Long Term Winning Poker Strategy
How to become a long time winning poker player.
This article was inspired by this “How do you Win at Poker” Thread in the forum.
A forum member asked a simple question, “How do you win at poker?”
This simple question (and some of the responses) got me thinking into what has made me into a winning poker player over the few years I’ve been playing. What traits do I display as a poker player have made me a long term winner.
I don’t want this article to come off sounding like a bragging post about how much ass I’ve kicked at the online poker tables, because in the big scheme of online poker I’m a tiny, tiny player overall and I’m no where near where I want to be as a poker player.
This article aims to discuss three core concepts that I believe have helped me become a long term winning poker player.
Before I get to the concepts, I’ll share a rough look at how I have done at online poker since I started in 2004.
I made a one time deposit of $100 and turned it into well over 4 figures of money that I have withdrawn around once to twice per, every year, year since 2004. That initial $100 deposit is the only time I have taken money out of my wallet and made a deposit into a room.
I’m certainly not a professional poker player, just a low limit player who enjoys spending time playing poker, it’s a hobby and also part of what I do to earn a living by working on this site.
Here is my history in online poker, if you are interested.
In 2004 made a one time $100 deposit when I very first started at good ole party poker.com which is no longer allowing US players. Visit the online poker rooms link at the top if you are looking for a place to start playing today.
That $100 deposit is the only time I have ever taken money out of my wallet and put it in an online poker account. I attribute this to three core concepts that I strive to always maintain as long as I choose to play poker.
The Three Long Term Winning Poker Strategies are:
1. Bankroll Management
2. Make good decisions
3. Always learn
Tip 1: Poker Bankroll Management
So, how do you manage your bankroll?The answer is it depends really on how you play (loose or tight). An average consensus is you want around 300 times the big blind for which ever buyin you want to play. If you want to play .50/$1.00 you want to have at least $300 in your bankroll.
I personally think that is a bit low. If you have $300 in bankroll, you should not be playing higher than .25/.50c. This sits you down at the table with $25 max buy-in. If you lose a few hands, go ahead and buy more chips back to the max if you decide to stay. Especially in NL ring game, buy in for the max buy in (unless you are employing an all in strategy for half buy in amounts). If you hit a monster you want to get paid to the maximum.
I like to play at the level beneath the 300x BB level. Get there and play, if you lose two buyins you should strongly consider stopping and looking for a different table unless you are just getting really, really unlucky. Take a break, go play in a $1 or $5 sit-n-go.
Since I started in late 2003, I have managed to take an initial deposit of $100 and play on it, without going bust and withdrawing a few thousand dollars a couple of times per year.
Most of the time the money has funded a trip out to a casino to buy into a bigger tournament. I’ve funded real money accounts at most of the major online poker sites and now still have accounts at many of the ones that remain open to US poker players. (poker sites open to USA)
The first big thing I did with the money I built up was to go play in the $1500 event #2 in the 2005 WSOP. The 2005 WSOP tournament was one to remember as at that time it was the largest poker tournament in history, and I ended up sitting next to Phil Hellmuth. I also busted out with dueces as I lost a race earlier and had became short stacked.
I’d like to say thanks to Phil for pointing out that I “Picked up a flush draw.” when the turn card put 4 spades on the board, and if it hit, my duece of spades would be good. No love on the river and went home somewhere around half way through the field. It was an experience that I’ll never forget for sure, but it cost me nearly all of my built up bankroll… I had to rebuild. (by the way, if you haven’t read it yet, here are some great Phil Hellmuth quotes.
So, you might be saying that you wish I would shut up and tell you what I did to make this possible. You have to be prepared to build your bankroll slowly. It isn’t easy, glamorous and honestly I could still go busto today if I don’t stick to my three basic princiles.
I watch my bankroll,
And I make good decisions.As I mentioned earlier, I played in what was at the time the largest poker tournament in history.The $1500 event #2 in the 2005 WSOP. It was awesome and an experience I will never forget. That picture is me busting out of the event… my pocket dueces didn’t hold up.
My bankroll took a huge hit.
I was down to a couple hundred dollars online after being well into the 4 figure mark.
I had to rebuild it just about from scratch. Motherf*cker!!
That meant I had to move back down in stakes and do the old grind back up.
I didn’t panic, I simply moved back down to some lower stakes, as painful as it might be and started grinding again.
This time I was able to move up faster because I had improved my game and was an even better low limit player than before. I also made a point to play in more multi tournaments because I need more experience in them and winning one of those would make a huge impact.
I explored some other sites looking for good tournaments. The ones at PartyPoker.com were just too huge of fields (or so I thought). I looked and found bodog poker. You’ve probably seen them advertise bodog poker.net on TV lately. Anyway, I was playing a few multi table tournaments over at Bodog Poker, because they were all having huge overlays.
About 3 months after getting back from Vegas, I had been playing some multi tournaments – that my bankroll could afford. I had made the money in a few but not
I won one of these events at Bodog Poker, – it was a $11 dollar buyin that had a guarantee of $7500. First place was a little under $2,000.
This obviously gave my bankroll a huge boost! I beat a huge field and had a blast.
It is still my biggest win of any one tournament.
My bankroll was back and in full force in one quick hit! I took out $1,000 and bought furniture, I know, this is really exciting, I know, but we needed it and I had always said that I would take some out if I had a big win. I still had over four figures online as I kept nearly half of what I won in this tourney.
I did not move up in bigger stakes. I was mostly playing smaller stakes NL cash game now and the swings can be much larger, so I liked the extra cushion in my roll.
My roll took some runs up and down. Poker is streaky. If I’m running badly I will take a break for a while or switch games. Get in a little super low stakes Omaha or just play some SNG’s.
After building it up gradually I took another chunk out for a recent Vegas trip leaving myself around $500 to play with.
In the 2nd half of 2006 I’ve grown that $500 6 times over so far and the trip to Tunica is planned in January with the Atlanta Poker Club.
You must have patience to win low stakes! Do not be in a rush to build the bankroll or you will much more likely go bust. You must manage it, and slowly build it for long term success.
Poker has variance and we all know that sometimes we run badly, even if we are huge favorites when we get the money in.
I cut my teeth playing micro-limit, LIMIT poker. Limit poker, my god how could you stomach that you’re probably asking yourself? Believe me, it was rough. The suckouts, my god the suckouts… they were brutal.
We’re talking .10/.20 limit poker, calling to the river with bottom pair and 2 outing trips on the river against my 2 pair and $1 Sit-N-Go’s had variance… I knew I wanted to risk very little of my $100 bankroll starting out, and I wanted to learn how to play winning poker.
Next, I decided that I really needed to learn how to beat low stakes holdem. I searched around and found that Lee Jones, the Poker Room Manager for Poker Stars had written a book called “Winning Small Stakes Holdem.” It is excellent, If you haven’t read this book yet then no bitching when you lose at small stakes.
Get this book, if you don’t It’s your own fault. It teaches you how to play low limit, limit style poker and gives you a foundation to build your game on.
I started there, but I wasn’t exclusively playing limit poker. I also played a few no-limit sit-n-go tournaments. I played a lot of low limit sit-n-go’s. I actually decided to move some of my winnings over to PokerStars.com because Stars has $1 sit-n-go’s.
I challenged myself to to play 20 $1 sit-n-go’s and see how my bankroll did. This is a good test of how good you are at sit-n-go’s, even though 20 sit-n-go’s is a relatively small sample.
I lost a few dollars by the end of my sit n go challenge, but I also knew that these one table sit-n-go’s have a lot of variance, and I felt that I had gotten pretty unlucky in a few of them. I also did manage to win one as well so it wasn’t that bad. But I knew I could do better.
I was looking forward to building the roll so I could play in the $5 sit-n-go’s.
I kept playing low stakes and building the roll. I was probably up to playing .25/.50 in a couple of months and up to $1/2 limit within 6 months. A good session at the $1/2 table could easily net me $70 or $80 bucks by just taking advantage of the tons of errors made by the other players.
Tip 2: Make good decisions, invest in your poker education
Read a lot of poker books. Many libraries have growing collection of poker books or you can buy them used all day. Reading opens you up to seeing how other people may be playing and allows you to adjust and make better decisions.
What if you don’t like to read?
Try a video training course like cardrunners.com.
kept investing in my poker education. About 2 months after I returned from Vegas I made a decision that has drastically improved my win rate.
I signed up at CardRunners.com and started watching GreenPlastic play low no limit ring games.
GreenPlastic is one of the best no limit cash game players online right now. He is winning playing $50/$100 NL online on a consistent basis.
*Brian Townsend, aka sbrugby is also a lead instructor at cardrunners.com!
He plays online poker cash games (and tournaments) and you watch. It is like you are sitting right there with them and they are talking to you as they play. Yes, he plays at the lower stakes as well, not just video of the high stakes games.
Watching these videos has made so many theories ‘click’ in my mind… and my win rate has skyrocketed. Now, it is rare for me to have a loosing NL cash ring game session. I’m not playing high stakes either, typically .50/$1.00 but I am still constantly adding to the bankroll, and I’m improving my game.
CardRunners.com has video of professionals playing poker AND talking about why they are doing what they are doing. It is like you are sitting there right next to one of the best players in the online world and he is showing you and telling you exactly what you should be doing.
Here is my review of CardRunners.com Poker Training.
The short answer is it is worth it. It has paid for itself time and again.
The long answer and demo videos are available via the review.
I read a lot of books, I played in a lot of freerolls and participated in discussion with other good players in the strategy section of the poker forum.
I bounced around a few sites taking advantage of some bonuses here or there and just looking for a new place to play as I was also writing reviews for KickAssPoker.com. I found a few smaller sites (at the time) that I still play at today, including Bodog Poker and Full Tilt Poker, which are some long time favorites..
Today, I’m still building the roll. I don’t play that much online, a few nights per week for a few hours each time. Mostly .25/.50c up to $1/2 NL 6 man, Probably 6 – 8 hours a week unless I have a break on the weekends and get to play a large multi table tourney or something.
It’s a good hobby that consistently affords me the opportunity to play in big poker tournaments and chances at serious money. I haven’t hit it huge yet, but I’m still playing, and giving myself opportunities to win. I’ll be playing in some WSOP Circuit Satellites and events in January of 07, along with many APC’ers, so wish me and my initial $100 investment good luck as I hit the live tables in January.
When you spend time improving your game, you will start to make better decisions, and your win rate will improve. Read the free articles and search the web for good articles on playing low stakes poker and just any article on poker you can think of. Read it with an open but critical eye, but at least read it.
Becoming a winning poker player doesn’t happen overnight, and many winning poker players also bust because they don’t manage their online poker bankroll.
We wish you the most success possible at the tables.