 marks an important mark in your bankroll growth. Cashout and create an account at Paradise Poker using the GRANNY deposit bonus. I would download Paradise poker through the GRANNY link here at twoplustwo, just to make sure you do it right. It is usually in the classified section of this site. This deposit is particularly good – it is a 50% bonus up to $100, which is a huge bankroll booster for you at this point. Paradise has .25/.5 games that are softer than the Pokerstars games, so you will hopefully do well. You will slowly but surely clear this bonus, which does not expire. After clearing the bonus you will have $100 more, plus you winnings. Keep this in mind: winnings. You should rely on not only bonus clearing, but also your poker skills. Then you can move up to the .5/1 games, which are not much more difficult than the .25/.5. They can be beat with solid play.
At this point, a caveat is in order. There are some important investments most online players have to make, including Pokertracker software and books (notably Small Stakes Hold em). These investments did not come from my bankroll, but rather were gifts from me to me. Most well thought out investments like this will pay for themselves (both PT and SSHE have paid for themselves many, many times over for me), but whether this comes from your roll should be your decision. If it does come from your roll it will set you back a little as far as building it up goes, but will yield future returns. And of course, whether you decide to get these tools at all is up to you. I just wanted to put up a flag that at this point that you should have both PT and SSHE.
“So how long do I need to stay at Paradise? I hear these Party games are so soft. I wanna move there!” Patience young Jedi. You can certainly move to Party if you want, but it might be prudent to stay at Paradise until you have accumulated what I refer to as the “magic number”: $500. This means you will have to beat the .5/1 games at Paradise for a while longer. So be it. Those games are really almost as soft as the .5/1 Party games, so really you are not missing out on that much.
PHASE THREE: when you have $500
$500 is the magic number because at this point you can maximum advantage of the deposit bonus available at Party Poker and it’s various skins – the land of milk and honey. Not only are these bonus lucrative and easy to clear, but the .5/1 games are Snuggle Bear soft. Your bankroll will grow exponentially at this point. As such, you will soon be able to move up to 1/2, which you should do whenever you feel comfortable. I would first take advantage of the deposit bonuses these Party skins: Party, PokerNow, and Empire in no particular order. These bonuses are $100 each, and are very easy to clear (500 raked hands). Then hit Multipoker, which is a $150 for 1500 raked hands. Then there is Intertops, which unfortunately is a little trickier with the cashout procedure, so I would save this for and Corel Eurobet (which is only a $50 bonus) until last. With regards to Intertops, detruncate recommended using the Cardplayer signup, which is $150 bonus. I have not been able to find a link for this, or I would provide one. If someone does I would appreciate you giving a link.
Intertops and Eurobet will have to deposit into your bank account rather than Neteller, which is safe but takes a couple of days. The good news is that now that this money is in your checking account you can start with the iGM pay bonuses. This is part of Party’s network, which gives you a bonus for depositing from your checking account. You don’t have to take advantage of all these bonuses. There are a couple I have not yet cleared – I’m saving these for a rainy day or just incase something unforeseen happens that I need to use all my roll (medical emergency or something – knock on wood). It is perfectly acceptable to keep a few bonuses in reserve like that.
You are also in position to take advantage of the periodic reloads at Party/skins, and most certainly have the roll for 1/2 limit. Remember, you should be winning money as well as making money on the bonuses. Don’t panic if you are clearing much more in bonus money than you are from the pots you drag in – it would be impossible not to. But, be cognizant of your winrate! Hopefully your time at the nanos have provided you with some idea of what you are doing, but you have to have the discipline to keep working on your game and get better.
Also, I would suggest securing a rakeback deal with each of these sites, if that is something you want to do. Some people have ethical issues with rakebake deals, and while I understand those arguments, I respectfully disagree with them. If you are interested in this, I highly suggest you do it. (Recently there has been some speculation about the continuity of rakeback, especially in regards to PokerNow, though it never hurts to try!) You should also bookmark bonuswhores.com, and check the site periodically to pad your roll.
As far as continuing to take advantage of bonuses, a great continuous source of income is the Cryptologic sites: Interpoker, Poker Plex, Caribbean Sun, and William Hill. These sites offer monthly bonuses, the details of which are slightly different from site to site. (Go to bonuswhores for the details.) The downside to these sites is that they tie up your money for a long time as each site has to snailmail you a PIN code to cashout (which can take a week or two), plus cashouts take generally 2 to 3 days when you do get the PIN. When you don’t have much money this is extremely frustrating. However, when you have more money you don’t mind $90 here and $50 there being tied up. This is why I suggest you have all the Party deposit bonuses cleared before you consider the Crytpo-skins.
At this point, the poker world is your oyster. There will be periodic reload bonuses at Party that you can take advantage of. Plus there are other sites you can clear bonuses at, some easier to clear than others. There are also plenty of casino bonuses out there. The point of this post, however, was to help you build a bankroll. This approach stresses playing poker more and building a roll bit by bit. As such, it is not for everyone, but like any good approach it stresses winning. Not everyone has the need to start at the nanolimits – most players can afford to start higher. If someone has $200 they are willing to invest in a roll I would suggest starting at Paradise with the GRANNY bonus, and bypass the nanos altogether. Furthermore, this post only offers guidelines. It is not gospel by any means. However, I strongly feel that following these guidelines will not only build roll, but also provide several thousand hands of valuable poker experience in the process.
Thanks much to twoplustwo posters detruncate and afk for helpful comments and suggestions regarding this post, which I tried to get right before I posted it. Any mistakes are mine, not theirs.
Before I end this post, I wanted to provide a couple of useful links. First there is Homer’s post. There is also a very useful set of guidelines on bonuswhores, and here is a link to that. Both of these offer great suggestions on whoring money after Party and skins.
As always, any comments and suggestions, or pointing out mistakes in this post (which there probably are), are welcome and encouraged. Hopefully this will help a few people.