building a poker bankroll image

When it comes to building a poker bankroll, there are 3 options available.

  • MTTs
  • SNGs
  • Cash games

It’s rare to find a player that doesn’t specialize in 1 specific form of poker. And although the skills carry across to different game types, there’s enough subtle differences to create a learning curve when transitioning from one game to another. So it’s ideal to pick one game that you will specialize in and hone your skills for that game.

Decision Influences;penny bankroll

  • Stake
  • Time
  • Comfort level
  • Difficulty


If you only have a very small starting poker bankroll, SNGs or cash games are usually a better option than MTTs. You’ll be limited to what MTTs you can play and since they have a lot of variance, the chance of going broke will be significant. Players often start with very small buy-ins or freerolls and these make it extremely hard to build a bankroll considering the small prize pools and massive number of players you;ll be competing against. For MTTs, there’s plenty of soft $3-$11 games and since we learnt we need a bankroll of 100 times our buy-in, something like $500-$1000 would be a good starting roll for MTT play. Of course some players have renewable bankrolls, whatever the case, be sure to be clear what money is for poker and record your results.


When it comes to time, MTTs require long hours at the tables, cash games are more flexible and can be played over a shorter period and SNGs are somewhere in between. If you have a couple of hours in a day to devote to poker, cash games are a good option. With a little more time, especially if you play the faster paced games (turbos), SNGs can be a good choice. MTTs require more time and can often take several hours to complete and require you to build a bigger poker bankroll.

When it comes to skill level, interestingly we can probably reverse the order of games. MTTs are generally easier to beat and we see players with ROIs as high as 30-40%. A good SNG ROI is probably closer to 5-10% whilst with cash games a player might make something like 2.5BB/100. With a $3,000 bankroll a player could play around the $33 level tournaments, or $50NLH (60 buy-ins). This would equate to an estimated hourly profit as follows.
Cash – $18.75 (750 hands an hour)
MTT – $22.50 per hour (30 MTTs in a session with an average buy in of $20, 8 hour session and a 30% ROI)
SNG – $19.80 (12 x $33 SNGs an hour with a 5% ROI)

With these rough estimates, bonuses can also be considerably higher when playing cash games and SNGs making a difference to the hourly calculations. However in the case of MTTs, generally moving up in stakes isn’t as difficult as it is with the other games. This makes MTTs a great option for making money if you have the bankroll to support your play. Staking is always an option to consider for this reason. On the other hand, generally MTTs have a capped buy in where as cash games don’t which offer the opportunity for elite players to play extremely high stakes and make a lot of money with even a low BB/100 rate due to size of the blinds.


bankroll difficulty settingThe reason why MTTs are easier to beat, is due to the player pool. There’s usually a lot more recreational players in tournaments. These players typically like the excitement that comes with MTTs – Big money up top and the risk of sudden elimination at anytime. After all, tournament poker is what the media covers and what people hear about. Furthermore, many poker professionals don’t want to be restricted to doing long sessions which is a requirement of MTTs, in this case, cash games are the way to go. This idea of sitting and making a quick dollar is part of the reason why cash games can be more difficult, everybody is vying for their piece.

Learning Curve

The above considerations is part of the reason why the learning curve for cash games is a little steeper. Also cash games generally play with deeper stacks, which means more decision making. With more chips in the stacks, there’s likely post-flop action and often decision points on each street. Flop play, turn play and river play need to be mastered. In the case of MTTs and SNGs, when it comes to the later parts of the games often the decision is either to move all in or fold. However in the case of SNGs, since you’ll frequently be making the money, this means there’s a lot of study to be done in the areas of bubble factor and ICM. Similarly, MTTs also require learning these concepts but also require skilled play at varying stack sizes, especially with 35BB stacks (M14) where a lot of crucial play occurs endgame. Whether it be cash, MTT or SNG, each game has subtle differences that need to be mastered before good money can be made from the game.

Comfort Level

punch laptopFor some, the variance that comes with MTTs is hard to handle. Skilled play isn’t proportionally rewarded with earnings for prolonged periods of time which can lead to frustration. All forms of poker contain some luck, and therefor variance, but generally cash games and SNGs allow for truer earnings to be realized sooner than is typically the case with MTTs, where it can takes tens of thousands of tournaments to gauge a players true ability. If you feel you could run the risk of tilting or losing interest in the game when things aren’t going your way, MTT play might not be the way to go. Of course when things are going your way MTTs can be the most exciting form of poker. If only deep runs would happen more often!

How am I Going to Get There, Really?

Determination is the key ingredient when it comes to beating the game of poker. Some of the greatest players today worked in a bowling ally, grocery store, shoe shop, as a security guard, people from all walks of life can win at the game of poker. What separates most players is a persons ability to deal with challenges. Inevitably challenges will need to be faced to compete in poker at a high level. One should embrace these challenges. Aside from having the fortitude to pass challenges, deal with losses and push forward, the actual learning process isn’t as difficult as people generally think. However people typically stumble for 2 key reasons.

  • Trying to just ‘plug in’. Success at poker requires active and passive learning, not just skim watching a few videos when one has a day off from play. Content should be absorbed slowly and skills practiced over time. It takes some time to develop a strong poker game and there is no quick solution.
  • Monetary reasons. People often figure spending part of their bankroll on poker tuition only results in a smaller bankroll. The truth is, at the start of your learning you should do everything you can to acquire as much information as you can before attempting to make serious money. Who will make more money as a surgeon – The qualified surgeon who has paid his dues but has no money, or the guy who wants to be a surgeon but doesn’t really want to pay any money to learn about it?! Poker isn’t easy. Just because there is no formal course at school doesn’t mean anyone can just decide to be a poker pro starting from next week. With time and effort comes reward, you need to be determined to get there.For those that are determined to reach a level of success in the poker world, thankfully we have training sites to make the journey a faster and more pleasant one! Here’s the best way to go from zero to hero in the fastest time possible. also offers some more great tips on bankroll management and poker variance.

Building A Poker Bankroll – The Process

MTT Learning Process

  • Take the PokerNerve Road to Success Course and put in some volume at the tables.
  • After you have started beating <$55 games for >15% ROI, subscribe to Run It Once’s premium selection of videos.
  • After a few months of study at Run It Once, start doing some sessions with a poker coach if you haven’t yet done so.
  • If you’ve attained strong winning results but haven’t had any ‘break out scores’ yet to help inject your bankroll, consider applying for staking at a reputable MTT staking stable (such as The Poker Backers)
SNG Learning Process
  • Gather information on sites like SNG Planet , HUSNG
    and RIO whilst putting in volume at the tables.
  • Start hiring some coaches and stick with 1 or 2 that work best for you getting your game to the next level.
  • As skill increases do max multi-tabling and bonuses/reward hunting
Cash Game Learning Process
  • Subscribe to Run It Once’s basic monthly plan and put in some volume at the tables.
  • As soon as you develop some fundamental skills, start hiring some coaches and stick with 1 or 2 that work best for you getting your game to the next level.
  • Stay up to date with statistical data. Not just using software like PT or HM, but also using crev, pokersnowie, and any developing software that might help you gain an edge.

Learn how to build a bankroll in PLO with PLO Quick Pros excellent video.

Alternatively, you can check out HowToPlayPoker’s review of the best poker training in 2017.

So whether it’s for a challenge, a little pocket money, or to go pro, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start building a poker bankroll!