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You need a bankroll in order to play poker on a regular basis. That’s just a fact of poker life. The way a player gets their bankroll started depends on their situation.

If you ask a poker pro how they became successful, you’ll hear many of the same tales regarding discipline, study, bankroll management, etc. But if you ask them how they started their bankrolls, those stories are usually diverse and vary from player to player.

There are many different ways to get a bankroll started and today we take a look at a few of the most common. This isn’t the definitive list, but many can probably identify with one of these scenarios.

Using “Fun Money” as a Bankroll

For many amateur players, a bankroll is often started with “fun money” that’s been set aside for entertainment purposes. A great example that comes to mind is a kid I used to play with named Tomas.

Tomas worked at a local fast food place and most of his earnings were allocated to bills, groceries and gas. He would often have only a limited amount of funds to “go out with” on his days off.

He typically put together about two weeks’ worth of his “fun money” and showed up to the local home game infrequently. If some unexpected expenses came up or he got a better offer (usually involving a girl or heavy drinking), he might not show up all month.

Players using this method to start a roll will usually start very shallow and may only have enough to play in a couple of games max. However, it can give them valuable experience and in time they may start actually winning consistently.

The “Beginner’s Luck” Roll

On occasion you’ll have an amateur that will hit a local home game or nearby casino tournament with a few bucks set aside for a good time, and that player will proceed to hit a decent score. This can be either a sizable cash game win or a small bink in a tournament.

Whether they are “new” to the game or not, often this person is pegged as having a bit of beginner’s luck. Some of these players will then get the itch and take their winnings from that event and try to spin it up into a healthier bankroll.

The Windfall Bankroll

Some players will come into a financial windfall and then use some or even all of that money to try to play poker. How many stories are out there of college students using a portion of their student loans to play online poker?

Other forms of windfalls include lottery or contest winnings, settlements, and proceeds from the sale of a home or business or even back pay when certain disability benefits kick in.

The mindset is that it takes money to make money, and some players are willing to risk their windfall for a shot at a monster poker bankroll.

The Grinder

A number of players will go the customary route of grinding up a bankroll the hard way. They may have started out with using “fun money” or other spare income, but after a couple of wins, they have begun using that money in a methodical approach to build a bigger roll.

Many poker players will put themselves in this category, but many aren’t actually grinders. Rather, they are usually bouncing between funding their bankroll through a job or having to be backed.

The $50 Online Bankroll

How often have you heard someone talk about recreational online poker players trying to make “their first $50” last as long as possible? That’s because $50 is the figure that many players will first deposit into an online poker site when they first start playing online poker.

When I first signed up for PokerRoom (yes, that long ago), I deposited $50. The same with Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. I never had to reload on PokerStars or PokerRoom, but I think I reloaded a time or two on Full Tilt in my early days.

The $50 first deposit is popular and a number that works for players for multiple reasons. It is usually enough for players to get their feet wet online but not big enough to really hurt them financially should they blow through it.

The Freeroller

Online poker freerolls have allowed many amateur players the ability to build a bankroll without risking a penny. For those unaware of how this works, freerolls are online poker tournaments that award cash prizes, though players can enter for free.

Usually these prizes are extremely small and you have to play through massive fields to get a prize. For example, a $50 freeroll may only pay 50 players out of 10,000 with the top prize being $5.

The plus to playing these events is that the money is legit and you can play real money online poker games. Granted, you’ll be starting at the lowest of microstakes, but it is a start.

The Big Winner Bankroll

One of the reasons that poker exploded following Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP victory was the idea that a player could make life-changing money in a single tournament.

This led to a massive influx of players but also has resulted in many “big winner bankrolls.” When an amateur or even a low-level pro player binks a major tournament, they often attempt to either move up in stakes or increase their poker volume.

The reason behind this is that they are now flush with cash following their big win. Just look at some of the WSOP champions that have won the Main Event and start appearing in high stakes games or started traveling the world trying to become a poker superstar.

The Horse

Backing is big business in poker and there are many players out there that are unable to play the game without backing. Some of these players suffer from poor bankroll management, while others are trying to play in events that they cannot afford with their current bankroll.

The most common excuse you’ll hear is that players are trying to “reduce variance” with backing. For some, this is indeed the case. There are some players that are partially backed in order to help protect their roll.

On the other hand, there are many players that are simply broke or can’t really afford to play the game without someone providing their buy-ins. Some turn out to be great players and reduce their dependence on backers. Others never are able to get out of debt and eventually fade out of the game.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.