7 Steps To Winning Money Playing Online Poker
Back in 2004 I turned $50 into a $1500 seat in the World Series of Poker by winning at online poker. Here is a picture of me sitting next to Phil Hellmuth. That is actually my bust out moment, caught on film for everyone to see. That’s me on Phil’s right, right as I am busting out with deuces! Even though I did not cash, it was a great experience and my friends always asked me how I managed to take a measly fifty bucks and turn it into a trip to Vegas and a seat on the World Series so I decided to creat a list of the things I did to make this happen. A lot has changed since 2004 regarding online poker and not all of the options exist today as did when I first began playing but in general these seven rules apply, especially to the lower stakes online poker player.
Follow these 7 simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to winning money playing online poker. Here is my story on how I did it.
In the middle of 2003 I made the leap and tried out real money online poker for the first time. My first site I downloaded was Party Poker.net. If you are from the US you can not play there, although I would not be shocked to see them re-enter the market soon. Anyway, I started at the play money tables. I learned how to use the software and to get comfortable with the online format. Once I was comfortable actually playing online poker, I was ready to try it out texas holdem for real money.
I deposited $50 to try it out. That is the only deposit I’ve ever made. I don’t say that to brag, but to show you that it is possible to start out small and win over the long term. Chris Ferguson actually started playing in freerolls and grew a bankroll to $10k in less than a year so do not knock the small buy in and build it strategy. If you take the game seriously and follow some rules I’m listing out on this page then you can do the same thing. I’m still playing online poker today from money won off of that initial $50 investment. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve deposited money at nearly every poker room you can think of, but all of my deposits have been generated from money I won with that initial $50 deposit.
As a matter of fact, depositing at numerous online poker rooms is one of the strategies I recommend to building your bankroll. *This strategy does not really apply in the online poker market of today as there are fewer choices today as there were then, at least for US players.
Fair warning, if you’re looking for a way to turn $50 into $1500 overnight, then this program is not for you. If you want that strategy them my advice is to “win a big poker tournament”, which is easier said than done. You could also try a risky trading strategy and utilize binary options. Trading binary options offers big returns alongside big risk. This page details out my strategy to slowly build a bankroll by playing sound poker and managing your bankroll. As mentioned above, I found myself rubbing elbows with Phil Hellmuth and some of the other poker greats of today.
Step 1 – Bankroll Management
Play Within Your Bankroll
Bankroll management is one key the thing that should dictate all of our other actions when it comes to being a winning online poker player.
Your bankroll is your poker lifeblood. Without it, you can’t play, and without playing you will not become a better poker player.
You must play poker to get better at poker, and you must be able to play for something of value, even if it is one cent, two cent no limit, or the micro buy in tournaments.
If you can manage your bankroll, you can be a winning player. You can become a high stakes player if you have other skills to go with it. With bankroll management, you can start out really small. As a matter of fact, Chris Ferguson from Team Full Tilt started playing in the Freerolls at Full Tilt Poker and built his poker bankroll to $10,000. Now Chris is not your average poker player, but he followed the principles of bankroll management to make this happen.
Here are Chris’s Ferguson’s Rules he used to start from Zero and break $10,000 playing exclusively at FullTiltPoker.com.
- He never buys into a cash game or a Sit & Go with more than 5 percent of his total bankroll (there is an exception for the lowest limits: he is allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less).
- He doesn’t buy into a multi-table tournament for more than 2 percent of his total bankroll, but he’s allowed to buy into any multi-table tournament that costs $1.
- If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represents more than 10 percent of his total bankroll, he must leave the game when the blinds reach him
The number one mistake that a lot of poker players make is they play at stakes that are too high for their bankroll.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to people who are fairly strong poker players, that continually have to re-deposit money into their account because they busted out again. The reason they bust out? Well, mostly because they risk too much of their bankroll in one sitting. If you take your entire bankroll (say $50) and then sit down at the .50 / $1.00 No-Limit table, then you MUST have a winning session or you will quickly be broke.
Your bankroll is your poker lifeblood and without a bankroll you can’t play at all…not even at the micro-limits.
With a game that has as much variance as Texas Hold ‘Em (more specifically variance over the SHORT TERM), you must play at a buyin level that allows you to have losing sessions, without risking your entire roll.
This means you have to stretch your bankroll out long enough to last through the short term swings.
Poker results have a high variance over the short term, because luck plays more of a role. Anyone can hit a lucky 3-out gutshot to beat your top set in any given hand. But over the long term you will win those hands more often, and for more money. It doesn’t matter how much you deposit, it matters which stakes you play in relation to your poker bankroll. If you deposit $1000 and sit down at the $10 / $20 no-limit table with your entire roll you’re risking it all in one sitting…and this one session has a huge amount of variance. This is no – no.
So, I’ll state this again – winning players play within your bankroll!
How do I determine what stakes and what games my bankroll can withstand?
Let’s assume you deposit $50.
The rule of thumb is to risk no more than 1/8 th of your entire bankroll at any one sitting. The truth is, a lot of top players will tell you to risk even less! I use 1/8 because we are only starting out with $50 and I know from experience that playing at lower limits the play is average to bad, which will allow you to make a profit and lose less than you would playing at the higher limits (in comparison).
If you have $100 in your bankroll, then the most you should sit down with at your table is $12.50.
bankroll * 1/8 = $ to play with at one sitting
$100 * 1/8 = $12.50
If you’re starting out with a fairly small bankroll like I did, then you have to start out at the micro-limit tables. I played for two and a half months at the $.25 / $.50 limit tables. I would grind out profits of between $2 and $5 (and if I had a good run), up to $10 dollars on an average session.
I would also have sessions where I lost similar amounts. If I would lose the money I sat down with, I would be done for the day (at least my bankroll wasn’t touched again that day).
I would, however, search for poker free rolls to play in. We’ll discuss free rolls in a later step. After two and a half months, my bankroll was up to $260, so I decide to move up to test the waters at $.50 / $1.00.
This time though, I take more time with poker table selection, which is step 2 in this program.
Finding the correct table and the correct seat is a vital step in the process, so read the next step several times and heed it’s advice.
For individuals without any bankroll at all – You’re going to have to generate a bankroll from playing in a freeroll. If you are good enough to make the final table, you will have a bankroll generated out of thin air. These are private to KAP members and you’re invited. Our 1st freeroll gave away $500 and only had 17 players. 1st place paid $125.
Step 2: Poker Table Selection
Pick the Correct Table & Correct Seat for maximum poker profit.
One thing about online poker…
There are usually plenty of games to choose from and hundreds of tables. Believe me, there are often plenty of tables filled with WEAK and HORRIBLE players.
Find them and take their money – if you don’t somebody else WILL!
Here is a more detailed article on No Limit Holdem Table Selection. While this article is specific to no-limit, it also applies to limit. There is a time when you will want to play with the good players (online poker leagues for example which are great for really improving your game but sometimes tough on your bankroll because the other players are really good).
Your goal is to increase your confidence and build your bankroll – which is best done against weaker players.
Here are the three things I look for when choosing my table. Three Quick Poker Table Selection Tips
- You want a lot of people seeing the flop – over 40% is easy, higher the better.
- You want a fairly passive table.
- You want a large pot size compared to the blinds and the other tables at the same blinds.
These three combo’s are usually very easy to find at the lower stakes. You just need to spend a little time in the lobby looking at player % seeing the flop and average pot size (clearly displayed in FullTiltPoker.com and PokerStars.com lobbies).
For finding the passive tables, just open up a couple of promising tables and see if one of them has minimal pre-flop raising and hardly any re-raising. Look for a table that doesn’t have much pre-flop raising. Open up a table and watch for 10 minutes or so. You want to see very little pre-flop raising, or at least a table with plenty of players who are content to just call, call, call, even if there is an aggressive player that isn’t afraid to raise.
If there are more than two players who are often raising pre-flop, I leave the table and look for a better seat, unless the other players are just extremely bad.
Once you locate a good table, you want to choose a good seat, relative to the rest of the table. If there is an aggressive player at the table, sit in a seat so you will act AFTER they do as often as possible. Sit on their left or as near to their left as you can. There are more poker table selection tips and this is one of the easiest things for you to control when playing poker and that is choosing a good game to play in.
There are typically tens, if not hundreds, of tables available at your bankroll level if you play at one of the more popular sites. Before you begin playing, do yourself a favor and scout out some of the tables and be sure to steer clear of the tables filled with good players.
There is no shame in leaving a table if you are loosing! If the players seem tricky or good, get up and find bad players!
Step 3 – Patience is Key – 13 Tips To Winning Low Stakes
13 Tips to Poker Patience & Discipline
If I have one mantra, it’s patience and discipline. Low-limit Hold ‘Em takes patience. You need to play lots and lots of hands, slowly taking the money of the weak players at your table.
I play pretty much the same style the entire time I’m at the table and there is really no reason to switch up my game. The other players wouldn’t notice anyway! *
if you are playing a regular game then you by all means have to switch up your game in order to be a winning player
- Don’t be tempted to play starting hands you shouldn’t or normally wouldn’t play! Emotion can play a big part in the decisions you make, so keep that in mind. Ask yourself…”Am I playing this hand, because I have the best chance to win, or am I steaming or getting bored. Just because you folded JTs in early position and the flop comes Q98 doesn’t mean you should play it the next time.
- Start with strong hands. This is top pairs, Aces through Jacks, AK, AQs etc… You cannot play hands that you see Gus Hansen and Phil Ivey playing in no-limit tournaments when you are playing low-limit poker. Don’t try it, it doesn’t work and it will cost you money.Remember though, hands like AK, AQ look great pre-flop, but these are the hands you’ll also lose a lot of money with when you don’t hit the flop or if someone hits a big hand against you. You have to raise with these pre-flop to force weaker holdings to fold or pay the price for calling you.Limit the field with as much as possible with these hands. How do you do that…you must raise!
- Wait for your opportunities and play them aggressively. You are not in a hurry to play – especially if you are playing a ring game. You hear everyone talking about ‘playing aggressively’ but what does that really mean? It means that instead of checking and calling you should be betting and raising. Try this out and see how you do. Tip – Play 1 session of low-limit, limit poker where you are not allowed to call, ever. If you would normally call, raise instead. Continue to fold as normal, but do not call at all.The average low-limit players are checkers and callers, they are not bettors and raisers. Don’t be average. his increases your value of your medium + strength hands. Since your medium strength hands go up in value, bet them if there isn’t any aggression before it gets to you. Most likely you’ll have the best hand, you’ll get called and thus get paid off.
- Don’t be lured into playing your suited connectors unless there are four or more players in the pot before you and you have position near the button…or if you have a strong suspicion that many players will play and there will be no pre-flop raising. Suited connectors work well if you have a passive table and you are late in position.
- Avoid calling raises. When someone raises, respect it unless they are maniacal, raising everything all the time. Assume that you are going to have to show down a winner, so don’t call a raise without the strongest of hands. Especially stay away from calling raises with with dominated hands. When you hold hands like AJ, AT, KQ, KJ and QJ, you’ll find yourself up against hands that have you totally dominated. If you’re playing AJ and the raiser has AK or AQ, you’re a huge underdog. If you call a raise with KQ it’s highly likely you’re against AQ or AK. You’re dominated… stay away from these. Unless you’re playing against a maniac (which is common at lower limits as well) you’ll probably end up costing yourself money calling raises with these hands.
- Showdown winning hands. Duh – of course you have to show winners right? Well, that’s not what I mean in this instance. I’m talking about playing your hand with the knowledge that you will be called down to the river and will have to show your hand more often than not in low-limit games.
- Don’t slowplay. You’ll almost always get action, so play your cards as they are dealt. You’ll be folding often but the low-limit players won’t notice, or won’t care. All they care about is those two cards in their hand. You could fold for an hour straight and then raise from first position and you’d still get action.
- Rarely bluff, if ever. In low-limit, limit poker It’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to bluff your opponents. Bluffs work so rarely that they are virtually useless, so don’t do it. Usually 3 players (often 4 or more) will call all the way to the river The only time I’ll try a bluff is if I happen to be against only 1 opponent who plays super tight and he hasn’t shown any aggression or strength. People will usually call you down with any piece of garbage – make them pay when you have a monster and bet your good hands for value.
- Fold your Ace + small cards unless they are suited and there are several players already in. Just because everyone else is playing A2o from early position and winning pots doesn’t mean you should start playing A2o.
- Don’t be afraid to get out if you think you’re beat. Fold top pair if you see serious aggression before you.
- Learn to make the correct size bets. In no-limit, learn to bet large enough based on the size of the current pot and the amount of chips your opponents have left. If you believe they are on a draw, make them pay improper odds to continue drawing. A good rule of thumb to follow is that in most situations your bets should be half the size of the pot up to the size of the pot. Bets of this size will make it a mistake for your opponents to call with a draw. Later, when you evaluate your play, you’ll see instances where raising won the pot, where if you had just called, you would have lost. Work on being more aggressive, while knowing when to call when the situation dictates a call.
- Respect the check-raise from unimaginative players. Someone who CALLS you on the flop and CHECK RAISES you on the turn has a big hand. If you get check raised on the turn then you’re probably beat or at least behind. Unless you are very certain the player is capable of bluffing in this situation, save yourself one big bet and FOLD. Get away from these hands unless the pot is very large and / or you have a very strong drawing hand. Typical drawing hands will be a flush draw or an open ended straight draw. Most of the time you will be betting your medium strength hands for value so you will probably get check raised on the turn somewhat often playing low-limit poker. The reason for this is that these low-limit players just love the fact that they have “trapped” you when they flop a big hand and they love to SLOWPLAY. Foil their surprise by mucking your top pair.
- Don’t worry about bad beats. You’ll take bad beats, 100% guaranteed so if you can not handle them then you should not play poker. It’s all part of the game. You’ll be the recipient of luck on the river too, so don’t get down when you lose, or up when you win. Low-limit is rife with bad beats and they can drive you insane. Don’t worry, over the long haul you will win more often than you lose. Just stick with your plan and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
Learn texas holdem poker odds. at least the basics
Quick example of getting check raised. You have AKo on the button and raise pre-flop with 3 limpers in before you.
All three limpers call your raise – this is low-limit after all.
A T T rainbow (all different suits). It is checked to you. You bet with 2 callers.
9d hits the board and it’s checked to you again. You bet your two pair for value, as you should. The first player calls but the 2nd player check raises you.
Now what do you do? You’ve got two pair, Aces up.
You fold and save a bet. This action is 100% typical of the lower stakes player who thinks he has just trapped you with a big hand. In this situation you’ve got 2 pair but the typical low limit player is screaming “haha, I hit my T 4o and have trips”.
You’re beat, so get out. All you can hope for is to improve to a fullhouse, which is 5 outs, the 2 Aces left and the 3 Kings. Learn to fold right here and get away from these types of hands. You will be saving 1 big bet and these add up!
Note: At higher levels the ballgame changes and more players are capable of bluffing in this situation.
Step 4 – Play Different Types of Poker Games
Play Different Types of Poker Games
Play a lot of different poker games. We are talking different styles of games like no limit, limit and pot limit and types of games like sit-n-go tournaments, multi-table tournaments, or ring games which is straight cash game poker. Find a type of game you like playing and fit your lifestyle. Some players will find that they are much better sit-n-go players where there is limited risk to the amount you bought the seat. While other people enjoy being able to get up and leave a game at any moment and being able to re-buy if they lose chips. The choice is yours but do yourself the service of spending some time playing the different types of poker out there. You can of course also play variations of poker including holdem, omaha, razz, and stud mostly.
If you are brand new to online poker, start with a sit-n-go, which is a 1 table tournament that normally pays the top 3 finishers. You can only lose your initial buy in amount. Real money buy in’s start at a dollar plus .10 rake.
Some poker game choices choices you have:
1. No Limit Texas Holdem – the most popular game at all the casinos, live and online. There will be more table selection here than virtually anywhere.
2. Free Rolls – Take advantage of all the chances you can to add free money to your bankroll and if you play them seriously you will be way ahead of most of the field.
3. Online Poker Leagues – Join a league, they are always looking for players. One advantage of the league system is your ability to play against the same opponents week after week and work on your game.
4. Local Poker Leagues – Check your local area for bar tournaments and leagues. We run the Atlanta Poker Club and have games every night of the week. These are another free or inexpensive way to improve your poker play, especially your live poker play. Plus you meet poker players in your area and have a lot of fun.
5 . Start with Sit-N-Go’s – or SNG for short. A SNG is a one or two table NL tournament that limits your risk.
6. You can also play at a local Casino or Card Room, Home Games or Charity Tournaments.
Step 5: Work To Continually Improve Your Poker Game
The #1 thing you can do to improve your game was covered in step 4, and that is to play a lot of poker, both online and offline. But there’s more… Here are the top 5 things you can do to improve your game:
1. Read poker books – there are a lot of good poker books out there that give insight from some of the best players of the game.
2. Read poker articles – check out the poker strategy articles or this growing list of poker tips that we’ve assembled here at KAP.
3. Join an online poker training school. We list the best poker training online by what kind of poker you want to play. IE NL cash game players should consider Cardrunners, however if you are wanting to improve your tell reading ability in live poker games then TellsKitchen.com is the site for you. You can see all of the schools we list in the online poker schools section.
4. Find a poker mentor or a personal trainer. Ask intelligent questions and participate in poker strategy discussion forums. Do you know other poker players in your area? Have you met poker players online? If you know other poker players and you respect their game, see if they would mind giving you some pointers. Ask questions like, “why did you do that”?
If you can’t find a mentor in your area, you may want to check out a school like the World Poker Tour boot camp. Not many of us have the $1500 entry fee, but we know several people who have attended and you get to learn first hand from the pro’s. If you have the extra cash, you may want to try this avenue. Personally, I like the idea of joining an online poker training school if you are really serious and have the $$ to afford it. They are priceless.
5. Use technology to your advantage – there are programs available that will tell you (in real time) your odds, pot odds and help you calculate your outs. Using one of these programs is a great way to start getting an understanding of odds and how it can help you win more money. I’ve used Texas Calculatem and it is pretty effective. You can also use Poker Tracker to look at your results over a long period of time and see if you have any leaks in your game.
For example, I learned that more often than not, I lost money by calling raises with non-premium pocket pairs. Now I fold those pocket pairs and save those bets.
Take Full Advantage of the Best Poker Bonus Money Offered
Step 6: Maximize Poker Room Bonus Money
This step is much harder to do today, especially in the US but really industry wide as it has matured and people realized that bonus whores were not the types of players the card rooms want and deposit bonuses that are not super easy to clear pretty much non existent.
There are some differences in the poker bonuses offered and in almost all online poker rooms, you have to play poker and contribute to the rake to earn your bonus. Standard practice is that you earn frequent player points which in turn release your bonus.
A key is that you should be playing at sites that offer juicy deposit bonuses for your style of play and that offer some other incentives, like texas holdem freerolls that are exclusive to depositors. Once you have a beginnings of an online poker bankroll, you can begin to withdraw it from one online poker room and deposit it to another to maximize your poker bonus money. A key for me boosting my earn rate was was maximizing the deposit bonuses that the top online sites were offering to new depositors. Again, today this is much less of an option. Back in the day, some of the deals were so sweet that all I had to do was barely break even playing and I would still double my money by clearing the bonus!
Online poker rooms offer some exceptional deals to lure you to deposit money at their respective sites. The catch is that the majority of the rooms require you to play a certain number of raked hands to earn your bonus.
Stick with one of the big name poker rooms, they will have the security you need, table selection you want and quality deposit bonuses you desire. Don’t get burnt by depositing your money at some no-name poker room and then having them go out of business, with all of your money.
Not sure what how to maximize your bankroll and bonus money?
For a current list of poker room bonuses, check out our front page and the online poker rooms pages for current reviews and bonuses. We’ve done all the ground work for you and laid out a system in the next step. Check it out.
Step 7: Create A Plan & Follow It
If I were starting over, this is the plan I would follow to turn $50 into $1500. If you have made it this far you have read through the steps that I took the first time I turned $50 into $1500. It is do-able, but it takes time. As always, never risk more than you can afford to lose. Poker is a game of variance and in the short term, ANYTHING can and will happen. Do not play if you can not afford it. That WSOP event I bought in for $1500 cash, along with 4 other Atlanta Poker Club members, Ben Nash, B. C Hamer and Nicky Nichols. Nicky was the only one of us who cashed (he finished #172).
The picture you see of me sitting next to Phil Hellmuth was just as I busted out with pocket dueces. I had been playing the most intense poker I’ve ever experienced for about 5 hours when Phil Hellmuth walks up, says hello to everyone and sits down on my left with a pretty big stack of chips, way more than the table average. Less than an hour later I busted out. I played too tight and didn’t take the right chances when I had the opportunity, plus I lost the 2 only two coin flips I was involved in, but such is life and those are stories for another time.
It was an experience of a lifetime and I will remember always. If you work at incorporating these 7 steps into your game, to grow your bankroll, maybe I’ll see you in Vegas next year.
Good luck and we’ll see you at the tables!