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From Zero To Hero – How To Build A Poker Bankroll

August 5th, 2015 by LD1977

zero to heroThis post is primarily meant to help a serious beginner start his poker career. Recreational players who just want to have fun should also find a few useful pointers on how to better use available opportunities.

This blog post assumes that you:

  • Are starting with little knowledge and no experience
  • Realistically can’t expect to be a big winner at once
  • Don’t want to risk much (or any) money until you know you are good enough to be profitable
  • Would like to make a decent income from poker one day
  • Want to maximize all your opportunities along the way

Why Go From Zero? It Is Quicker To Deposit And Just Start Playing!

Well, the problem with depositing immediately is that it wastes the value of First Deposit (FD) bonus that pretty much every site offers. It is a bonus that needs to be earned – and there is the “catch”. To earn the bonus a player needs to play regularly for 3-4 months on a level that is unbeatable for someone who is just starting.

This causes unprepared beginners to either lose money and redeposit, or simply give up on the bonus and go down to a level that they can afford (which is exactly what they should have done from the start).

The maximum bonus, depending on the site, is from $500 up to $2,000, so it pays to be patient until you are ready to go for it.

OK, No Deposit. So How Do I Do It?

Your goals at this point are simple:

  • Learn to improve your game
  • Grow your bankroll until you can progress to a level which will allow you to clear your First Deposit bonus (for cash games that usually means playing 0.10-0.25 No Limit Hold’em)

Both of these goals can be achieved simultaneously. By the time you are good enough to play the levels that can clear the FD bonus, you have already grown your bankroll to an appropriate size.

The money for bankroll growth will come from:

Poker Site Funded Freerolls: These are tournaments that are free to enter and give out prizes that can be used to play cash games or tournaments. They are important because:

  • They give us money, to be used for anything we like
  • They give us ring game tickets (RGTs) that are used to play cash games (but can’t be used to play tournaments)
  • They give us tournament money that can only be used to register for tournaments (it can sometimes be converted directly into normal money, but there is a fee); you can also receive prizes in the form of tournament tickets/tokens

Special Freerolls: These are freerolls that are not funded by the site itself but by someone else. Entry into these tournaments is restricted to people who have access as defined by the sponsor of the freeroll.

Example: CardsChat freerolls are available to members of the CC Freeroll Club ( ) or people who have registered for the poker site via a link on the CC website ( ).

The primary games you will play  are cash games, Sit’n Go tournaments and Multi-Table Tournaments. You need to be break even or better when playing in these. With a small bankroll cash games are your best bet due to them having the lowest variance (variance is short-term unpredictability of results, mostly as a result of bad streaks of luck). SnG tournaments can be a good alternative when your bankroll is slightly bigger. MTTs (multi-table tournaments) are to be avoided unless they are freerolls, or the entry fee is in VIP points. They are the most difficult games with the highest variance and a small bankroll simply can’t support them.

VIP points: These have different names depending on the poker site you are playing at, but basically they are earned based on the rake you pay when you play with real money. These points are best used to buy entries into tournaments. Sometimes they can be directly turned into money, but exchange rates are very bad.

Bonuses / promotions: These depend on the site but usually consist of activity targets (earn X VIP points in one week for 10$ bonus / special freeroll tickets etc.).

The process looks something like this:

Bankroll management

Bankroll growth process

The only part of the process where you are risking anything (except time, but as a beginner you transform time into experience) is when you play cash games / SnGs for real money.

What If I Lose All My Money Playing Cash Games / SnGs?

This is actually not a big danger since it can be easily avoided by:

Proper Bankroll Management

  • Stick to freerolls and don’t start playing for real money until the bankroll can support it and you think you are ready to give it a go.
  • For cash games I would recommend a minimum of 30 buy-ins (for 0.01-0.02 NLHE this is 60$) so you don’t play scared and can survive moderate bad luck. There are plenty or articles on BRM on the Internet so there is no need to go deep into it right now.

Continuous Learning

If you do lose your bankroll somehow, then just repeat the process until you break through.

After you are able to beat the lowest level of your chosen game, and know proper bankroll management, risk of ruin drops to zero and going up limits is just a matter of time and volume played.

Good luck!

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8 Responses to “From Zero To Hero – How To Build A Poker Bankroll”

  1. dakota-xx Says:

    Nice blog post LD!

  2. CarlosWelch Says:

    Interesting concept. I’ve heard a number of pros (Jason Somerville comes to mind) say that they have never deposited. That’s pretty sick.

  3. rifflemao Says:

    Very helpful post! I have made the mistake of wasting first deposit bonuses too many times, and the urge to earn the bonus can encourage a n00b to put their deposit at risk by playing higher stakes against better players who are properly rolled. Makes sense to start from zero and wait to deposit until you can play profitably.

  4. skaterick Says:

    I think its very hard to earn a bankroll from zero deposit . those freerolls usually have many hundreds of entrants and pay 15 or fewer spots , making it hard to cash .when you do it might be only a few pennies . some sites smallest ring games require 3 dollars or so for a minimum buy in . if you lose a few pots and drop below that threshold you are back to square one .

  5. niphon56 Says:

    Freeroll only give you chances to win, not guard to win.
    Accumulate one’s bankroll without deposit is not easy way

  6. LD1977 Says:

    I did it on both Full Tilt and Pokerstars. It actually went fairly quickly (because 2NL is fantastic for bankroll growth) but it took me around a year to get to 25NL and be slightly profitable there. After that I cleared both bonuses for 1200 USD in bonus profits and after that it was easy sailing.

  7. maximjd Says:

    Very good post, i think that you can start a bankroll from zero, i ever do that, but the problem is that i won some cash and start playing realmoney, it’s hard to have your money ready to play and not being used, im gonna try to do that you said, play freerolls until get $60, and not use the $5 or $6 i use to won.

  8. LD1977 Says:

    CC freerolls are decent help for starting out (combined with normal freerolls from the site itself). I plan to make a series of blog posts on playing cash games which will allow readers to easily defeat at least the lowest levels (2NL up to 10NL). It is going a bit slow since writing quality technical stuff (especially the basics) needs to be done carefully, but I intend to pick up the pace 🙂

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