How to Build Your Poker Bankroll from Zero

When you first get started with online poker, you’ve probably heard a few stories about how professionals got started in their online careers. You will even hear a few saying they deposited $50 once and never looked back! What we are looking at is how to build your poker bankroll from the astonishing zero mark. As it turns out, there are quite a few different ways to approach this.

Free Bankrolls

Simply enough, in an effort for sites to compete with each other, they will offer free money to players who sign up for the first time. Often this money will range between $10 and $100 free on no deposit offers. However, only a partial amount of this money is readily available. The rest of the no deposit bonus will have some sort of clearing requirement. I.E. generate a certain level of rake for the site to receive the money. The clearing requirements are usually quite easily achievable with patience and correct bankroll management.


Sites far and wide will offer tournaments, sit-and-gos, and spin-and-gos, that are free to enter. These can offer cash prizes for the top place finishers.  Once again, however, the best of these offers are usually reserved for players who have signed up recently. Or to players who have generated a certain threshold of rake. However, with the correct plan implemented there is no reason you can’t pick up good value along the way.

The best thing is, because the other players haven’t paid any money to enter, their logic is usually “Well this is free for me, so I can do strange moves and it won’t matter when I lose!”. This means that if you play correctly you will have a large skill edge over the rest of the players and stand a decent chance of making money.

Poker Staking Sites

Another interesting way you can look into for building a bankroll for free is to sign up to one of the many poker staking sites. Follow the applicable rules and apply for meagre stakesm such as a $0.50 SnG. As you build a reputation for yourself you will become more trustworthy. Then you can start applying for larger stakes with better splits in your favour. Usually one off splits for players with no provable background in poker is 70/30 in the stakers favour. This increases to 50/50 deals with a winning history. When you consider that you are essentially being given free money to play poker, this is both a viable option and pretty fair. It will also work out that you can build a bankroll quicker by doing this than most Freerolls.

One important thing to note with poker staking sites, is the concept of make-up or no make-up. Make-up is the act of owning the staker future profit if you finish a stake down money. Noting, however, this doesn’t mean that you owe them money or you have to pay when requested. It just means if you play for them again and you finish up money, this profit pays off the previous losses first. This way neither of you can lose money, whilst the other profits.

What’s Next?

Poker Bankroll GrowthOnce you find you have made your first 3 dollars you now have a big enough bankroll to attempt to play 1c2c Fixed Limit poker (2fl). Noting that you should always have 24 cents in front of you at all times. This is so you can win the maximum in a pot if it is capped the full way.  Playing tight ABC poker and knowing basic odds will allow you to win at 2fl (Fixed Limit 1cent 2cent buy-in).

If you keep to the basic metric that you need 10 buy-ins of 12 big bets (24 big blinds) for any level of Fixed Limit you’ll see that at $6 you can play 2c5c (5fl) at $12 you can play 5c10c (10fl) and at  $30 you can play 10c25c (25fl).

If you have reached $40 however I would recommend swapping to no limit poker. At the micros this would be 20 buy-ins of 100bb (big blinds) at 1c2c (2NL). No limit poker is more volatile than limit hold’em, but will also offer a much better opportunity to make money.

Providing you have the discipline to follow this, or any other bankroll guide of your choosing there is a decent chance you will build a bankroll from zero. It will take time and patience, but the rate at which you can earn is almost exponential; as your bankroll increases so can the rate at which you make more money.

Build Your Poker Bankroll from Zero Summary

If you find that it’s taking too long to make a bankroll from scratch, or you made one but then lost at the micro stakes games you can either try again (it only costs time), or you can look into depositing. Depositing will allow you to skip straight into playing micro NL cash games or micro SnGs.

Some notable pro players, who have done their own bankroll challenges from zero have used freeroll winnings to ‘shot-take’ a given game. Shot-taking is the act of being under the bankroll required to play a game with a low risk of ruin. The theory being that if they run well they will be rolled for this game. This will save time compared to playing fixed limit till they have enough, or playing freerolls till they have enough money. Though it is a viable option, it is a much higher risk strategy.

The way I find helpful to look at beginning poker, is that it can be a hobby that can either be expensive or can pay for itself/make you lots of money. If you are trying to build a bankroll from zero then count it as an opportunity to learn for free. Worst case scenario it didn’t work out or was too time-consuming. However, now you have more experience and are more likely to win if you do decide to deposit.

Greg has been playing poker for the last 7 years, you can currently find him on Cash Game tables from £20nl-£100nl under the username BarrattG1. He currently writes poker articles and does coaching of micro stakes Mtt and Cash players. He uses a generally sound mathematical approach to odds and poker and uses this in conjunction with meta-game to create spots to profit from.

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