I started out just like many of us: playing the fake money games online. One afternoon, I logged into my account to discover a real money balance of $5.00. With all the negative stigma society generally attaches to online gambling, I figured I probably would never put in a deposit with my own money, and this was a chance to see if I could make a few bucks and have some fun. I even played fake money limit hold’em for a couple weeks until I was beating it consistently so I could make the most out of my 5 bucks.
In December 2004 I jumped into the smallest game on the site: 10c/20c limit hold’em. With a lot of luck (and some help from the very loose games), I managed to slowly run my ‘bankroll’ into about $50, at which point I started playing $3 sit’n’go’s, which eventually became $7 and $10 sit’n’gos, and then $1/$2 limit. I was spending a lot of time reading strategy websites, most notably reading the limit hold’em articles (referenced at bottom). At this point (July 2005), my bankroll had reached about $600. I began to read a lot more about bonuses and rakeback, which are absolutely ESSENTIAL to any limit player, as I will outline below.
I began to forgo strategy in favour of hunting down the most lucrative bonuses. I was obsessed with the notion of ‘free money’ via bonuses, and my game (and bottom line) suffered as a result. I struggled playing tough $1/$2 and $2/$4 games at various sites, although I did slowly increase my bankroll. Eventually, I got sick of playing breaking even poker to earn bonus bucks, and I realized that I would never move beyond the small stakes games if I was putting ‘bonus whoring’ before improving my game, so I made a drastic change: I put bonus whoring behind me, and I took my $2,000 bankroll to the Party $3/$6 6max games, which were definitely a lot softer than the Absolute $1/$2 grind.
January 2006: I did very well for a couple months, and then broke even for the next couple. I moved up to $5/$10, and remained a slight winner. I made decent money, but the truth is I was a very mediocre player; bonuses and rakeback kept me barely profitable for a few months. At this point, my bankroll had grown to $16,000, but I compared my winrate to the disgusting amount of rake I was paying, and I decided to return to my bonus-whoring ways, albeit at the same stakes. I realized that a good rakeback deal could more than double my hourly rate, provided the tables remained soft. I did a lot of research on rakeback and bonus deals, which paid off immensely. I played at several sites through the summer and fall of 2006, eventually settling on a VERY profitable prop player deal at a major site, playing the $4/$8 and $6/$12 shorthanded limit games. After a few weeks, however, I became bored. I once again needed a change. Despite the fact that I was making significantly more with this prop deal than at any other site / game, I decided it was time to take a serious run at no limit hold’em. I had made some random, unsuccessful attempts at NL throughout my entire poker experience, but the variance of playing short-handed limit can be unbearable, and to quote a poker-playing friend of mine, “You’re the only person I’ve ever met that plays limit, bro”. I had saved a quote from a post that really stuck with me:
Change sites. Play (alot) less tables. Drop down in stakes (slightly). Think about each decesion. Post hands in strat forums. Limit yourself to a fairly small bankroll and move up in limits quickly (or down if you lose).
Do that for about a month (without falling back into old patterns) and you’ll want to shoot yourself for not doing it a year ago.
He wasn’t kidding. Around Christmas of 2006, I set aside $500 for a run at NLHE. I combined the above advice with my $5.00 limit approach: I started at the bottom, $25NL back at Party (before they had the penny tables ) I read everything I could get my hands on about NLHE, and I am very happy with my results thus far: I’m currently playing $200NL, and I haven’t played a single hand of limit since I deposited that $500 into Party. I am still learning new strategy and concepts about no limit (and poker in general, really) every time I sit down for a session, and my goal is to reach $600NL sometime this summer.
Enough about me. Here’s the meat of this post – if nothing else, please read the section on bonuses & rakeback.