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There are three types of budget designations for those who play and enjoy online poker: leisure, training, and investment. This article assumes you no longer play virtual poker as a recreation, and have shifted your focus to both training and investment.

From 2005-2007, my online poker play was an example of online poker grinding. Over the course of three years, I was able to see approximately 2 million hands and “grinded” roughly one hundred $55+5 Turbo Sit & Gos on PokerStars per day.

Although I ceased being a full-time player in 2008 when I joined the poker media, there are plenty of tips I feel will help you in your quest to become a successful online poker grinder.

Proper Game Selection

Since you’re no longer playing the game for pure recreational purposes, you should first do a personal assessment of what type of time investment you are willing to make at the online poker tables.

Sit & Gos and cash games are perfect for those who prefer to work in short spurts. The flexibility in these events should not be overlooked, as they often grant player’s the luxury of stepping away in half-hour (or shorter) increments — especially single-table turbo formats.

Multi Table Tournaments (MTTs) are great, as long as you can section off a block of many hours on your schedule. Grinding online MTTs is not a good idea for poker players who have:

(a) Unreliable internet connections

(b) Power sources that are affected by local weather and/or frequent brown-outs

(c) Frequent non-poker interruptions that may take precedence over online play

(d) Tendency to become disillusioned after a few unsuccessful MTTs

(e) Inability to remain mentally sharp for many hours on end

Take Advantage of VIP Deals

Although online poker rakeback per-se isn’t as common as it used to be, there are still plenty of sites that offer cash-equivalent deals through their respective VIP clubs.

Be aware of the fine print of such deals and take advantage of them whenever they suit your interests.

There are some online poker grinders out there who actually play to “break even” while depending on cashback incentives to be profitable. While this is a “poor man’s” version of online poker grinding, these offers should never be ignored.

Use Online Poker Software

This has become one of the most controversial facets of online poker play over the past few years, but simply can’t be ignored for anyone who wants to grind online poker successfully.

Retaining an authorized database of opponents’ statistics (and knowing how to exploit that information) is key to maximizing your profit at the online poker tables. I personally didn’t use poker software at the virtual tables when I played professionally, but things have changed drastically since 2007.

Make sure you thoroughly understand each poker site’s Terms of Service before you download and begin using any poker software. Most programs that store information from hands you’ve actually seen as an online poker player are permitted, while software that datamines hand history info en-masse is not.

Each site will have its own policy when it comes to how poker software can be used when playing online poker. The bottom line is that if you’re planning on becoming an online poker grinder, you’ll more than likely benefit from the use of poker software.

Maximize Multi-Tabling Expectation

This is very important. Online poker is constantly evolving and there are very few players who can be profitable while playing a gazillion tables at once.

Back when I was grinding, 16 tables at a time was doable, but then again, I competed during a time when fold-to-win strategies were highly successful in low to mid stakes games and many of my fellow grinders had yet to understand Independent Chip Modeling (ICM) calculations.

You should have a general idea of how many tables you can consistently play at once while maximizing your win rate. Don’t become discouraged if that number happens to be eight or less, as it is much better to pay close attention to the action than to become complacent because you’re making too many robot-like decisions.

Maintain Your Motivation

Multi-tabling online poker as a grinder can greatly reduce variance for a profitable player, but you’ll still have losing streaks no matter how good you are.

During these times, it can be extremely difficult to maintain focus on the bigger picture, but if you have proof (hopefully in the form of a large sample size) that you are a winning player at the games you compete in, then you should continue to grind. Of course, this is assuming that you’ll still be playing at a profitable level in future games.

Some methods online poker players use to keep themselves motivated are:

(a) Twitch live streaming — even if it’s to a small audience

(b) Setting aside both time and profit for family/leisure activities

(c) Changing routines during losing streaks

(d) Physical fitness

(e) Sharing insight with fellow online poker grinders

(f) Designating a small bankroll percentage to higher buy-in games

Continue Improving

There are more than enough resources available to online poker players who wish to improve their game while learning new methods for maximizing profit.

It’s always easier to do this when you have a circle of colleagues who are near or above your current skill level. Along with the poker software mentioned above, you should probably subscribe to at least one training site and perhaps consider personal coaching if your budget allows.

Watching superior players who live stream is also a great resource for improving your online poker game.

Carefully Consider Backing Deals

Admittedly, I made a very modest living as a full-time online poker grinder. If there’s one facet I can pinpoint that allowed me to survive for three years, it was the fact that I wasn’t backed.

Backing deals can be very appealing to players who are making the transition into being a serious grinder, but they do come with drawbacks — especially when one finds him/herself in the midst of having to make up for losses. This can be demoralizing for players who are competing in games in which they can’t realistically recoup a backer’s losses (and get out of “make-up) within a reasonable period of time… even in the fortunate case of a winning streak.

Moving up in stakes can be an attractive proposition, but it seldom makes long-term sense for the person being backed.

For example, if you’re grinding $10 games with a solid Return on Investment (ROI) and have an opportunity to move up to $20 games as a result of a backing deal, you’ll need to have a greater expectation percentage in the higher-stakes games in order to make as much as you were on your own dime.

You’ll may also be limited to playing certain types of games and stakes while under such deals, will probably be required to spend more time record-keeping, and will be 100% answerable to your backer, who may or may not be a positive influence on your online poker game.

This isn’t to say that all backing deals are bad for either the player or the backer. Just carefully consider any potential backing deals before you sign off on them if you’re a solid winning player in the online poker games you currently play.

Apply Bankroll Management Skills

This was another aspect of my online poker play that was instrumental in maintaining my edge while I was an online poker grinder… I didn’t believe in “taking shots.”

That ideology might not be in-line with your reasoning, but I was always comfortable at the stakes I played and didn’t aspire to move up once I got to the $50 buy-in range.

Each poker player is different, so you certainly shouldn’t limit your opportunities based on the way I played the online game eons ago, but you should play within your bankroll.

I won’t waste your time with advice on how to do this, as there are plenty of write-ups you can find with a simple Poker Bankroll Management Google search. Just be sure you are disciplined enough to execute this properly… because the bankroll-related decisions you make are solely your responsibility.

Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Online Poker Grinder?

playing cardsThe answer to this question lies squarely on your shoulders. There are numerous aspects not mentioned in this article that will play a role in determining whether you can maintain online poker grinding status.

Apply common sense, enjoy the games you compete in, and remain focused to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to embark on a for-profit venture.

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David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.