How to Play Live Real Money Casino Poker without Much Cash

by , Apr 9, 2008 | 9:23 am

Troy in Las Vegas writes in with a question about bankroll management that I’m going to attempt to answer: (Stop laughing.)


I have a quick question for you… in your opinion what is the best for me to do w/no bank roll…. just able to spend about 200-300 every other week…

a. small (50-60) buy in tournys

b. play one larger tourney (say the venitian) once every two weeks

c. invest my 200 in a ring game some where

or d. none of the above and save my cash til i get enough

if the answer is d…. what is “enough” to play? I have a VERY hard time not playing, but, have been on the roller coaster of up down small amounts til i get felted in cash games (can’t seem to stay away from getting my money in w/the best and not fairing well…. or… when i do well in one session i don’t do well in the next two and get felted)

Just wondering your opinion… thanks!

Troy, you pose an interesting question, because I suspect a lot of folks are in your position, where they have money to spend on poker, but they don’t have a real bankroll. We all hear that you should have $2-3k to play 1/2 — and it doesn’t take long playing to realize those numbers might not be a load of shit — but how many 1/2 players actually have a few thousand bucks in a non-interest bearing poker account?

I know I don’t … and when I write about my play, that’s what you’re really witnessing – an OK player who generally knows what he’s doing but occasionally fugcks up big-time trying to build a bankroll while theoretically playing above it.

To answer your question, that’s really up to you … but I would recommend sticking to one option for at least four or five months, because cash games are about long-term numbers, and tourneys are like a soccer defense – something that a good opponent can eventually crack if they pepper it enough to figure their way through. Maybe not the best metaphor … but recurring tourneys have certain consistencies that regular players will pick up on each time they play, putting them at a distinct advantage over the continued influx of dead money and even a better player who comes in and is playing for the first time.

So basically you’ve got $500/month to put towards poker … but I suspect were you to lose that much 6 months in a row you’d be pretty unhappy. The smart thing to do, of course, would be to buy a few books on poker (cash games specifically) and limit your play to micro-stakes online for four or five months and then go play 1/2. But I could never do that – holy friggin’ discipline that would require. Might as well go to med school if you can do that.

You definitely don’t want to do a cash game once a week with $200, I don’t think. It’s simply not enough to play with often. And knowing you might be loathe to rebuy in the face of a bad beat, that will negatively affect your play. Going this route would put you in a bad game in a bad stack position week-in and week-out.

I like your idea of playing the Friday Venetian tourney ($195) every other week, however. It’s got a good-size field and some nice four-figure payouts regularly … and play it consistently and surely you will eventually cash and possibly make a final table. But will that be enough to give you your fill? If so, go for it …

But in the most preferable alternative, I’d suggest playing the $65 Sahara tourney with regularity. The field is super-weak. The only problem is the payout structure is very top-heavy, so you don’t make any real money if you don’t finish in the Top 3. But even if you don’t make that much, it would provide you some great practice for that time you get, say, a $500 payday and decide to try your hand at a Venetian tourney a few days later.

The 1/2 cash games there are also delightfully pleasant. I’ve played once since my arrival, and had one of those turn $200 into $900 kinda nights, compliments of a couple drinky Swedes that were just having a blast playing any two cards. The other advantage of making this tourney your regular game – think of an old Rounder Club tourney in Addison – is that you do leave yourself a little something extra each month, so you can comfortably sit down for a cash session should you bust out early one of those times. Overall the Sahara is your best bet in terms of a manageable game, and one that leaves you other poker options in the process – especially when you’re running good.

But run bad and that’s OK too, because in this game you can handle the weekly tourney without cashing for a while and ultimately can make better poker decisions because at $280/month ($65×4) you’re playing below your budding, quasi-bankroll … and therefore stand the best chance of building a real one.

17 Comments to “How to Play Live Real Money Casino Poker without Much Cash”

  1. confused

    Did anyone else focus on the self description: “OK player who generally knows what he’s doing” and have a good giggle?

  2. tbonezz111

    Thanks Dan! I don’t see myself going to get my phd anytime soon so I will absolutely give your suggestion a go. I’ve heard that the Sahara tourny is a fave of a lot of the Dallas players when they come out here. I will track my progress there and keep you updated. I appreciate you putting in the time and effort to break down my question and respond.

  3. Ed

    Now if we could have a REAL poker player answer the question life would be grand.

  4. zach

    Hey Troy,

    I like the venetian Idea, the one they run at noon is better then the night tournament. You get more chips and more play with it. Also try satilites into the nightly ceasar’s tournament(preferably the sunday one). Also I’d put 200-300 in full tilt maybe for the first payroll so you will have something to do if any of these plans fail. full tilt has an easier way to load money in now, it’s called “instant checks”, that’s if you have a bank account.


  5. Grunkzzz

    You need to decide if you are a tournament player or a cash player and then stick with one until your better than OK at that type of game.

    If your a tournament player now try and play more cheap tournaments with the best structure you can find. Invest in some tournament books and practice until your profitable. Read the book Read em and reap.

    If your a cash player good luck! I cant master that game and cant help you… read the book read em and reap.

  6. Steve

    That’s great advice. Particularly like the part about ‘tourneys are like a soccer defense’. I alternate between playing on the east and west coast of Australia, and find it takes three to four games to get back in the groove and adapt to the players and styles in each location.

  7. Son of Sue

    The answer, obviously, is to play a little 1-3-2-6 at the PlayHo blackjack table. I hear its almost impossible to lose.

    Honestly, if I were in your shoes, I would grind it out at the 4-8 limit tables. YOu dont have to worry about losing your bankroll on a 3 outer, the comp there is VERY soft, and if you play very straight forward poker, you should be able to build up a pretty decent bankroll in no time. I dont like the idea of small buy-in tournaments at all.

  8. 85nutz

    TBonezz happens to be my roomate and we have talked about this at length but I would like to put my two cents in here on Pokerati for others to see. I think anybody in this situation has to decided what their goal is for that 2-300 they have. Is it to take the best shot at building a bankroll? Is it to get the most play out of with the possibility of building it into a bankroll? Or, is it just simply to get the most play out of and if you happen to build it great, if not that’s okay too. Once you figure that out you can take the appropriate steps.

    If your goal is to take that shot at a big payout every other week then I think playing the satellites into the Fri. or Sat. Bellagio tourny provides the best opportunity. If you can win the satellite and parlay that into the main tourny you can turn 200 into 10,000 or more. Then again if you don’t win the satellite your poker playing is over until the next paycheck. This gives you the best opportunity I think for a big win but limits your amount of play should you not cash.

    If your goal is to get a decent amount of play out of your small bankroll then I agree with Dan’s idea of the Sahara tournys. They are top heavy but making the final table really isn’t that difficult and once your there anything can happen. Should you bust out early, your only out $65 and can still play a few more times before the next paycheck. The payouts for these tourny’s are usually pretty good, often in the small four figures for first and second, so you have a shot at the beginnings of a decent bankroll.

    If your just looking to get as much play as possible I think online is the way to go. You can spread your 2-300 over several small tournys and micro limit games. With 200 every two weeks you can play 40 different $5 tournys over those 14 days, even more if you happen to cash in any. If your not cashing in at least one or two of those 40 it might be time to think about doing something completly different with that money, like going back to school for that PHD because you arn’t going to make it as a poker player 🙂

    Then again, you can always wait around for your roomate to hit it big and hope he bankrolls you!

  9. DanM

    ***Particularly like the part about ‘tourneys are like a soccer defense’.***

    Shout out to the non-American players/readers!

  10. DanM

    ***read the book read em and reap.***

    Note to self: everyone has read the Navarro book. make an adjustment to your fake tells.

  11. DanM

    ***Now if we could have a REAL poker player answer the question life would be grand.***

    Ed, so non Tom-from-MySpace of you. Thinking of changing my top friends.

  12. DanM

    ***I would grind it out at the 4-8 limit tables***

    hmm, interesting. What is this “limit” game you speak of? I think I have heard of it …

  13. robertgoldfarb


    You said: “I have a VERY hard time not playing” If that is truly the case than any bankroll advice is probably worthless. Poker is a game of discipline and once someone understands the basics of the game, a poker player’s toughest opponent will always be themselves. Once you get to the point where you can play only under the proper conditions, and I know you will…stick to these bankroll requirements: for limit games 300 big bets (low limits), 500 big bets (middle limits), 1000 big bets (high limits) for no limit games make sure you have 20/30/40 buy-ins also increasing as you move up in limits. Remember, a 10/20 game plays higher than a 5/10 game by a factor GREATER than 2.

    Good Luck!

  14. Bundas

    Dan I see you really like the Sahara I was there on Friday night about 8pm and stopped by the poker room and it was a $45.00 buy in and starts at 7pm you stated the buy in was $65.00 is there a $20.00 rebuy and if there is is it only one or are the rebuys unlimited?

    Also in your opinion what is the best day of the week to play this event?
    and do you play often in this event ?

  15. Bundas

    Well I’m gonna give it a shot at the Sahara tonight 4/10 at 7pm let see if I can start a bankroll from $65.00 ..

  16. DanM

    Yes, the $20 is for a rebuy/add-on … but if you use it up in the first three levels, you can re-enter the tourney from scratch. Only a couple people usually do this, however.

  17. Lucypher

    Tourneys are crap shoots. I highly recommend playing 1-2 NLHE at MGM or elsewhere on the strip. Any reasonable player should be able to grind out a bankroll at the 1-2 tables. He said he has a few $100.00 buy ins per week.
    That is pretty short but enough to get started.