So you finally took the plunge and made a small deposit into an online poker site. Here are some steps you can take to get as much out of this deposit as you can.
Avoid re-buy tournaments: Re-buy tournaments are the creation of the devil. They lure you in with a small buy-in and a disproportionately large prize pool ($2 buy-in for a $1,500 tournament). As always, the devil is in the details. Start out with a small stack (say 1,000 or 1,500 chips). Throw in hyper-aggressive play, where players are trying to get double-ups as quickly as possible. Include a massive add-on (10,000 chips for $2) that entices you to keep re-buying. Altogether, it’s a recipe for disaster. The next thing you know, you’re on your fifth re-buy and you then decide to plunk down another $2 on the add-on. The cheap, $2 tourney has turned into a $12 buy-in. Even if you make the money, you’ll have to get pretty close to the final table just to recoup your investment. Beginning players should avoid rebuys like the plague.
Watch out for late registration: Avoid tournaments with long registration windows (anything more than two hours, but focus on those with just one-hour windows). Some sites offer late registration for as long as five hours on some of their bigger tournaments, which means you’re going to have to play at least six or seven hours just to get a min-cash. If you are a relatively inexperienced player, chances are your game is not to the level needed to be able to last as long as seven hours in a large multi-table tournament.
Get there early: Register at the beginning of the tournament so you get the maximum value for your buy-in. A tournament with an initial starting stack of 3,000 and an initial big blind of 20 gives you 150 big blinds to start with. If you wait and register when the big blind is up to 100, you are only starting out with 30 big blinds. Give yourself the best possible chance to play your normal game.
Forget the auto-top up option: For cash players, one sure way to lose more than you intended during a session is to take advantage of the auto top-up feature. The auto top-up always keeps your stack at the level you bought in for. So if you are on a $.05/$.10 table and buy-in for $10, any time your balance dips below $10, the site will top you up to $10 again. Expert players will tell you to enable this feature. They believe that you should always have your max buy-in at your disposal so when you get the opportunity for the double-up, you are maximizing your profits. That might work for experts, but for new and recreational players, the auto top-up can have disastrous effects. It keeps you from knowing how much you have lost in a session. For a player with a small bankroll, this is critical information. You need to know if you’ve already lost $6 of your original $10 buy-in. Ignoring how much you’ve lost in a session will ensure your bankroll disappears quickly.
Never go up in stakes to recoup your losses: This is one mistake that a lot of inexperienced players make. They’ll lose their $5 buy-in at a $.02/$.05 table and figure the best way to get it back is to buy in for $10 at a $.05/$.10 table. It’s okay to take a shot at higher stakes every once in a while, but do so from a position of strength (i.e. you’ve had four straight winning sessions) and not weakness (I’ve got to get my money back!). You’ll be in a better position mentally, which will improve your chances of success.
Know when to quit: This is a tough decision for cash game players, when you are having a winning session or a losing session. I can’t think of how many times I’ve gotten on a hot streak, won 3-4 times my initial buy-in, and decided to keep playing. Inevitably, I wind up frittering away some, if not all, of my potential profit simply because I didn’t know when to quit. The times when I have done best are when I set a goal for myself – i.e. to win twice my buy-in. On a couple of occasions, I have actually had the self-discipline to stop and cash out as soon as I achieved that goal. It’s very easy to convince yourself that the table is soft and you’d be a fool to stop now, but that’s now always the best decision for your bankroll. It’s also a good idea to limit yourself to no more than two buy-ins per session. Once you’ve lost that second buy-in, call it a night and come back the next day.