Building from a baby bankroll
We get a lot of discussion on here around what to do when you're trying to build a bankroll from a small amount. Maybe you've just had a freeroll cash, maybe a friend's been kind enough to transfer you a small amount or maybe you've deposited in the past and you've only got a few bucks left. How do we take that amount and turn it into a real bankroll?
What I've tried to do below is dump the bulk of my experience on the subject into one post. For those wondering about my credentials, I've been playing for the past couple of years on a roll built from freeroll cashes. I'll warn readers from the outset, I don't have any easy answers or shortcuts. But I think what's written here might be helpful in at least dispelling some of the myths and crazy ideas people have about undertaking this task and hopefully keep them on track while they're attempting it.
THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET
There's loads of discussion on this point - time after time people have asked "What's the BEST game to play with a bankroll of (insert tiny amount here)?"
The truth is there IS no answer to that question
. Everybody's different and we all have different strengths and weaknesses as players. I might have built a roll playing nothing but small stakes limit mixed games. Does that mean it's going to work for you? Dear gawd no! That'd be suicide for most people, since most people don't have the first clue how to play mixed games.
That's an extreme example, I know. It should be obvious to most people that if they suck at mixed games then they shouldn't be putting any of their baby bankroll on a mixed game table.
But there's other advice that sounds more reasonable but can be just as dangerous. How often have we heard, for example, that limit hold 'em is a great way to build a bankroll because it doesn't carry the risk of losing your whole stack in one hand like NLHE does? I know there's more than one lesson in the Full Tilt Academy that suggests it and it sounds perfectly reasonable, but guess what? If you suck at LHE, slowly but surely (and maybe not even that slowly) you're still going to lose your roll.
My point is, there is no magic bullet. There's no one game where everybody who plays it surely but steadily builds a roll. Far and away the best game to play is the one that YOU
are best at. That might be LHE, it might be STTs, it might be $2NL 6-max. It doesn't matter. What matters is that YOU play YOUR best game, not someone else's.
I have an exeption to this rule regarding certain games NOT to play, BTW, which I'll discuss in a minute. But for the moment, let's move on to...
PICK A GAME AND STICK TO IT
Once you've settled on your best game, I'm recommending that you stick to it and play nothing
else. A lot of people talk about how they played STTs for a little while and had some small wins, then they tried LHE for a while then lost the rest of their bankroll playing HU cash games.
There's a couple of reasons I think you should play just one game. The first is that we want to leverage our skill as best we can. It makes sense that our skill advantage will be biggest when we're playing our best game. The second reason is that we'll learn more when we concentrate on just one game. If we skip from game to game to game we won't be improving much at any of them because we won't be playing them for long enough. If we stick to one game not only are we maximising our skill edge, we're also maximising our chances to get better at the game, increase our skill edge and build our roll.
There'll be time for dabbling in mixed games and learning new things later, after we've built a stable roll.
YOU HAVE TO GET LUCKY
This is the bit that's going to hurt for some people. Even when we stick to just playing our best game, we're STILL going to need to get lucky in order to build our roll. By definition we've probably got less than good BRM dictates we should have to play in the lowest stakes games. If you're starting off with enough for just one buy in obviously you'll need to get very lucky - you'll need to win in the first game you play in and then keep winning in quite a number after that so that you've got some breathing room.
Even if you start off with, say, 10 or more buy ins though you'll still need a bit of luck to avoid a downswing that wipes out your roll. They happen all the time to players with full size rolls and there's nothing that says it can't happen to us either.
What I'm saying is remember that luck plays a part. Pick your best game and play your best. If you still wind up busto, don't dwell on it or let it get you down. Just pick yourself up, start over and hope for a little more luck next time.
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, STOP PLAYING MTTs!
Here's the bit where I'm going to contradict myself.
If I were to tell you I'd just made $10 from a freeroll and I was going to take it straight to a PLO cash game table to start trying to build a roll from it, how many people would think I was mad?
I think it might be more than a few. A select few of them will have prior knowledge of how much I suck at PLO. But others, even without that knowledge, would likely point out that the variance in PLO can be a killer and I'd be better off playing something with a more stable return. They'd probably be right too.
But here's the thing - a lot of those same people probably wouldn't bat an eyelid if I said I was going to take that $10 and play the Daily Dollar or something with it. Which is a funny thing, because as far as variance goes things don't really get much more swingy than multi-table tournaments. You certainly want a lot more than 20-30 buy ins to be rolled for them.
As discussed above, we already need to get very lucky to build a roll from nothing. We don't need to compound our problems by stacking variance against us - instead, we need to concentrate on games that offer us at least some chance of grinding a slow but steady path upwards. That usually means ring games or single-table SnGs and I'm recommending that, at least for the initial stages, you steer clear of MTTs and the horrible swings they bring. Even
if you think they're your best game.
BE MILITANT AND CONSERVATIVE ABOUT BRM
In the beginning we're already going to be playing with bad BRM. There's not a lot we can do about it if we're not even rolled for the lowest stakes other than play our best and hope we run our roll up to a point where we ARE properly rolled for the level we're playing.
For that to happen though we have to be militant about the stakes we play. No playing in some random MTT or forum game or whatever, even as a one-off, unless we're rolled for it. Things like that are luxuries that we'll have later when we've built a stable roll.
We also need to be conservative with our bankroll. Most systems will tell you that if you've got 20-30 buy-ins for a given level you're rolled for it. I'm going to suggest you consider yourself "rolled" for a level when you've got 50 or more, that you don't move up in levels until you've got that much or more for the new level and that you move straight back down if you run bad at the new level. We worked hard to build that roll, we have to protect it as best we can from variance. Don't be ashamed of being a bankroll nit.
DON'T GET HUNG UP ON BONUSES
Free money is a beautiful thing. We all love it, and it's especially attractive when you don't have very much of it to start with.
Free money in the form of bonuses, however, usually comes with strings attached and those strings are almost always having to grind out x amount of frequent player points in real money
games. Unlocked right, bonuses can be a fantastic way to pad your earnings and move your bankroll along faster. But done wrong they can send you hurtling backwards.
Take the recent Rush Week promo at Full Tilt. Anybody could participate, and to unlock the bronze level $10 bonus you had to grind out 10 FTPs a day on the Rush tables for seven days straight. Pretty sweet deal, right? Maybe, maybe not. If you're not rolled for the minimum $5NL that you'd need to play to earn the points, or if you're not any good at Rush, then taking this bonus on would be a terrible idea - chances are you'll end up losing more than you stood to win in bonuses and you might jeopardise your whole bankroll in the process.
The same goes for other things people consider doing to unlock other bonuses, like adding more tables than they're comfortable with to run points up faster or playing at higher stakes than they're rolled for. It's a slippery slope, I'm suggesting you just avoid it altogether.
As long as there's competition between online poker sites
there'll be bonuses, so there's always another one somewhere around the corner. Stick with the plan, work through the bonuses that you can get safely by just and just playing your normal game at your normal limits and ignore the ones you can't get.
STOP TALKING AND START DOING
(OR "NOBODY ACTUALLY READS YOUR BLOG ANYWAY SO WHY STRESS YOURSELF")
Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry. We've all seen it - someone comes along on a board or starts a blog talking a whole lot about how they're going to build a roll from nothing or how they've got this freeroll cash and they're going to run it up and make loads of money. Some of the dedicated ones even give us day by day or game by game updates for a short period... until the inevitable post where they tell us they're busto either because they played bad, they didn't follow BRM, they had to withdraw all their money for some inane reason or, my personal favourite, the donks ate their bankroll.
Save yourself the time and embarassment by talking less and DOING more. Use the time to actually review your games, rather than telling the world about every single bad beat you ever get. Post actual problem hands for analysis and ask meaningful questions that might help you improve your game, rather than telling everyone about every tiny fluctuation in your bankroll.
You're also putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Chances are somewhere in the back of your mind there's a though along the lines of "What will I be telling my readers after this session?"
and that can have an adverse effect on your game. So stop talking and start doing instead.
That's it, for the moment at least. Run good y'all.