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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - The Tale of a Low-Level Player

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My first exposure to online poker was a wild roller coaster ride. Tempted by a $600 matching bonus, and being a Mac user, I signed up for an account with Full Tilt, which at the time was the only platform that supported my computer. Having little knowledge of bankroll management, I played games big enough to clear the bonus money quickly. For some strange reason, I was attracted to razz, a game I had never before played. I quickly learned the rudiments, and became a regular in the 3-6 and 5-10 games (I told you I didn’t know anything about bankroll management!). The balance in my account grew, and to my delight, I wound up sitting at tables with poker legends like Jennifer Harman, Erik Seidel, John Juanda and Andy Bloch. One night, finding myself flush with about $1,500, I even jumped into a $30-$60 game, and bluffed a former world champion out of a huge pot, before coming to my senses and realizing that playing at that level was completely insane, given my skills and my bankroll.

I had promised myself that I would withdraw the $600 I had invested as soon as I hit $2,000, but when that time came, I backed out, thinking there would be plenty of time to withdraw funds as my account continued to grow. You know the rest of the story: The variance monster raised its ugly head, and before I knew it, the entire $2,000 was gone, leaving me with some fun stories to tell my weekly live game buddies, but with a hollow feeling inside. I blamed myself, and I blamed the rather unusual bad beats that the site delivered on a seemingly regular basis. I decided that online poker was simply not for me. I didn’t play again for over a year.

Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday, 2008. I had learned that PokerStars had finally put a Mac version of their software in place, and I had gotten the itch to try the online experience again. I had started to read the Chasing Chris Ferguson thread on this website, and thought that it would be fun to try and start with nothing and attempt to build it into a substantial sum of money. However, with a full-time business and a family to look after, I knew I didn’t have the time to go through the initial struggle of playing endless freerolls to provide the first seed money. I had a different plan in mind. I was at a party with a buddy of mine, and I set up an account on Stars, and asked him to transfer $50 into my account, which I would ship back to him as soon as possible.

And so it began. I decided to apply very strict guidelines for the games I would play, beginning with the .04-.08 hi/lo stud games, as well as freeroll tourneys and .02-.05 no limit hold’em. In the first two weeks, I managed to double the $50 to $103.36, and picked up a few second round freeroll tickets. Also, Stars cleverly seduced me by “gifting” me enough VIP points to make Silver Star reachable. By the end of February, my bankroll had grown almost sixfold, to $290, I was a Silver Star and thereby eligible for the weekly $20,000 freerolls, and I had raised my limits to .25-.50 hi/lo stud and HORSE and .05-.10 no limit hold’em, while also playing an occasional $1 tournament or $5 sng.

The trend continued in March, where, aided by a $100 score in the $100,000 monthly freeroll for which I qualified, I once again more than doubled my bankroll to $713, out of which I repaid my friend his $50. I was now playing .50-$1 hi/lo and .10-.25 no limit hold’em. I also began to experiment with the $12, 180 person turbo tournaments, which I found fit not only my playing style, but also my time constraints. I placed second in one of these events, and was suddenly flirting with $1,000, and was once again raising the stakes I was playing to $1-$2 hi/lo and HORSE and .25-.50 no limit hold’em.

In mid-April, my game stalled out. For a week or so, I began to get impatient with simply marching in place, and began to push against the river, jumping into $2-$4 and $3-$6 games and beginning to see my past pattern of playing higher than my roll surfacing again as my money began to experience some attrition. I decided to implement an unusual solution. I withdrew $400 of the $900 I had on the site, reducing my stack to $500 and forcing myself back down to lower levels to work on the holes in my game. In May and early June, this strategy paid off, as I almost doubled the remaining $500. I was feeling confident about my game, but then ol’ man variance came knocking on my door.

Four weeks of hell ensued. Bad beat piled upon bad beat, great hands that turned out to be second best, one outers on the river with all the money in the middle, you name it, I got it. My play alternated between terrified and erratic, as I began to expect to be beaten in any hand I was in. Fortunately, though, I was staying within the limits of the money I had onsite, and, as bad as it got, this time it only ate away 25% of my stash. Finally, I moved away from the ring games and over to the turbo tournaments and one $20 hi/lo tourney. Four final tables later, and my bankroll reached its highest point to date, $1,516.

As of this writing, I am five months and two weeks into the process, and have turned that initial $50 into $1,462. I’ve learned that I can manage and grow a bankroll, while gradually moving up to higher levels, and not risking the entire stack by playing over my head. I’ve found some types of tourneys that I seem to play consistently well in, and those and the VIP freerolls have smoothed the rough patches for me. In the upcoming months, I would like to shoot for a bigger score, by earning a seat in the Sunday Million or a WCOOP event and playing the monthly million dollar turbo. I still have my eye on beating the Chasing Chris Ferguson trio to $10,000, and I know that it will require at least one major cash somewhere to do it. As long as I can continue to play within my bankroll and keep my wits about me, I have no doubt that the goal can be achieved.

See you at the tables!

*Editor's Note:  This article is reran due to great content and ideas for the new player and those that grind on a daily basis.

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